Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

By Mike Bonem

SwitchOne of the books that has been on my reading list for two years is Chip and Dan Heath’s Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. I read it over the Christmas break, and wish I hadn’t waited so long. It’s one of the best books on change that I have ever read.

The Heath brothers draw from an extensive set of research studies, mostly in the field of psychology, to explain why people act in certain ways when confronted with the need to change. This sounds very dry, but the genius of Switch is that the Heaths have created a simple and memorable framework that is easy to read and captivating. They deal with both the emotional and logical issues that can cripple change efforts both at the personal or organizational levels.

One thing that makes Switch so captivating is the stories of change. As I’m writing this review, I’m remembering that the size of the bucket doesn’t affect the amount of popcorn eaten by a movie-goer and the implications this has for change efforts. I’m thinking about a community revitalization effort in rural North Dakota that was started by teens, a government reform effort led by a mid-level manager, and the dramatic improvement by a group of first-grade students in an impoverished school. All of these happened against seemingly impossible odds. My only complaint about Switch is that it seems like everyone can be a change hero. But of course, the Heaths believe that they can.

The need for significant change is one of the common denominators in virtually all of the churches, ministries, and organizations that I encounter. Dealing with the barriers to change is one of the common cries of leaders. Switch doesn’t promise a magical 4-step process to transform your organization and it doesn’t claim that change is easy. But it does give leaders a much better understanding and some practical tools for managing change. If your new year is going to involve climbing a mountain of change, you’ll be glad to have the Heath brothers at your side.

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Mike Bonem

Mike Bonem

Mike Bonem is an author, consultant, speaker, church leader, businessman, husband and father. He loves to help ministries and their leaders grow in effectiveness to reach their God-given potential. He is the author or co-author of three Leadership Network books: In Pursuit of Great and Godly Leadership, Leading from the Second Chair, and Leading Congregational Change. In his consulting, Mike works with congregations, denominational bodies, and other ministries to discern God’s vision, initiate healthy change, translate vision into results, and build high-performing teams. He has spoken across the country and internationally on topics related to ministry leadership and congregational effectiveness.

Mike has a breadth of experience in ministry and business. He served for 11 years on a church staff as executive pastor.  His business endeavors have included consulting as a senior manager with McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s leading management consulting firms, and senior leadership roles in two environmental service companies. Mike obtained his M.B.A. degree, with distinction, from Harvard Business School, after having obtained a B.S. degree in chemical engineering from Rice University. Mike and his wife Bonnie have been married for almost 30 years and have four children.