incrementalism and change…..

Over the past few weeks I have had a chance to meet with some leaders whose current engagement at work involves dealing with a huge amount of change across a variety of functions. So even though one of the earlier posts had been dedicated to the subject of management of change, I am creating another one. Such situations always demand novel approaches and experimentation and force one to try and explore new dimensions in your quest to be successful.

It is quite obvious that for anything to change, someone has to start acting differently. If the magnitude of change is large and profound, almost everyone has to be doing so. Ultimately the success of all change efforts boils down to the same mission – can you get people to start behaving in a new way. That requires serious personal motivation. And for motivations to be sustained, we all understand quite well that you have got to influence and impact the hearts and minds.

People embrace lots of big changes in their lives – relationships, marriage, babies, new geographies, new homes, different job responsibilities, technology upgradations. Some other habits are tougher to do away with, if they ever go away at all – smoking and drinking for instance. The magnitude of each such endeavour is large and therefore the moot question is – how should one approach so that the task is accomplished and at the same time the change process gets ingrained, embedded within the organisation. The topic is extremely broad and I will simply touch upon just one perspective here.

My firm belief is that small amounts of consistent and regular incremental efforts lead to tremendously positive  results over time. So just break the task into many small milestones and go after each with a zeal. Small targets lead to little victories that can then trigger a positive spiral of behaviour.  

Know of a wonderful couple, married for 10 years but fighting for the previous two. Counselling did not help progress matters much. And then a surprise kiss made all the difference. The wife was caught off-guard – in a nice way. She started doing little things she had given up – cooking what the spouse loved to eat, brewing coffee, holding hands and going for an after dinner walk. Their individual work environments began to notice the difference in their attitudes. The husband’s kiss launched a positive spiral and the other small steps sustained it!

Big changes always come from a succession of small, successful changes. The first few may seem almost trivial, perhaps may not even get the attention you desire. But those mini/micro victories influence the heart and the mind in a unique way. They generate hope that change is possible and will be for the better. There is no stopping after that.

Over the past couple of years I have come across many examples of success through this approach and therefore the convictions have only gotten stronger. Will be helpful to get your views too.

happy changing!


3 thoughts on “incrementalism and change…..

  1. I fully agree with following statement of yours when I look back into my life.
    “My firm belief is that small amounts of consistent and regular incremental efforts lead to tremendously positive results over time. So just break the task into many small milestones and go after each with a zeal. Small targets lead to little victories that can then trigger a positive spiral of behaviour.”
    People keep saying “Be positive” but how to trigger that behaviour is very important.

  2. Hi Rajiv, I agree with you to a large extent and in fact have recently spearheaded a BIG internal change in the organisation. Yes it wasn’t easy at first when the task was announced but then as the Project Head, I decided to adopt a slightly different approach (similar to what you suggest). I began by breaking down big tasks into daily targets and approached each day with conviction and courage. In addition to this, I also adopted an inclusive approach with the existing and new team on board. This not only gave them a sense of involvement, but engaged them in a way that it became a fuel for their motivation. Sometimes when more people move forward (even though a small step), it is much more significant than an individual moving leaps.

    But it wasn’t always this easy. Initially even I may have resisted the “change” but once I gathered it was inevitable, i dropped my apprehensions and started replacing my doubts with constructive inputs. Soon it felt that not only me but the entire team was moving towards not just a “change” but a “cause”.

    I’ve been following your blogs for a while and find them most relevant to today’s challenges. Do keep writing, especially on leadership ‘coz I find it one of the toughest traits to identify…what is my leadership style and is there “a” type that is needed? To me leadership is not just about personal and teams’ strengths; it is also about giving the people the conviction to believe in themselves and envisage blueprints of their success. So that I can be one of them and also lead them in a definite focused direction, I read a lot on leadership.The challenge is that I have to constantly reinvent myself to keep the flame of passion and direction alive in not just my team but me.


  3. Hi Sir ,

    Started readling your blogs recently and they are very practical and simple . Infact this one managing change caught my attention and totally agree with you on making small increment change. Here what I wrote after reading your blog and sharing the same .

    Very thought provoking . One that caught my heart today was around managing change… it is probably the meaning of life .The reason life exists ….. Just the other day I was studying science (read Adaptations for Survival) with my daughter and she asked me if dinosaurs would have existed today if they had adapted to the changes in the environment? …. I did not have an answer to that but one thing we both agreed on was that all the animals and plants that we see all around today are those who adapted to changes in the environment . Those who did not became extinct. So in a nut shell all living beings that we see around us are those who adapted to change better than their peers.
    Is this any different today? Have the principles of universe changed? Will we be able to survive if we do not adapt to the changes around us? I think the question of survival makes a very compelling case for us to adapt. And I know it is easier said than done ….. Because at times accepting a view contrarian to our own becomes a challenge and then to be expected to adapt to it will be quite another story.
    Here is a small story
    “Behavior changes attitude” …. Our professor told us in my Japanese management course. We argued with him and told him it was the other way round .The whole class was throwing examples at him. He did not say a word. After 15 mins into this, he told us to vacate the class and stand outside. We thought he was angry. We walked out slowly… some of us trying to placate him with apologies. When we were outside, the Prof walked out, picked got 10 brooms into the classroom and picked one and started cleaning our classroom. We were very surprised …. At the same time some of us rushed to pick up the brooms and started doing the same. Others started running around the campus for brooms so that they could do their bit. In the next 40 mins our entire class of 60 was running and eager to clean classrooms and the college campus. Infact this later transformed into a campaign of cleaning the campus… and believe me you, this worked far more than any print and poster campaign we had previously in college about keeping our campus clean.
    If it about adapting change then adapt behavior… start doing one thing differently and keeping it.
    If it is about losing weight .. Incorporate one healthy behavior … every day and keep it
    Forget about Don’ts … yes you like your Chinese … have it. Add Salad on day 1. Add exercise on day 2 …Add Fruits on day 3 ……
    The idea is to take small steps gradually but tend towards the adapting to the change we want /need to be. After all we did not evolve overnight.

Comments are closed.