I was speaking with one of my clients today and was reminded that we often take projects on that are too large and diverse for us to handle and others to understand.
We can’t always start with the end in mind. Sometimes we just have to start with small improvements and chunk down our projects.
Large steps often lead to failure. I’ve come to believe that thinking about the end result often leads to getting nothing done. When I take small steps, I can look back over a period of time and see significant changes that happened.
This is one of the reasons I hate goals. The problem with big hairy audacious goals is that they just stay out there as large goals that never happen. When we don’t make significant progress towards our goals we often feel guilty.
Guilt can lead to a feeling that it’s useless to try so why bother. This is especially true with our front line employees. When we task these people with a very challenging goal, they often just don’t try. If we just ask them how to make things a little bit better, there is often enthusiastic participation.
It’s all a matter of scale. One of the things I like about quality improvement programs is that they usually just work to make things a little better. When things get a little better we have a chance to build momentum towards a larger outcome.
Successful momentum is what we really want. Radical moves make people upset. Small changes are often easily accepted. I’ve often seen that when I’ve made small improvements, change has been easy. It’s radical moves that make change difficult.
Chart the improvements you make. Just explaining what you want isn’t enough. People need to see where they’re heading. Posting charts of projects helps those involved to see if the work they’ve been doing is leading towards success.
I’ve often been told that those on the front line won’t understand. They won’t understand what we’re trying to accomplish and they won’t understand why it’s important. My experience is the opposite. I’ve seen that when I have made a change relevant, included successful change in a compensation design and charted what the changes look like, I get buy in from those on the front line.
Chunking down allows fast tests and faster feedback. When we make small changes we can move quickly. We see the results of the experiments we make quickly and we can make adjustments easily.
Small experiments allow people to make mistakes and not have it cost much or feel bad when things don’t work out. If I spend thirty minutes trying something, I don’t feel bad when it doesn’t work out. If I spend three months working on something and it doesn’t work, it’s easy for me to think of myself as a failure.
What are the best ways you’ve been able to move your life and company forward? Do you find small changes work the best in the long run? Or, are complicated projects the way to get the best change?
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