• 1% Improvement – can it work?

    1% Improvement – can it work?

    Posted 24/10/2011 By in CHANGE MANAGEMENT With | No Comments

    I’ve gone on record before in workshops I run saying that one failing of large organisational change projects is that they tend to over-promise and under-deliver.  Building up peoples’ expectations of a brighter future is a common method many change managers use to get people to ‘buy in’ and support the change initiative.  I get it, we need to promote benefits sure.  But the damage comes when people’s personal and collective experience of the change is not what was in the brochure.  Higher expectations leads to greater disappointment.  Greater disappointment leads to cynicism, resistance, frustration and loss of trust.  These are not good, change supportive or resilient traits or behaviours.

    In my experience change is often painful, it’s messy, hugely uncertain, challenging and may actually (in some cases), throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Human beings by and large respond similarly to change.  Sure, there are early adopters and I’ve heard many a client cheerfully announce “I like change.”  I think though that this is change that is seen by the individual as beneficial, needed, and in many cases, self imposed.  When it’s large scale organisational change, or the result of commercial, legislative and/or political shifts then those same self declared advocates of change often back away and can even become resistant.  Personally, I think the under promise and over deliver approach works better.  Let people in on the reasons for the change, engage them by seeking their input, inform them of the intention, the problem trying to be solved and let them know that it’s going to be messy, uncertain may not deliver all the expected benefits, or meet projected timeframes and support them accordingly.   Using this approach, the reality will match the leaders rhetoric, building credibility and support.  The change team can support people because the elephant in the room (that change is messy, disruptive and uncertain) has been named, and appropriate discussion and resolution can ensue.

    As per the blog title, I’d like to suggest a simple 1% improvement approach to change agendas.  Mark Dussalt talks about the concept of personal improvement at a rate of 1% per week or day.  Lots of small changes, implemented consistently over a prolonged period of time stack up to big changes quite quickly.  The benefits can be significant.   Interestingly enough if you shift to daily improvements the benefits over a year are 22 times greater than if you did it weekly.  If you can get your team or organisation to focus on 1% weekly improvement, that’s a big return over the course of a year.  Whether, it’s an improvement on throughput, quality, sales, operations or whatever other metric you want to monitor in your team.  The concept is also based on the likelihood that a 1% improvement is attainable.  This approach would require some effort, in terms of what are we improving, how will we measure it, what do we do to improve it but I think many times would like to be involved in that sort of dialogue with their manager and leaders.  Personally,  I’d like to see a team try to improve their reported ‘fun at work’ by 1% per week.   If anyone wants to talk about what that might look like, send me a message.


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      Sean is an experienced coach, speaker and facilitator who is passionate about improving the relationship between people, their work and the organisations they work for. If you want to get the most out of your managers, supervisors and their teams and think that work can or should be a rewarding and enjoyable component of a productive and meaningful life it might be worth a chat.

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