Make Small Improvements

The essence of leadership is the idea of continuous improvement. No matter what, you can always coach people to do a little better, and if everyone does that, the whole organization moves up. It’s not romantic and not revolutionary or headline-getting, but over time, that’s what generates success.

The idea is there is no one big thing that will get us where we want to get. There are actually a lot of small things that will help us to get where we want to get. Once the vision is established, it is more likely to be achieved by a series of small advancements than by dramatic leaps forward.

Keep looking for any big breakthroughs that might be achievable, but look on a daily basis for small improvements that will move you towards your goals. Encourage an attitud and a spirit within the team that makes people feel that they have not had a successful day unless they have made some improvement to their part of the operation.

Small improvements made every day by everyone results in individual and organizational learning. Big changes made once in a while by a few people results in only individual learning for a few people and zero organizational learning. The former respects people, the latter does not.

If you’re not trained in how to make small improvements every day, to eliminate waste, unevenness, and unreasonableness in non-zero-sum ways, then the only thing you know how to do is either nothing or seek some kind of big disruptive change. The former is rapid-cycle experimentation that helps you keep up with the times, while the latter is slow-cycle change that helps you stay behind the times.

Stasis, followed by heroic disruptive change is seen as virtuous, while continuous small changes is seen as inferior and deficient. The reality is that all those little improvement are priceless.

Summing-up: Leaders who rely on remarkable and spectacular successes as the route towards their goal are likely to be disappointed. Steady, incremental improvements are more achievable and more reliable.

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