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How Can I Use Small Improvements to Build on a Major Shift in Operations?

Since small successes can energize those involved in a change effort, organize the effort so that there are visible positive results early on. When you achieve these successes, celebrate them. Reinforce the positive behaviors that led to the success. Initiating a major change is an uphill battle and employees can become depressed in the midst of the effort unless they see evidence of progress.

Successful small changes can build employee morale, particularly if these small changes can be measured in light of improved sales performance, customer loyalty, or market share.

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If there is real concern among employees, consider a pilot program to test the thinking behind the change effort. The success of the pilot program will build enthusiasm for a full-out effort.

Preferably, try to demonstrate a balanced picture of progress in all the areas that you set out to change. Schedules and measurements should give an indication of specific achievements, but pay attention also to intangibles, like employee morale. You want your greatest progress in areas of significant benefit, but even minimal progress in one area is worthwhile if it encourages progress in other, more significant areas.

When you achieve quick wins, find ways to recognize and reward your employees. The importance of these short-term successes can’t be overestimated. Eyes are always on change efforts. And opponents of change will be looking for proof that an idea won’t work. But it’s hard to argue with success.

It’s tougher to justify change on the basis of soft data—things like improved morale, trust, loyalty, stress levels, or job satisfaction—than of hard data—like productivity increases, bigger market share, faster delivery, higher customer satisfaction indices, shorter product development cycles, and high initial sales. Once these hard-data gains are achieved, build on them. This keeps the momentum of the change effort going, which will give you an opportunity to change other elements (like structure or systems) that don’t fit well with the initial change.