Yesterday I advocated making gradual, controlled changes rather than abrupt ones. This is because abrupt change often fails because there are too many things to change at once and the risks are much higher. Today I’d like to look at a few ways to create gradual changes. These are concepts that will be described in greater detail in my forthcoming book, Brilliant Manoeuvres: How to Use Military Wisdom to Win Business Battles.

  • Identify the new performance or results you’d like to achieve. Then, determine what intermediate steps would get you there. This may sound silly, but managers often set a goal and then expect to get there immediately. Discontinuous progress is the rule rather than the exception. Don’t get fooled by the hype surrounding supposed overnight successes. The truth is that they’ve probably been working on their breakthrough steadily for a long time.
  • In military tactics, you always try to “keep one foot on the ground.” This means you make one major change at a time while keeping most other things constant. For instance, if you’re changing your sales process, you can change how you create proposals while keeping everything else unchanged. Then, once you’ve got the new process in place, you can change something else, say, your pricing model. This approach allows you to manage risks because you’re not creating pandemonium. It also allows you to measure the success of each separate change, so you can better estimate the causal relationships.
  • Experiment a lot. Experimentation is key because you don’t know what will ultimately prove the most successful product, service, or process. Experimentation allows you to manage risks, and once again measure the causal effectiveness of any particular initiative. This is akin to an army that sends out scouting parties. These are looking for gaps in the enemy defences, and when they find them, the commander can pour resources into the breach to effect a breakthrough.
  • If you experiment you WILL make mistakes. If the experiments are initially kept small, you won’t invest massively in any one initiative until you’ve demonstrated that it has a good chance of succeeding overall.
  • Learn from your mistakes through the feedback process.
  • Prepare for setbacks and don’t lose your drive to succeed or, more importantly, your resilience.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

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