Change Management The Easy Way – Start with The Small Things that Make a BIG Impact

Change Management The Easy Way – Start with The Small Things that Make a BIG Impact

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“If you think small things don’t have a big impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.”
Anita Roddick

Transform your business life by changing the small things that will create most impact. Prioritise action on the one task or idea that will create the greatest positive change in your business. This is a simple idea that is very simple to execute.

The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Just decide which part you’re going to bite for starters, to make the biggest impact.

In The Progress Principle Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer state that making incremental progress in meaningful work is the most important motivator. It is vastly more important to happiness than either a grand mission or financial gains.

For me, it is not just about picking away at small things. And it’s not about tackling a huge, all-embracing task. The key is to look for the small things that will make a BIG IMPACT – the ones that change the game. It also has to make you challenge yourself to think harder and think smarter. You’re not necessarily looking for the easy quick win – you want to make a huge difference through one small change.

Have you heard of ‘The Butterfly Effect?’ It is said that the gentle flapping of a butterfly’s wings many thousands of miles away can contribute to a massive gale-force wind at the other side of the globe. Look for the butterfly that will cause the hurricane in your business – the small act that makes a huge difference. Although it often requires smart thinking to identify it, there is always something small you can do that can deliver big things.

For example, when Alcoa introduced Paul O’Neill as its Chief Executive Officer in 1987, investors thought he was joking. O’Neill’s sole focus from his first day was how to make a habit of worker safety. His primary concern was time lost to employee injuries. Although Alcoa was already outperforming most American manufacturers in terms of safety, O’Neill trusted in his belief that to be a globally successful company, Alcoa had to first become the safest. And indeed, through streamlining processes and attuning employees to proper procedures, costs decreased, quality improved, productivity increased, and with union and worker satisfaction too, the company’s success soared. Changing habits within the culture of an organisation can be as effective as changing personal habits to increase productivity and success.

Changing habits can work both ways, so you might need to protect against negative habits or apparently small, insignificant factors (which might just be ‘the tipping point’ to disaster).  In his book, Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell uses the example of New York graffiti and vandalism to demonstrate how the social norms of a large and complex organisation can be changed. Vandalism left unchecked in New York changes people’s social values: it becomes the norm to vandalise property. People are habituated to it. The neighbourhood has tipped, and will go downhill, leading to more serious criminal activity. To stop this, repairing broken windows and cleaning up graffiti was necessary, because without improving the environment, Gladwell argues, there is not enough impetus for residents to challenge anti-social behaviour. And indeed, a crackdown on graffiti and minor vandalism on the New York subway system had a knock-on effect in reducing wider crime in the neighbourhoods, and improved the lives of residents (the customers) within the area. This simple change had wider impact, and more importantly, the principle of finding the tipping point is applicable to any organisation.

So – what are the tipping points of your business? What are the small, apparently insignificant changes you can make – that will make all the difference? Create your own tipping point to positive change and improvement.

Do a “creative brainstorm” for yourself, and make a list of the many small changes you could make. No need to be discriminating at this stage – collect quantity of ideas, because at this stage – the quality doesn’t matter. Don’t just choose one idea. Write down as many ideas as you can, without censorship or judgement. Any ‘poor’ ideas will lead you on to more ideas, so don’t hold back.

When you have exhausted your ideas bank, start to use discernment. Now, evaluate each idea for its quality and applicability to you and your business. Look at it objectively and ask yourself ‘does it have legs’ (and can you run with it)? Will it add value to what you are doing? The key is to find one or two ideas that will not take much work, but will have a great impact.

Small changes – or small wins – work in the way your brain works – in small chunks of information. Feeling the satisfaction of achievement and progress along the way – choosing one action to change or achievement to make on a daily basis – is a great motivator. If you can make a great improvement through a small change, your motivation and the impact is even better. So, notice your achievements, and celebrate every small win that leads to great change.

Here are some examples of small changes that deliver a big impact:

  • Identify a key bad habit that your company has, address it – and resolve it
  • Stop doing something that takes up a lot of your time and isn’t delivering a lot of value
  • Spend one day a week outside the office, learning or interacting with the wider world and looking for new ideas
  • Fire a bad performer who is holding your team back
  • Outsource a particular area of your business or make a key hire
  • Finish work early one night a week, in time to read a bedtime story to your children
  • Arrange a “date night” with your partner to give yourselves the opportunity to talk and have fun
  • Implement one of the other ideas in this blog

From your list, analyse which change will give you the biggest impact.

What will deliver the biggest changes to your life or work, for no real effort on your part?

Unleash that BIG IMPACT.

Trust me, it is there. All you have to do is find it. And just do it!

Once you establish some ideas that will make positive changes, don’t waste time. Implement them.

These ideas will make the biggest changes in your life and your business: they will turn the tide for you. There really is no excuse for not doing small things that make a big impact. They will give you the highest return and are far more important than many tasks you spend your time on.

All you have to do is find them – action them – and enjoy the results!

Further Reading:

Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell (Amazon Link UK, US)

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (Amazon Link UK, US)

The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer (Amazon Link UK, US)

If the above topic, or indeed any of my blogs are of interest to you, then contact me and let’s talk! Drop me an email at

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