The Power of Incremental Progress

Take Small Steps To Reach Big Change


Every year, companies establish goals and objectives for their business.  Some firms may plan further out – as far as 5 years – in order to obtain a certain sales targets and other corporate metrics.  Unfortunately, many businesses stop there and lack a strategy for how they will actually achieve the goals.  As a result, the lofty numbers on the wall simply end up staring managers and employees in the face for the next 12 months. 

Goals and measures are intended to be challenging and to drive certain organizational performance.  They are intended to stretch an organization to reach new levels.  Because of this, goals are inherently uncomfortable for many managers, who are left asking themselves “How am I supposed to do that?”

I use a very basic strategy when working towards goals and metrics.  This strategy focuses on incremental progress as the means of satisfying the more intimidating high level objective.  As a simple example, if your sales goals are 120 million euros per year, a focus on incremental progress would suggest you should aim for 10 million euros per month.  For a sales manager, 10 million is far less daunting than 120 million in terms of a target.

Incremental progress can seem like an obvious way to go about doing business, but the reality is that many managers don’t take the time to plan ahead and outline what their incremental targets are.  Depending on your goals, you may elect to divide your objectives into daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly increments.  The increments should reflect a suitable amount of time to meet a realistic number.

The power of incremental progress goes beyond goals and metrics.  Incremental progress as a management technique can also help you change and grow your organization.  If your business or organization lacks standards and processes, for example, it is unlikely you will be able to carve out dedicated resources to complete the task in a single effort.  By thinking about incremental progress, though, tackle the task in small stages.  Keep in mind that something is better than nothing.

Incremental progress embraces the concept of the 70% solution.  Having a basic section of the puzzle completed removes the pressure of the overall objective, and allows you to focus on the remaining part of the puzzle.  So whether you sell 10 million in that first month and then shift your focus to the remaining 110 million, or complete the first part of a 5 part process outline, focus your efforts on short term success.  If you are continuously pushing for success in short term increments, you’ll find that meeting those big numbers is far easier over the long haul.

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