Small changes, big changes

If you’re advocating for a shift, a new initiative that you’re pushing for from below, it helps to know what signs to look for (or not look for) as you gauge your progress.

In the beginning, any kind of new anything that’s not driven from the top will look like it’s not going anywhere.  With this knowledge in hand, it’s a lot easier not to give up.

Change from below can follow two paths, not three:

  1. You toil away at an idea that the organization never ends up supporting or adopting (or you give up before it does)
  2. You toil away at an idea, garner support and evidence and early wins, and the idea takes off

It’s 3 that gets us into trouble….the unstated assumption that if something’s going to get somewhere tomorrow we’ll see significant progress today in terms of the support we’re getting (funding, encouragement, approvals) and the external indicators of success.  Carrying this mental model around is the best way to ensure that you give up just when things are about to turn your way.

(by the way, the same thinking can be applied to work/salary/promotions, which often follow a step-change pattern when, of course, skills and responsibilities grow in a much more continuous way.)

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