Recently a friend of mine realised that since both his sons had left home, theoretically he should now have the time to be spending more quality time with his partner. However, over the years, with both simultaneously focused on their professional careers they had got into an accidental routine of taking it in turns to be at home at the weekend/ during the week, rather than on business travel so that one was always there for the children. However, despite the children having left home and no longer needing them to be there, they were unable to break this pattern. After numerous failed attempts to drastically overhaul their schedules so they could spend more time together, they decided to set aside the first Saturday of each month as their one day together, which was sacrosanct and free from the dreaded ‘schedule creep’. After managing to do this, they expanded to the whole of the first weekend of each month, then to making sure they went away the first weekend of every month and now, as well as this, they pretty much spend most weekends of the month together.
Another colleague spent ages trying to fit a 45-minute exercise session into their daily schedule. As best laid plans usually do, it started well, but between meetings, work and travel the hopeful workout time would quickly disappear. Someone suggested that they start with a 10-min walk/ run each day and see how that went. Gradually the 10 minutes turned into 15, then 20 and finally a set 30 minutes each day, that never gets missed; resulting in a fit, energised and significantly less stressed colleague.
Both these examples are great for any business to look at, because they show the value of small step-by-step changes/ transformation, as opposed to the inherent dangers of attempting wholesale change.
I’ve blogged a lot about the exponential value of marginal gains constantly referring to the work of Sir David Brailsford and Team Sky. In a week where their star rider Chris Froome will probably ( hopefully) win the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana back-to-back and achieve sporting history and greatness, it feels appropriate to refer to them again. As Sir David says, innovation is about continuous improvement rather than major step change, by a relentless focus on marginal gains; from the optimum temperature of cycling shorts, to the mattresses and pillows that provide each rider with the best night’s sleep. As well as allowing a continuous focus on improvement, innovation and transformation, marginal gains are also significantly easier to achieve. Broken windows theory/ the tipping point/ marginal gains – whatever theory you subscribe to, the value to a fast-growing business is the same. Start small, develop a culture of small wins, of marginal gains and over time you will affect significant and continuing change. Whether it’s for your business, your team, or you as an individual – work out what you want to achieve, as well as each and every micro step that you need to complete in order to get there. Then, when you have a small, not insurmountable and importantly achievable goal, begin and when you have conquered that and created either the start of a new habit, or the beginning of some momentum, you will be on your way to change.
If you want to change don’t try to change radically, change at the edges first…
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