Small Changes Can Have a Big Impact

When businesses are faced with a challenge, whether that’s an attempt to kickstart growth, reverse a downward trend or increase market share, the default response is often to change as many things as possible and often go looking for a big change to be the catalyst.

However, the reality of business is that radical, turn-the-business-upside-down type change, is often not as effective as simply looking for small changes that can have a big impact in key areas.

The problem is that it’s the “radical, big risk” changes that get the press when they come off, which tends to lead business leaders to think that this is what’s required all the time (think the Apple iPhone as a symbol of this approach). Not all businesses can be Apple. Not all CEOs Steve Jobs. Applying this kind of mindset permanently can be dangerous.

The notion that small things can have a big impact is familiar to many business owners and managers through the work of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, which uses real-world examples such a New York crime rates and the re-emergence of hush puppies as case studies where small changes have had a major impact.

The key for business owners and managers is to work out what are the key metrics or areas within the business where a small change can have a big impact.

In one case I saw recently, a large multinational put increased emphasis on the number of client meetings senior business leaders were having in their respective International regions. Over a period of four years, return-per-client increased dramatically. All the company did was publish (at the annual general meeting) the number of meetings each person had attended next to their name up on a big screen.

By focusing on the right metric, with a very small change (making the data public), significant results were achieved.

One of the things we recommend to our clients is to look to areas of the business that they believe have the potential to improve the business overall and make a small change to test that theory.

This might be in the number or type of client interactions, the average email response time, the format of client deliverables, a production input or a staff-led initiative.

You’ll be amazed by what impact that sort of change can have.

Craig Somerville is the Managing Director of Reload Consulting, having worked extensively on the strategies of leading companies within Australia and around the world. With a background in marketing and economics, Craig's unique experience offers great insight into how the world of strategy and digital is changing in today's rapid marketplace. He also regularly consults on all aspects of digital marketing through Reload Media.