The Power of Small Wins
Deon: "An excellent blog from Stephen
Lynch which we all need to remember:"
" Business Execution is 20% getting clear about what needs
to be done, and 80% following up to make sure it actually gets
"Business Execution: Don't just focus on your "To Do" list (the
future). Review your "Have Done" list (the past), before you plan
the next steps.
of better futures, so we set Big Hairy Audacious Goals for our
personal lives and our organizations, and work diligently toward
their achievement. But because the due dates for our BHAGs are so
far into the future, it is a rare event when we actually get to
feel the thrill and satisfaction of achieving these long-term
Sure, being able to cross goals off our list as "Done" is a
great feeling, but the motivational effect can be short-lived.
After the celebrations have worn off, the comedown can leave you
feeling a little bit empty inside. Now what?
"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the
journey that matters, in the end." Ernest Hemingway
Research contained in the book The Progress Principle backs up
Hemingway's quote. It's not just about goal achievement (the
destination), it really is about enjoying the journey. The studies
show that when people can see that they are making tangible
progress every step of the way and experience "small wins" - they
become more engaged and productive.
These "small wins" are the incremental steps toward longer term
goals. People are much happier and more creative in their roles
when they can visibly see continuous progress on their goals in a
series of smaller daily and weekly steps.
How do you make progress visible?
Find a tool that lets everyone see the progress you are making
every step of the way. Making performance visible is just the first
step. You must take time to stop and reflect on your progress.
Don't just focus on your "To Do" list (the future). Take a
moment to review and reflect on your "Have Done" list (the past),
before you plan the next steps.
Ask the following 4 questions:
- What tasks did I complete this week? (or today)
- What lessons did I learn?
- What tasks will I complete next week? (or tomorrow)
- What obstacles do I need to overcome?
Whether you conduct this process formally using a survey tool to
document your answers (prior to a weekly team meeting), or by
verbalizing your answers to your colleagues (at a daily stand-up
meeting), there is real power to be gleaned from incorporating this
discipline as one of your key business processes.
Some of the benefits include.
- We acknowledge and praise our accomplishments (small
- We share our lessons and "bank the learnings"
- We force ourselves to make choices and prioritize the next
- We commit to tangible actions that we are willing to be held
- We openly share our challenges and can ask for assistance to
I have a saying,"Business Execution is 20% getting clear
about what needs to be done, and 80% following up to make sure it
actually gets done"
Yes we still need to make sure we hold people accountable for
honoring their commitments and getting things done (topic for
another article), but if you don't stop to review and reflect on
the progress that has been made, and acknowledge the "small wins"
every step of the way you are short-changing yourself on a major
When was the last time you acknowledged your "small