Small steps, big impact: the snowball effect

Sometimes you hear yourself wonder what to do next in a given situation:

Should I stay or should I go?
How on earth can I bring my team or even my whole organisation to a higher level? 

What to do with someone with whom I want a different relationship?

 I’ve tried so much already…

Then you may want to choose the strategy of small steps instead of designing a big action plan or taking extreme measures.

No worries: if a step seems too big to take, make it smaller. Sounds counterintuitive, right? Take a small step that will definitely work out fine, a step that is ‘failure proof’.

Building on that even tiniest of steps, you can find out better what works and what doesn’t. Doing more of what works can create a snowball effect, initiating a series of new steps.

Do take a step: if you truly want things to change, better a small step than no step at all. 

Should the step turn out to be ineffective, you can just take another one not using too many resources (i.e. budget, efforts, time, long (e-mail) discussions, group meetings,…).

This is how low risk trial-and-error looks like

1) If something works well, do more of that
2) Stop doing what does not work AND do something else instead
3) Don’t fix what is not broken

Small steps work particularly well in the following settings*:

– when there is a high degree of complexity or unpredictability
– when we are stuck, when we have little energy or when the problem is serious
– when we do not have best practices or a blue print approach
– when there is (expected) resistance
– when we procrastinate

You will not hear me declare that you always need to take small steps for personal, team or organisational growth. Not quite. All depends on the relationship you and the significant others in your eco-system have with the desired change (if you want to know more about this, contact me).

* In part inspired by Coert Visser, co-founder of NOAM


Take 3 minutes to answer these questions for yourself:

What do you want to improve or get better at? What do you want to change? What is your goal?
Suppose that 10 on a scale equals your goal fully accomplished, and 1 the opposite of that (= you made progress towards your goal, but so tiny it’s almost unnoticeable): where are you now on the scale?

What worked well to get you there? What else?

Who contributed for you to come where you are on the scale? Who else? What did they do specifically?

What inspiration does this give you to take a next small step?

When will you be taking it?

Good luck!


Snowball effect



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