I have posted a blog post before regarding doing things that scare you– challenging yourself and others and keeping the brain alive. This week I’ve been thinking about the small changes, the seemingly meaningless, incidental changes that could take place, but you don’t do them because you don’t believe they will make a significant difference to the outcome.
These two things are connected but start at different points. Let me explain.
Sometimes you have a task or project that is so big, broad and expansive, or perhaps just involves a lot of content and mind space. Initially you might think its too big, or where do I start- blinded by the options? No one thing you could do, is big enough to make a dent and effect a significant change. It might be that the project is the thing that scares you, because its not something you have done before, or its in a new area or role.
Its a well trodden phrase and not new, but a coach and friend of mine used to say “make the elephant easier to eat… break it down into bite size chunks”. Now as a vegetarian the concept works even if the imagery doesn’t!
It is important to make a start, however small. Then you can start building and building momentum. I write about media and radio, so let me use my own examples and experience by way of a demonstration.
When I was made Group Programme Director of Smooth network it had just moved into Leicester Square a month earlier and was completely national (apart from local ads and I think, news). The task when I started was to reintroduce local breakfast and drive shows across all the regional sites, change the line up on the network and totally rebrand. A huge task which I admit at times I thought was just too big in the time frame (I began in November and relaunched the following March). I remember one time sitting on a late evening train back to the Midlands with everything I had to do going through my head. I think I had a mild panic attack, and started thinking that it was all too much, I couldn’t possibly do all that was required and I had made a massive mistake. In the escalating stress, I recalled the phrase about the elephant.
Apart from finding 12 presenters for the regional shows, as well as the networked hours, there were all the technical arrangements, production to make, imaging package to change and intricate processes for switching in and out of network etc. It could seem too big (and like I say at times it really felt it)- but I picked something, one thing, and made a small change, then another, and then another. None of those small changes were significant in themselves, but the sum of all of them added up to a significant impact and progress. Making the elephant easier to eat, one bite at a time.
I realise that this is nothing new. Its easily forgotten though when we are clamouring for big moves and ground breaking new ideas. I have sometimes walked into stations or shows and thought that everything is wrong (if I’ve ever walked into yours, then I’m sure it wasn’t you I’m thinking of). Perhaps not everything, but a lot that needs changing in order to start improvement and being successful. Trying not to be daunted by the volume of “stuff”, I pick something small and make a slight change. Tweaking the imaging, refreshing the clocks, coaching the presenters more often, it almost doesn’t matter as long as its an improvement. My advice then would be to make the change and let it establish (get everyone involved focussed on enacting it), before making another change, then rinse and repeat. The reason for the delay (rather than changing something small every day), is that people take time to accept, react, and move with any change. Move too fast and it seems like an onslaught in their world, and you get a barrier to more tweaks, giving you something else to solve and worry about.
Incremental changes, made consistently over time can make more overall change, and long term improvement, than a blinding flash and upending of everything in one go.
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