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Reflection – Usha Jose

by on November 5, 2007

Short Term Wins

In one of the previous classes, the importance of creating short term wins in change efforts was discussed. I feel that short term wins are big trust – builders and is very important in change initiatives. The intriguing question Kevin posed to class that day was: As a first time project manager which part of a project would you try to tackle first? The class was divided between easy and hard options, with most of us inclining towards the easy side. I personally would settle for something which I feel comfortable tackling. ‘Comfortable’ maybe translated to ‘easy’, but with some reservations. In normal projects, I would not head for some thing which is super easy, as heading for the lowest hanging fruit might tell off my inexperience. Moreover, I will feel more confident if I do something different from what I do on a daily basis. But in change management efforts, I think it is worth a try as the success of the initiative is also dependent on evangelizing and converting non- believers to my side. However, to reach the decision I would consider various factors – the level of complexity, availability of resources, time constraints, being some of them.

Short term wins, as pointed out in Heart of Change, nurture trust in the change effort and keep critics at bay. Apart from boosting confidence of the team, it also helps to get feedback about the effort and sends across the message that the vision is achievable. In a large organization change effort spans many years and many projects. Choosing a comparatively long and uneventful project as the herald of a change initiative can result in losing support and cause the change effort to face an untimely death. The journey towards change should be seen as a series of short term wins interspersed with long term wins. While reading articles about the come back of Steve Jobs to Apple, I recognized a pattern of short term wins. The company was in a really bad shape when Steve Jobs came back to Apple as advisor to then CEO, Gil Amelio. Although Steve’s vision was a ‘healthier’ Apple, he started on a steady track of change events rather than aiming just for the long term win, which he knew would take years to accomplish. Steve’s comeback strategy as I see consisted of removing barriers and rebuilding trust using short term payoffs.

When aiming for short term wins it is critical to properly identify the task that can guarantee success. There can be situations when this attempt misfires too. When faced with failure, it is important to emphasize the exploratory nature of short term wins. The lessons learned from such failed attempts can go a long way in the fulfillment of the change effort. In such cases however it is advisable to communicate the lessons learned and the implications of the attempt to the team as well as to stakeholders. Blaming the team for the failure is not going to help the change effort in any way.

On the whole, I believe that with the right approach short term wins can be a critical factor in the success of change efforts. As stated by Dan. S. Cohen, the progress made by short term wins “recharges the sense of urgency, keeping emotions high and resistance low”.


The Heart of Change Field Guide : Dan.S.Cohen

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