Little steps, big changes

October 25, 2012
“If only I had a little more time.” If I had a dollar every time this thought went through my head, I’d be rich.Juggling motherhood and running a business doesn’t seem to leave much time for anything else, whether it’s squeezing in a run or just making the bed in the morning. And for better or for worse, I’m a big ideas kind of gal. Why aim for going for a run a couple of days a week when you can train for a marathon instead?We’ve all probably heard of the BHAG – the “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal” that Jim Collins and Jerry Porras made popular in their book “Built to Last.” If we get it right, a BHAG is inspiring. But if it’s too big and too hairy, there’s another word for it: unrealistic. Unrealistic goals can lead to feelings of failure and dejection, and can pretty much have the opposite effect of what we hoped to accomplish in the first place.I’ve been thinking about this not only in relation to my personal life, but in the context of our work with clients. Across the board, our clients are smart, sophisticated strategists who want to help their companies drive better employee performance. Unfortunately, there’s not an easy 1-2-3 checklist we can download to achieve this. Organizational change is complicated – think, for example, of just a few of the factors involved: Prevailing culture. Differing management styles. Individual employee needs and goals. Different mandates for different departments. If we spend too much time looking at the big picture, we might throw in the towel altogether and settle for the status quo.Let’s not do that just yet. Around here we’ve been thinking about the concept of the employee experience – the moments both large and small that shape how employees feel about their jobs. As employee communications and engagement specialists, we can’t make all of those moments positive, but maybe we don’t need to. Instead, we can choose one or two opportunities and seek incremental, yet important improvements. For example, can we extend some of the energy and learning opportunities from a well-organized orientation program into the first six months on the job? Can we help our clients nudge their leaders toward more meaningful, authentic communications?In doing so, we may not be instantly transforming the world or the companies we work with – yet. But we’re making progress in small, significant ways that add up over time. In the long run, this could lead to more meaningful change than attempting to address every aspect of the employee experience at the same time.As for my personal ambitions, I’m trying to remember that the real goal is about learning to pace myself a little bit. With that in mind, I’ll settle for a weekly trail run, the occasional 5K, and a 50 percent or greater weekly bed-making rate.
Alison Harrison

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