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The Power of Small Wins

Deon: "An excellent blog from Stephen Lynch which we all need to remember:"

Stephen Lynch: 

" Business Execution is 20% getting clear about what needs to be done, and 80% following up to make sure it actually gets done"


"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 goals.

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:

  1. What tasks did I complete this week? (or today)
  2. What lessons did I learn?
  3. What tasks will I complete next week? (or tomorrow)
  4. 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 wins)
- We share our lessons and "bank the learnings" 
- We force ourselves to make choices and prioritize the next steps
- We commit to tangible actions that we are willing to be held accountable for
- We openly share our challenges and can ask for assistance to solve them

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 motivational tool.

When was the last time you acknowledged your "small wins"?


Stephen Lynch