IT GovernanceRisk Management

3 Problems That Let the Air Out of Effective Incremental Change

The advent of agile and related principles brought incremental change and development into the mainstream in business. There are right and wrong ways to approach incremental change though. In a concise post at his blog, Tom Cagley highlights three ways that incremental change can go wrong:

  1. Too much “upheaval” spurred by numerous incremental changes can foster resistance.
  2. People lose focus due to the incremental nature.
  3. Continuous process improvement requires more active scope management.

Change Your Change

Too many changes lead to change fatigue, where people just stop caring about the changes. If there is no passion or buy-in for changes, then they may or may not stick, and they may or may not generate the intended benefits. Along similar lines, incremental work is useful toward building something great—but it needs to be known in advance what that great thing is. Incremental change should only be implemented when the desired final result is already fairly clearly known, so that incremental changes do not spin in circles never arriving at a meaningful conclusion. Essentially, a “big bang” approach must be taken with the vision. But Cagley cautions that this vision should be attached to finding ways to genuinely help the business—as opposed to a vision that merely agrees with current business fads.

Regarding the final tip, Cagley says this:

Incremental or continuous process improvement will be made up of many smaller parts.  As feedback is generated and the organization gets into the swing of the change program, the scope can grow. There are many reasons for scope creep ranging from general excitement to it just being difficult to know which change belongs in the program. Regardless of the reason, scope creep can sap the resources set aside for the change program. Kristie Lawrence, organizational quality engineer and IFPUG Board Member, stated: “The trick is to manage the scope of what is being improved.”

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