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Stepwise Change


Disciplines > Change Management > Creating Change > Stepwise Change

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Have clear steps in the change. Break the work into distinct packages and talk about each separately. Communicate about the change not as a single, monolithic entity, but as a set of activities, each of which gains specific value.

When a step has been completed, tie up all the loose ends and celebrate the completion almost as if it were the end of the change. Then start the next step.


A company that is introducing new IT systems breaks the change work down by introducing one package at a time. It also does this in pieces for separate departments. At the end of each implementation, they have a celebratory lunch.

A company developing a new product brings it to market initially as a simple device that is easy to understand. Then each new version adds increasing functionality.


Video game manufacturers know how to attract and keep the attention of people in a challenging game. A key trick they use is to break the game down into stages and levels. After a quest or fight, there is a period of respite. The player gains treasure and experience points and goes up to the next level. They also get a sense of closure about the previous stage and can look forward to what comes next.

Breaking things down into individual and separate steps has a number of advantages.

Smaller changes are easier to plan and manage. With less interdependencies, each step is a coherent whole and is less likely to unravel.

When people look at a big change, they are easily overwhelmed by the size of it and cannot see past the endless pain and suffering they associate with it. When things are broken down into smaller pieces, and especially when most talk and attention is about the next stage, then it does not look anywhere near as bad.

A pause between stages gives time to re-think and replan. When you are in the thick of the change, things can start to unravel and you have insufficient time to regroup.

Ending a stage with a celebration lets people pause and relax. It also helps create a sense of closure and reduces any tendency to revert to old ways.

See also




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