How to be Satisfied with Incremental Progress

How are your 2020 resolutions going? By the end of January, it’s estimated that:

  • Of those who make a New Year’s resolution, after 1 week 75% are still successful in keeping it.
  • After two weeks, the number drops to 71%.
  • After 1 month, the number drops again to 64%.
  • And after 6 months, 46% of people who make a resolution are still successful in keeping it.

Many studies point to incremental progress as one key to success. But how do you apply the principle of incrementalism to your organization when there are big, transformational changes ahead? The art of inching along can be a frustrating process, especially in the world we live in with constant change all around us. Maybe you are eyeing an upcoming transformation and wondering how you can possibly take those big steps to achieve your goals. Or, maybe you have a “burning platform” to change but are trying to get others to jump off with you. Regardless, it’s natural to see those huge steps you need to take and feel a little overwhelmed by the enormity of how to achieve the outcomes that have to happen to be successful.

Have you ever heard the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant?… One bite at a time”? It’s one of my favorites because it reminds us that making incremental progress, or just putting one foot in front of the other, can be an important part of how you achieve success.

Having an incremental mindset means that:

  • You are working at a pace that’s “just right” for your organization
  • You can prioritize the most critical and important objectives ahead of what’s nice to have
  • You will gain stronger alignment and buy-in along the way

So, what are the top 5 ways you can make incremental progress and see it as “progress”?

  1. Stay grounded in your “why”. Know your why and your vision, and ensure that your plan is aligned to eventually help you achieve the outcomes you need
  2. Be open to what you learn and build on it. Build time to allow for experimentation & take time to understand from both success and failure
  3. Prioritize what’s possible. Get clear on the most critical priorities vs. trying to do everything all at once (e.g., doing 3 things extremely well is better than doing 10 things marginally well)
  4. Measure & reward successes along the way – it refreshes, renews and inspires others to continue along the journey with you
  5. Gather feedback. Make sure your people are absorbing changes along the way.


Sheri Browning is a Partner at PeopleResults. You can reach her at or on Twitter @sbPResults.