One of the most conventionally accepted theories of change, perhaps better called ‘tactics of change’, says that it is important to show ‘quick win-wins’, that are visible achievements very soon in the process so as to create credibility and to project an impression of progress. It’s written in all ‘change management textbooks’ … of the last century.
This mental model is so entrenched in the conventional wisdom, that it makes it hard to say to people that they have to wait. Entire cultural transformation efforts feel the pressure of the ‘win-win’ mantra, translated into internal human resources, and/or external consultants fiddling with the system to show that ‘something is happening’ very soon.
Which, frankly, is not a difficult task.
What is frequently not said is that the quick win-win, instant achievements, fast triumphs for a showcase, are small. Some people may be satisfied with this, particularly if, for example, as sponsors, they are anxious to show that the investment is paying off. But the unintended consequence of the rush for a pseudo-ROI legitimization is that other people may see those quick win-win’s as examples of goals not worth achieving.
Is that it? Some people may say. Are these examples of what we were trying to achieve? Is this the big cultural change? Are you serious? What is the fuss?
Organizers of activist-lead social movemenst know this phenomenon well, often learnt the hard way. In societal movements (social change, political change, political platforms) people often have much higher goals and expectations than inside the business organization, for example. A quick win-win in the form of a little tweak in a policy, for example, may turn off more volunteers than the movement wants to attract. If this is an example of ‘the revolution’ – some people may say – I am out of here; it’s not worth the effort.
As usual, the universal principle of ‘be careful what you are asking for, you may get it’, rules here. You may get many quick win-win’s but at the expense of many other lose-lose.
In Viral Change™, we prefer the early emerging stories as a sign of progress and direction than the traditional win-win. In our system, not all stories are good stories. The good ones are those that link (new) behaviours and a situation in a very strict way. They may look small as well, but, as a story, they are received as an indicator, a sign of movement, not something to be ticked as a key performance indicator. It is ‘the journey has started, and its visible’, versus ‘problem solved’ and it was fast…
It’s not simple semantics. The quick win-win is often, but not necessarily always, an artificial achievement that calms anxiety and satisfies egos but is not automatically an indicator of real progress.
Resisting the push for quick win-win may be hard. Clients who are absolutely adamant, stubborn, who don’t understand the push back, are never our best clients.