Incremental Performance – Doing Big Things With Small Budgets

This article originally appeared on Inside Small Business on November 2, 2022.

Imagine you’re setting your marketing strategy for the year, but you’ve just had half of your budget wiped out. You’re probably annoyed, feeling defeated, wondering how on earth you’re going to achieve your sales targets.

But you’ve read about this thing called incremental performance. Athletes and high performers are famous for it. It’s how the British cycling team went from being laggards into leaders and you think the method could be applied to your pinched budget and you’re right. Organisations that implement incremental performance strategies see a multitude of benefits from increased collaboration to increased retention and financial performance.

Whilst the headline of this article is about small budgets. That’s just what I used to attract you here. But honestly what getting started with incremental performance is about, it’s not just for small budgets. It’s for everyone. It’s about going back to basics to do great things.

What is incremental performance? Simply put, it’s small changes that compound in impact over time. It’s an approach to performance improvement focused on small efforts to slowly but surely move towards success.

When trying to solve big problems or make the most of opportunities that face your organisation, it’s tempting to focus all of your efforts on finding big solutions. Incremental performance is the exact opposite. Whilst sometimes you need big solutions, incremental performance can often get you to the same place but down a different more sustainable road.

So, how to get started making cultural shifts towards incremental performance strategies? Let’s get into it.

1. Tracking and benchmarks

These are the foundation of any incremental performance practice. This comes back to the basic principle, you can’t improve what you can’t measure. Start by collaborating to understand what you want to want to improve and set a baseline then set some goals to improve before moving into strategy.

2. Run good meetings

Poorly run meetings can stop communication, demotivates staff and worst of all slow down progress. In fact, businesses lose about $37 billion a year thanks to poorly run meetings according to a study published in the European Journal of Work & Organisation Psychology.

The two main issues we come across are:

  • Unstructured meetings.
  • Lack of a clear goal.

Sound familiar? You can learn how to Run A Successful WIP Meeting Here.

3. Embrace consistency

With so many shiny objects out there it can be easy to be misguided by a trend, competitor or new tool you should explore. Having a consistent alignment towards incremental improvement is important. Set a shared vision of what you want to improve. Agree to rhythms and rituals to help the performance projects move forward. Having breakdowns in your commitments can leave you being reactive instead of having a healthy balance between proactive and reactive ways of working.

4. Engage your people 

I’ve worked with a lot of founders who have an I’ll do it myself attitude, it doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be that way. Whilst you might think it’s considerate to staff workloads it causes more problems than it fixes. It can leave staff feeling unheard and undervalued, no matter how open you think you are as a leader. Not having the right mindset, rituals and strategies for employee engagement can derail projects fast than you can start them. Improving this basic will shift culture positively and result in finding better ideas, achieving goals and increasing workplace satisfaction.

Final advice

The basics work. They always have and they always will.  The key to us improving is to identify what those basics and fundamentals are and become relentless in improving those with consistency.

Incremental performance makes ideas easier to implement and at lower cost.  So I encourage you today to talk to your people about this article, look at the basics you should focus on getting better at, and start there.


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