The Problem with Incremental Change

…is that it brings incremental results.

If you want incremental results, then embrace incremental change.  The problem is that most of us don’t want incremental results.  We dream of significant results.  Even radically different results.

Here’s what’s true:

Incremental change brings incremental results.

Radical change ushers in the potential for radical results.

Where you get yourself in trouble is when you start believing that incremental change will produce radical results.  Leaders can easily get to the point where they sincerely believe that small changes will produce big results, even though that’s almost never the case.

Why do leaders talk themselves into believing that incremental change will produce the results they are looking for?  There are at least three reasons:

  1. Fear of people’s reaction to significant change. We know what happens to pioneers.
  2. Past opposition to change. Once bitten, twice shy.
  3. Belief that progress should come without pain. Very little significant is ever accomplished without significant struggle.

If you want significantly different results, push past the fear and stop thinking incrementally.


  1. Leadership in 140 Characters « Eric Echols on September 15, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    […] The Problem With Incremental Change by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  2. Richard Klassen on August 11, 2012 at 11:07 am

    I agree with what seems to be the intent of this posting. But it is also true that the radical results arising from radical change can be very undesireable. I have recently observed two churches in our area virtually disintegrate by introducing radical changes, rather unwisely it appears.
    In my 33 years of pastoring it has seemed to me that some change needs to be brought in radically and other change is effected incrementally. The Christian life after all consists of, as Eugene Peterson notes, a “long obedience in the same direction”. At least my personal growth as a Christian has occurred mostly in increments.

  3. Gordon Lacharity on August 3, 2012 at 10:10 am

    I needed to hear something like this as well; it not only applies to leadership, but to individual Christians as well.

    There’s a lot I need to change about my current situation, and I’m finding that a series of small tweaks just won’t cut it.

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