By February 18, 2014 0 Comments Read More →

Small Incremental Steps Or Bold Steps – A Place For Both

Small Incremental Steps Or Bold Steps – A Place For Both

David Lloyd George said “You can’t cross a chasm in two small steps.” and from a practical standpoint, he’s right – you have to do it in one bold stride.

In business however, there's a place for both. Bold steps to gain the advantage in the marketplace by taking a risk or driving initiative. At the same time, sometimes it's a good idea to take smaller incremental steps to test the water before stepping in.

When Ron Johnson was the head of Apple’s retailing arm, he took bold strides, deciding what should be done and implementing it. This was consistent with Apple’s overall approach of telling consumers what they want and giving them exactly that. No input, no focus groups, no testing.

When Ron Johnson joined JC Penny as CEO with a mandate to turn around the ailing retailer, he brought that formula with him and introduced changes in the stores and to their pricing model with bold steps, simply implementing his ideas and driving it down to the store level.

Ron Johnson is no longer with JCPenney. After less than a year and a half, his bold steps approach failed miserably, alienating employees and customers alike. It was so damaging that after he left, JCPenney to get ads apologizing to the customers.

It worked at Apple, so why wouldn't it work at JCPenny?

Quite simply, Mr. Johnson should have taken small steps and tested his ideas before implementing them chain wide. It’s the approach JCPenney and most retailers have used consistently to test and fine-tune their approach and gauge customer reaction before investing in wholesale change. The culture and the customers were different, so a different approach should have been used.

Why? Mr. Johnson didn’t take the time to understand the place for bold steps and for incremental steps in his new environment. Like any management technique, you have to apply it properly in the right way and in the right place and time. Perhaps other decisions could have been implemented with a bold step, but not a fundamental change that impacted, and in fact alienated, the majority of it’s customer base not to mention the employees who had to implement this new directive from the top.

In your company, there may be some things you want to implement with a bold stride and that's the right way to do it. For other things, small steps may be the smarter way.

About Michel Theriault

Michel is the founder of Success Fuel for Managers. He is an author, speaker and consultant focusing on topics relevant to Managers and aspiring Managers in businesses of all sizes who want to get results, get attention, and get ahead. He is also a contributor to Forbes and AllBusiness Experts . Michel is available for speaking engagements, training and consulting. Connect with him or send an email.

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