Small Changes, Big Difference

You cannot improve one thing by 1000% but you can improve 1000 little things by 1%.” — Jan Carlzon

Jan Carlzon was the CEO of the SAS Group (Scandinavian Airlines) from 1981 – 1994 and turned around the airline from one of the industry’s worst performers to one of its best. In doing so he revolutionized the airline industry through an unrelenting focus on customer service quality.

The turn around was engineered through Carlzon’s development of The Rule of 1 Percent. Basically that “rule” says that even a series of very small changes can add up to a very, very big difference.

He studied his business and made the changes seem easy to make, he didn’t ask anyone to make a major change, he just asked a whole lot of people to make small, much easier changes.

What are the small changes you could implement in your organization? You may have looked at those changes in the past and thought that they didn’t amount to enough to bother with. Think again and consider the impact of all of your co-workers making similar small changes. 

Here’s the real beauty of The Rule of 1 Percent – The higher you’re already performing the more impact a 1 percent improvement will have. If you’re functioning at 50% then an improvement to 51%, while good might not be that significant. Now if you’re functioning at 90% then your 1% improvement gets you to to 91% and that’s huge! 

Never believe for a moment that your contribution towards improvement, no matter how small you think it might be, doesn’t matter. It matters because you matter. Most companies run leaner today than ever before, there are few if any people left in organizations who don’t need to be constantly seeking improvement.

The Rule of 1 Percent is applicable not only to business, it actually can apply to any area of your life where you want to improve. Too many people fail in their attempts to improve because they try to go from zero to one hundred without ever passing 50, or 10, or even 1.

I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t make a 1 percent improvement in many areas of their lives, they just have to realize how much of a difference 1 percent can make, especially when the 1 percent comes in many areas.

Don’t overburden yourself trying to change your world all at once. Just improve yourself a little bit and you’ll have improved your world as well. 


3 thoughts on “Small Changes, Big Difference

  1. This is such an important post Steve!

    I was a mid-level leader in an organization that was not reporting on a process that was supposed to increase revenue, and at our location it was actually losing $600,000 annually.

    My department volunteered to take that process on because we believed there was a win/win/win there that wasn’t being leveraged. (For our customers, for our vendors and for our organization.) One year later more needs were being met and we’d generated over 1 million in revenue.

    When I shared that with an executive and encouraged him to roll our process out at 9 other locations, he called it low-hanging fruit.

    When it was eventually rolled out more customers and vendors benefited and the company made over 10 million in additional revenue.

    It was a little thing – that made a big difference.

    1. Thanks for your comment Chery, that’s a great example and makes another point…. Even low hanging fruit must be seen before it can be picked. It’s amazing how many days we go through life with out eyes closed, not seeing the many opportunities for improvement that are all around us.

      Sometimes I think the only difference between very successful people and those with less success is how many days they open their eyes.

Leave a Reply