Creating Resourceful Change: One Micro-Move at a Time

April 10, 2015

By: Madison Romney

When my younger brother Griffin and I were just kids, we decided that we no longer wanted to go to sleep at our 8:30pm bedtime. This was a problem for my mother, leading her to exhaustion and creating a family dynamic full of negative emotions of annoyance and frustration. My mom knew something had to change. So she introduced a new pre-bedtime game to her two tots: she’d say, “You don’t have to go to bed just yet but… I bet I can beat you up the stairs!” Griffin and I would leap off the couch shrieking with joy. By the time we had hit the top, we were worn out and even sleepy. We had beat mom up the stairs but deep down we knew she had truly won. My mom had just enabled positive change through a micro-move.

“Micro-Moves,” according to Karen Golden Biddle, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Boston University School of Management, are barely noticeable variations in thought and behavior that generate collective enthusiasm, build hope, and develop momentum for further change. These small modifications in daily routines and organizational practices have the power to add up to something extraordinary: Macro-Impact.

Often when we think about problems, we pay close attention to the what of a change which is part of the reason why 70% of change initiatives fail. Research suggests that how we alter organizations (and even our families) is even more important because it heightens collaboration and creativity to sustain a change. In thinking about how to get my brother and I to bed, my mom was able to create a game that would motivate us to go upstairs and tire us out by the time we got there. Going to bed became a silly, enjoyable experience and allowed us to bond as a family (Alert: macro-impact!)

If we look around, positive change organizing is everywhere. Most leaders, like my mother, don’t realize that they are facilitating positive micro-moves, but our organizations, teams, and families are buzzing with individuals subtly yet positively generating impact. For example, the staff at the Center for Positive Organizations is generating fantastic micro-moves daily!  About a year ago, the CPO team members were noticing that information sharing was beginning to falter. Inspired by Menlo-Innovations, CPO adopted Stand-Up Meetings. From 8:50am-9:00am, the CPO team convenes in one room, stands up, and each team member shares the answer to these two questions:

1) What happened yesterday that the team needs to know?

2) What am I doing today and how can the Team help?

Recognizing their problem and embracing a new practice allowed them to micro-move their way to macro-impact of sustaining strong communication. Way to go CPO!

*Want to learn how to be a micro-mover? Watch Karen’s Positive Links session or check out her chapter in the book How to Be a Positive Leader