Incremental Change Meaning and Examples

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In today’s business environment, change is constant, and organizations must continuously evolve to stay competitive. However, it can be overwhelming to determine which changes to make and how to implement them effectively. That’s where Digital Leadership, the world’s first open-source consultancy, comes in. Our mission is to accelerate change and help businesses achieve their future state through gradual improvements. In this article, we will explore the concept of incremental change and its importance in driving business innovation.

Incremental change involves making gradual adjustments and optimizations to existing processes, products, or services, emphasizing stability and efficiency. In contrast, incremental innovation extends this approach by introducing new features or approaches alongside refinements. Both strategies prioritize ongoing adaptation to evolving market demands and aim to enhance organizational performance.

Incremental change holds significant importance in the realm of organizational development and business strategy. Digital Leadership’s digital transformation consulting services facilitate incremental change in organization and bring a strategic perspective to incremental change efforts, ensuring that every step aligns with the broader digital transformation strategy of the organization. As a starting point, we provide an innovation blueprint to guide businesses through the transformative journey.

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Incremental Change Meaning: What is Incremental Change

Incremental change refers to the gradual and ongoing process of making small improvements to business processes, systems, and practices. Unlike radical change, which involves significant and abrupt changes to the entire organization, incremental change focuses on making small but meaningful improvements over time. This approach allows organizations to maintain momentum while achieving their final goal.

The Organizational Culture Canvas serves the critical purpose of diagnosing, understanding, and intentionally shaping the organizational culture to align with incremental change objectives. As organizations embark on the journey of incremental change, the canvas allows them to assess existing cultural elements such as values, behaviors, and rituals. This assessment is instrumental in identifying areas that need attention and alignment with the objectives of incremental change.

Organizational Culture Canvas
The UNITE Culture Canvas
Designed by: Susanne M.Zaninelli & Stefan F.Dieffenbacher

For a more in-depth exploration of the UNITE Culture Canvas and its application, we invite you to explore our book titled How to Create Innovation.” This resource delves further into the framework, offering practical insights and real-world examples that can aid organizations in their pursuit of a culture that aligns seamlessly with their strategic goals and fosters enduring success.

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The Importance of Incremental Change in Driving Business Innovation

Incremental change plays a critical role in driving business innovation, particularly in today’s fast-paced and constantly evolving business environment. This approach enables organizations to experiment with new ideas, processes, and technologies in a controlled and measured way, without disrupting the entire system. By breaking down the changes into manageable stages and making small improvements over time, organizations can test and refine their approaches, ensuring that they are making progress toward their long-term goals. Some key benefits of incremental change in driving business innovation include:

  • Encouraging a culture of continuous improvement: Incremental changes can help foster a culture of continuous improvement within an organization, where employees are encouraged to constantly look for ways to make small but meaningful improvements to their work processes.
  • Reducing risk and uncertainty: By making small changes over time, organizations can mitigate the risk of implementing large-scale changes that may not yield the desired results. This approach also helps reduce uncertainty by allowing organizations to test and refine their approaches before making significant investments.
  • Enhancing organizational agility: Incremental change can help organizations become more agile and adaptable, enabling them to respond quickly to changing market conditions and customer needs.
  • Facilitating employee engagement and buy-in: By involving employees in the change process and seeking their input and feedback, organizations can increase employee engagement and buy-in, which can help drive the success of the change initiative.

Overall, incremental change is a valuable tool for driving business innovation and achieving long-term success. By adopting this approach, organizations can experiment with new ideas and technologies while maintaining a stable and controlled environment, reducing risk and uncertainty, enhancing organizational agility, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Disruptive Change vs Incremental Change

Incremental change entails making improvements to a company’s processes, operations, and supply chains with a focus on enhancing efficiency and sustainability within the existing business model. On the other hand, disruptive change is characterized by the fundamental challenge, alteration, and reinvention of business models.

AspectDisruptive ChangeIncremental Change
Nature of ChangeInvolves radical and transformative shifts.Involves small, gradual adjustments and improvements.
Impact on the OrganizationProfound impact, reshaping structure and core values.Measured impact, enhancing efficiency and quality.
Speed of ImplementationImplemented relatively quickly.Takes place gradually, integrated into ongoing processes.
Risk and UncertaintyHigher levels of risk and uncertainty.Lower risk, adjustments based on existing knowledge.
ExamplesInternet transformation of industries.Regular updates and improvements to smartphone models.
Adaptation and InnovationRequires high adaptability and innovation.Fosters a culture of continuous improvement and iteration.

Incremental Change vs Radical Change

When it comes to driving business innovation, both incremental and radical change can play a role, but they differ significantly in their approach and outcomes. Here are some key differences to consider:

  • Approach: Radical change involves significant and abrupt changes that can be disruptive to an organization. This approach typically requires a large investment of resources and often involves a complete overhaul of existing systems and processes. On the other hand, incremental change involves making small improvements over time, allowing organizations to test and refine their approaches and build momentum gradually.
  • Outcomes: Radical change can be effective in times of crisis or when a major disruption requires a quick response. It can also be an effective way to break through entrenched organizational culture or address deep-seated problems. However, it can also be risky, as it involves a lot of uncertainty and can be disruptive to employees and stakeholders. Incremental change, on the other hand, is a more sustainable and practical approach to achieving long-term success. By making small improvements over time, organizations can build momentum, reduce risk, and achieve lasting change.
  • Timing: The decision to pursue radical or incremental change often depends on the timing of the change initiative. If a major disruption or crisis occurs, radical change may be necessary to address the problem quickly. However, if an organization is seeking to drive long-term innovation, incremental change is typically the more effective approach.

Key Elements of Successful Incremental Changes

To implement successful incremental changes, organizations must focus on the following key elements:

(1) Breaking Down the Changes into Stages

To achieve long-term success, it’s essential to break down the changes into manageable stages. This approach allows organizations to track progress, identify areas for improvement, and adjust the process as needed.

(2) Staying Agile & Adaptable

Change is constant, and organizations must be prepared to adapt and pivot when necessary. Staying agile and adaptable is crucial to ensuring that the organization can adjust to unexpected changes and maintain momentum towards its final goal.

(3) Communicating Effectively

Effective communication is critical to the success of any change management initiative. It’s essential to communicate the goals, objectives, and progress of the changes to all stakeholders involved in the process.

(4) Aligning with Business Goals & Processes

To ensure that the changes are effective, it’s essential to align them with the organization’s overall business goals and processes. This approach ensures that the changes are relevant, and meaningful, and contribute to the organization’s success.

(5) Tracking Progress and Celebrating wins

Tracking progress and celebrating wins is essential to maintaining momentum and ensuring that the changes are making a meaningful impact on the organization. Celebrating wins also helps to motivate stakeholders and maintain enthusiasm towards the changes.

Choosing the right approach to Change Management

Choosing the right approach to change management is crucial to the success of any change initiative. It’s essential to consider the organization’s culture, leadership style, and the scope of the changes when selecting an approach.

Incremental Improvements & Change Benefits on the Long term

Selecting the right approach to change management is a critical factor in ensuring the success of any change initiative. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind:

  • Organizational culture: Different organizations have different cultures, and it’s important to choose a change management approach that is in line with the organization’s values and norms. For example, if the organization values transparency and collaboration, a participatory approach to change management may be more effective.
  • Leadership style: The leadership style of the organization can also influence the choice of change management approach. For example, if the leadership is more directive and top-down, a more structured approach to change management may be appropriate. On the other hand, if the leadership is more collaborative and empowering, a more participatory approach may be more effective.
  • Scope of changes: The scope of the changes can also influence the choice of change management approach. For example, if the changes are relatively small and incremental, a more informal approach to change management may be appropriate. However, if the changes are large and complex, a more structured and formal approach may be necessary.
  • Stakeholder involvement: Finally, it’s important to consider the involvement of stakeholders in the change management process. Stakeholders should be engaged and involved throughout the process, and their input should be taken into account when selecting the change management approach.

Overall, choosing the right approach to change management requires careful consideration of a range of factors, including organizational culture, leadership style, scope of changes, and stakeholder involvement. By taking these factors into account, organizations can select an approach that is in line with their values and goals and maximize the chances of success for their change initiatives.

Incremental Change Examples From Real-life

Incremental change refers to small, gradual adjustments made within an organization to improve processes, services, or products. Here are examples of companies that have embraced incremental change:

  1. Apple Inc.: Apple is known for its incremental changes in product design and features. Each new iPhone or MacBook iteration often includes minor enhancements and improvements rather than radical changes.
  2. Toyota: The automotive industry is a notable example of incremental change, with companies like Toyota implementing continuous improvement practices. Toyota’s production system focuses on making small, constant adjustments to enhance efficiency and quality.
  3. Microsoft: Microsoft regularly releases updates and patches for its software products, introducing incremental changes to address bugs, enhance security, and improve user experience. This approach helps maintain the relevance and functionality of their software.
  4. Amazon: Amazon is known for its continuous optimization of its e-commerce platform. Through data-driven insights, Amazon makes incremental changes to its website layout, user interface, and recommendation algorithms to enhance the shopping experience.
  5. Coca-Cola: The beverage industry relies on incremental changes to meet evolving consumer tastes. Coca-Cola introduces new flavors, packaging designs, and marketing strategies to keep its brand fresh and appealing.


In conclusion, incremental change is a powerful approach to driving business innovation and achieving long-term success. By breaking down changes into manageable stages, staying agile and adaptable, communicating effectively, aligning with business goals and processes, tracking progress and celebrating wins, organizations can maintain momentum and achieve their future state through gradual improvements.

It’s important to note that incremental change is not always the right approach, and sometimes radical changes may be necessary. However, by carefully considering the specific needs of the organization and focusing on the process of change rather than just the end goal, organizations can achieve sustainable success and drive innovation in the long term.

As leaders in change management, Digital Leadership offers expertise and support for organizations looking to implement incremental improvements and drive lasting change. By leveraging our proven approaches and focusing on long-term thinking, we can help businesses navigate the complex process of change and achieve their future state with confidence.

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