Admission time.

I’m a superficial movie fan.  In fact, the less I have to think about a plot the better.

I love action-packed sci-fi.  I love it when a movie climaxes in the one gigantic battle and the hero single-handedly saves the day.  Because that’s exactly what happens in real life, right?!

Yeah, no.

In real life victories are made up of many small wins.  One of my mentors called these “base hits”.

In baseball, base hits are often rather routine plays that don’t garner much attention by themselves, especially the first one of the inning.  They are, however, positive plays that affect the outcome of the game, but only if there come in succession.  With each successive base hit, even if there’s an out in between (just not more than two), the potential outcome of those base hits keeps getting higher and higher.  After the first base hit, the next at-bat has the potential for two runs.  After the second base hit, the next at-bat has the potential for three runs.  Eventually, each successive at-bat has the potential of a grand slam!

Out continuous improvement activities are much the same.  Our small victories are what make us successful and will carry our organizations through.  Each successive small victory builds on the potential of the ones that preceded it.  Eventually the cumulative benefits of our wins set us up for major breakthroughs.

As continuous improvement leaders we can’t let ourselves be seduced into ignoring small projects for the lure of potentially huge, but much less likely for success projects.  As always, it’s a delicate balance.  We need to stand ready to support our team by watching out for grand slam opportunities, but also make sure we’re coaching them to take advantage of every success.

Because that’s how we win the game.