Small Changes, Big Difference

Change - Some DriftwoodBlog post by Colin Hung

It’s impossible right now to turn on the TV without seeing or listen to the radio without hearing an ad for a gym, a weight-loss program or an exercise equipment maker. Every January we all get inundated with ads that target those of us who have decided to make big changes in the year ahead, especially when it comes to personal health.

Let’s be honest, many of us at this time of year, take the opportunity to look at our personal as well as business lives and decide to make changes that we hope will lead to improvements. I’m one of these people. Every January, I make it a point to set goals and objectives for myself for the coming year. I find that it helps me focus my energy and efforts throughout the year.

This year, I decided to look back over my resolutions from the previous five years. It was a humbling and sobering experience. I am only running at a 50% success rate. Horrible. But as I was reviewing my prior list of things I had hoped to achieve, I did notice a pattern. Most of the items that had check-marks represented small changes to my work/life whereas most of the unaccomplished items were “epic” changes.

Here are two examples from 2012:

  • Spend more time and get more involved with healthcare social media
  • Stop eating chips

Given the fact that you are reading this blog, you can guess which one of the above is the one I actually managed to achieve. My wife and I love chips and so do our children. It’s become something we “treat ourselves” with when we feel like celebrating or when we need a pick-me-up. Yes, it’s not a very healthy or rational thing to do and in 2012 I decided to set a goal of stopping our chip habit. It didn’t work.

I tried to go cold turkey with chips. For a month I stopped buying them completely, but that just forced our chip-eating underground. First it would be one or two chips from friends who were eating them or a small bag at work/school. By the 6th week a bag of chips made it back into our house and suddenly we were back on the bandwagon.

Most psychologists and behavioral scientists will tell you that trying to change a habit in one big sweeping change is rarely successful. Instead, they advocate making smaller changes to start. The American Psychological Association, in fact, publishes a set of 5 tips to help achieve New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Make a plan
  2. Start small
  3. Change one behaviour at a time
  4. Involve a buddy
  5. Ask for support

Looking back at my chip-eating resolution, it failed on all 5 counts. I didn’t make a plan. I didn’t start by reducing our chip consumption (I opted to just try and quit). I didn’t really involve the rest of my family in setting the resolution and I certainly didn’t ask for anyone’s support to make it happen.

In contrast for my social media resolution of 2012:

  • I made a clear plan with monthly and quarterly milestones (mostly around # of Tweets I sent and time allotted to reading news posts and tweets)
  • I started simply by “lurking” (aka actively observing) on healthcare related tweetchats
  • I got started with Twitter rather than going “all-in” with Facebook, LinkedIn and Blogging at the same time
  • I asked a co-worker for help, guidance and support

The key tip for me is #2 – starting small. After years of setting resolutions in January, I now truly believe that in order to achieve long-term sustainable change, you need to start with small adjustments rather than epic, sweeping alterations. All of the goals I have reached have been the ones that started with small changes that got layered with more and more small changes until one day I looked back and realized I was doing something completely different than before. The key was it didn’t feel, at the time, like a monumental change.

I believe this small-change leading to big differences is true at an individual-level as well as at the macro-level. An effect way to change a team’s, organization’s, industry’s or public’s behaviour is through small incremental steps – so small that no one thinks it’s a big deal. Once that change takes hold, layer on another change and then another. With each small change you get closer to your intended target.

The #hcldr community is full of passionate people who are trying to change healthcare. Some are seeking change for their own situation, some for their own local community and some for the entire world. I think it’s appropriate to dedicate the first tweetchat of 2015 to the subject of change. What change are you hoping to make in 2015? What tactics have you found successful? What changes would you love to see in healthcare in 2015?

Join us Tuesday January 6th at 8:30pm Eastern (for your local time click here) for the weekly #hcldr tweetchat where we will be discussing the following questions:

  • T1 How do you decide which goals to set for yourself and/or for your organization?
  • T2 What tactics have worked for you in making a change for yourself or for your organization?
  • T3 What goals do you have for 2015?
  • T4 What healthcare change would you like to see concerted efforts towards in 2015?


“Making lifestyle changes that last”, American Psychological Association,, accessed January 3 2015

“Modest Changes Lead to Better Quality, Lower Costs in Health Care”, Sheri Porter, AAFP News, April 8 2014,, accessed January 3 2015

“Small Wins Strategy Could Lead to Big Improvements for Hospitals”, Julian Lopez, Healthcare Business & Technology, March 26 2014,, accessed January 3 2015

“Want a Huge Boost in Efficiency? Make Some Small Changes”, John Meyer, Entrepreneur, May 16 2014,, accessed January 3 2015

“How to make small changes that last”, Psychologies, April 16 2014,, accessed January 3 2015

“How ‘Micro-moves’ can drive major health-care change”, Karen Golden-Biddle, Harvard Business Review, October 2 2013,, accessed January 3 2015

“Small Changes Make Big Differences”, David Champion, Harvard Business Review, January 26 2009,, accessed January 3 2015

“7 rules for making changes that last”, Anne Fisher, Fortune, January 16 2014,, accessed January 3 2015

Image Credit

Change? – SomeDriftwood



  1. Reblogged this on Healthcare Leadership Spotlight and commented:
    For anyone interested in health care: “Small Changes, Big Difference” – 1st #hcldr chat of 2015 on Tues, Jan 6th 8:30pm ET!

  2. Reblogged this on healthcare software solutions lava kafle kathmandu nepal lava prasad kafle lava kafle on google+ <a href="; rel="publisher">Google+</a> and commented:
    #hcldr #healthcare leadership @twitter talk @hcldr jan 6 , 2014 8:30 PM EST , @deerwalkinc @yaledailynews

  3. Reblogged this on HealthcareVistas – by Joseph Babaian and commented:

    Join #hcldr at 8:30p E tonight (1/6) for a great collaborative chat!

  4. Reblogged this on helwild and commented:
    Starting Small: manageable chunks of change become, incrementally, the Change you desire.

  5. […] Small Changes, Big Difference. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: