Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes

Posted October 27, 2016 in Self-Insight, What We're Reading


Book Review: Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes by Margaret Heffernan

Reviewed by: Roundtable Member Shana McEachren

The Premise: Margaret Heffernan believes that everything people do at work impacts the culture and even small changes can have a big impact. In this short book (just over 100 pages), she shares examples of small changes that organizations have made and quantifies the significant impact these changes have had, such as $14M in productivity gains and 10% increases in employee satisfaction. The book is divided into five chapters covering a wide range of topics. She begins with the value of encouraging creative conflict and seeking input from everyone to provide inspiration and provoke insight. She warns of the risks that come from “silence” and ignoring missing information. She then moves onto the importance of creating social capital to improve the quality of life at work and increase resiliency. This chapter covers interesting topics ranging from how to help employees connect with each other to how to be a “power listener”. In her third chapter, she outlines how multi-tasking and working longer hours are counter-productive. Instead she encourages employees to go for a walk to free the mind and explore new ideas. Heffernan then shares interesting suggestions for smashing silos and bringing in ideas from outside the organization to encourage innovation. In her final chapter, she provides several suggestions about what leaders can do to bring out the best in others and encourages everyone to play a role in creating positive change. Her writing covers a broad range of ideas and she manages to combine academic research, leadership techniques and corporate examples in a smooth easy-to-read format.

The Bottomline: I really liked this book. It was a quick read with lots of ideas and inspiration–backed up with real world examples. I especially liked these examples which provide inspiration and proof that it is possible to make change happen. I was interested in finding examples of how individual employees have made an impact on the organization through small changes. However, the examples are focused almost exclusively on leaders and how their behaviours and actions can create an environment that encourages everyone to contribute. There are lots of leadership gems scattered throughout the book. Some of my favourites: encouraging conflict as a positive process that helps everyone grow; everyone can lead – they are often just waiting for permission; and the best way to get great work from people is to show them you believe in them. Heffernan concludes the book with these questions: “What’s one more thing you do to make people happy? What small change can you make that would have a big impact on your work?” These are great questions for any leader (or future leader) to ask every day.

Recommendation: A quick read for anyone interested making work a better place for everyone. It provides many ideas and examples of small changes that can have a big impact.

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