(Incremental Improvement is an annoying business term and is just one of the 212 Most Annoying Business Phrases Managers Effuse, Confuse, and Overuse detailed in the hilarious must-have guide for every workplace: The 30,000-Pound Gorilla in the Room. Available right now on Amazon.)
This one’s annoying for a couple of reasons – one of which is common among most of these sayings. That is, incremental improvement is overused by those who use it. It’s one of those sayings marginal managers seize and just won’t give up. Everything becomes an opportunity for incremental improvement.
If that was the only thing annoying about it, incremental improvement likely wouldn’t have made the cut. Our real problem with this one is that we often have no idea what the speaker’s intention is when they use it.
“We made incremental improvement this month.” Is that good or bad? Is that a lot? A little? More than that, was it incremental enough?
Possibly no saying in business has become more vague than incremental improvement. Which is funny, of course, because its meaning should be clear.
Incremental most often means a change along a fixed scale. That is, an increment. A measurable thing.
Improvement, of course, tells us which direction the incremental change occurred.
Used correctly, there would be context accompanying the statement. Perhaps a chart showing the various goals at different increments.
Unfortunately, clarity and content are almost never delivered by those spouting about incremental improvement. For us, we’re often left wondering if the incremental improvement was a good thing or a bad thing.
Think about it; if you’re looking for great results, an incremental improvement is a disappointment, right? Conversely, if your results have been flat and you make an incremental improvement, then that’s good, right?
So… telling a group they made an increment improvement without context is just confusingly annoying, right?
Replacement phrases: Improvement
See also: Impact; Move the Needle
The 30,000-Pound Gorilla in the Room is available on Amazon