Incremental & Radical Change: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 Types of Changes
  • 0:26 Incremental Change
  • 1:55 Radical Change
  • 3:09 Simultaneous Change
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson defines and differentiates incremental versus radical change with respect to organizational transformation. You'll also see an example of each along the way.

Types of Change

There's more than one way an organization can alter its processes. It can do this incrementally, or it may do this radically. More meaningfully, both might occur at the same exact time, depending on the perspective taken.

In this lesson, we'll go over all of that. We'll learn about incremental change, radical change, as well as characteristics and examples of each.

Incremental Change

Incremental change can be thought of as a process that modifies, adjusts, or refines the status quo via relatively simple and minor changes. Based on this definition, it's important to emphasize that this kind of organizational change, sometimes referred to as first order change, doesn't alter an organization's core. Incremental change refers to relatively minor adjustments, in the grand scheme of things, to pre-existing systems, hierarchies, models, products, services, and processes.

Besides this, incremental change has a combination of the following additional characteristics:

  • It mainly occurs via a series of small steps.

  • It might occur over a long period of time, but no single step in the process consumes an exorbitant amount of time.

  • The steps involved are sometimes mapped out in advance but don't have to be. Sometimes, these changes occur naturally as problems arise and are fixed along the way without management even noticing.

You can think of incremental change via the following example. Pretend that a company's mode of business is like a toy Lego model. Incremental change would involve improving a single Lego piece within that model. That toy Lego model stays almost exactly the same, recognizable as it was before. However, one aspect of the Lego model has been improved thanks to incremental change.

A real example of an incremental change in an organization can be something like the installation of new computer software to improve a company's efficiency.

Radical Change

Let's compare this to radical change. Radical change refers to a significant shift behind the fundamentals of a company's practices, products, culture, norms, and so on.

Radical change will occur when any of the following conditions are met alone or in combination:

  • The gap between the current state of affairs and future ones (the planned changes) is great in any number of ways.

  • There is a transformational shift behind a company's fundamental processes.

  • There is a move toward a completely novel state of affairs.

This is why radical change is sometimes called transformation change, fundamental change, or even quantum change. Radical change is often expensive and very time-consuming.

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