Incrementalism Theory, Project Management
Dr. Agus Setiawan

PhD Holder and result-oriented Director with 25 years experience with involvement in all levels of Business Strategy, Sales and Marketing, Managing Project and Product Development. Aside of managing a company, he is also the best corporate trainer and public speaker in seminar and conference.

Starts Small to Achieve Bigger: Dive into Incrementalism Theory

Peter Kaufman, a sociologist at the State University of New York, once said: “Most people need consistency more than they need intensity. Intensity makes a good story. Consistency makes progress.”

When working on major projects, many team members are being confused or rather, struggling in getting them done. Mostly, because they felt overwhelmed in achieving the goal. Instead of focusing on only one big picture, it is better to focus on several small details that can separated into several teams so that these details can be managed effectively to achieve the main objective. This is where incrementalism helps in project management.

Incrementalism Theory: Definition

The term "incrementalism" refers to a planning approach in which policy or a project is advanced by making minor adjustments rather than large leaps. In contrast to other approaches that take a top-down or bottom-up approach to problem-solving, incrementalism is more concerned with solving the immediate issues that arise during the implementation of new policies than it is with developing a whole new strategy. When dealing with many challenges in daily life, people frequently adopt incrementalism. Charles E. Lindblom, an American political scientist, was first to introduced the use of incrementalism to develop new public policies based on the existing ones in 1950. The term in mentioned on his essay in 1959 entitiled "The Science of Muddling Through".

Therefore, what’s the meaning behing philosophy of incrementalism have to do with project management? Simply put, it is an attempt to divide major project issues into smaller ones with attainable objectives. Teams take small steps when large, difficult problems are broken down into a collection of distinct components. This can boost confidence, lessen fear, clarify activities with frequent delivery, and eventually raise the possibility of success. "Small wins" are an important component of human advancement in the face of all adversities.

By applying incrementalism, teams are now focusing on smaller tasks that are possible to achieve to minimize effort while getting bigger results. By focusing on possible smaller tasks, it helps us to optimizing the effort with consistency in the project management process (

When managing projects, many issues and complexity happen that can harm the project from getting its optimized results or getting it done according to the agreed timeline. With the increasing issues and challenges, there’s a need to upskill the project management capability and apply the latest best practices into action. Multimatics offers the latest project management best practices and framework to help organizations in upskill their team to manage their project using proven framework and high-end skill.

These 3 ways can help you and your teams can apply the power of incrementalism theory to your work:

  1. Focus on your main objectives

    Even while success can be attained through modest adjustments, it's crucial to maintain a sharp focus on the macro aim, or the desired result. Project management experts need to promote transformational change within their businesses and the contribution of project management to this change. This entails "owning" the change and taking the initiative to define its goal and value to the organization along with project sponsors

  2. Divide large objectives into smaller tasks

    To do this, it’s vital to comprehend the logic model – the causal chain – that ties your effort at the start of the project to the desired outcome. Even in the face of setbacks or recidivism, your team's drive to keep going forward will be maintained by achieving significant advancements (little wins) along the road. Making consistent, modest advancements toward worthwhile goals can eventually produce significant change.

  3. Accelerate Your Team

    Create micro-moments of connection for your team to thrive by emulating Barbara Frederickson's work. These instances are what Frederickson refers to as "micro-utopias in our daily lives." They encourage team members' inventiveness, better social ties, and long-lasting performance. Indeed, Frederickson asserts that a 3:1 ratio of happy to negative emotions promotes the highest levels of resilience and well-being.

Incrementalism theory leads team to manage their objectives and goals better by breaking them into smaller tasks and objectives. In doing this, team can increase their focus finishing the project while minimize the pressure. Incrementalism theory leads team to manage their objectives and goals better by breaking them into smaller tasks and objectives. In doing this, team can increase their focus finishing the project while minimize the pressure.

If you’re interested in learning more about project management and agile methodology, learn read also Managing Project with Agile

Ghorbani, A. (2023). A review of successful construction project managers’ competencies and leadership profile. Journal of Rehabilitation in Civil Engineering, 11(1), 76-95.
Koch, J., Drazic, I., & Schermuly, C. C. (2023). The affective, behavioural and cognitive outcomes of agile project management: A preliminary meta‐analysis. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.
Woodhouse, E. J., & Collingridge, D. (2019). Incrementalism, intelligent trial-and-error, and the future of political decision theory. In An heretical heir of the enlightenment (pp. 131-154). Routledge.

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