A recap of the literature, as see through the eyes of a Google search for small wins.
There's a sample on Google Book Search of Karl Weick's Making Sense Of The Organization, which includes at p431 and following with his American Psychologist paper referenced below.
Small wins stir up settings, which means that each subsequent attempt at another win occurs in a different context.
The ideas of small-wins were first proposed in a Stanford University
Peters, T. J. (1977). "Patterns of winning and losing: Effects on
approach and avoidance by friends and enemies."
The ideas were further developed at Cornell University's School of
Administration by Karl Weick and published in "American Psychologist":
Weick, K. E. (1984). "Small Wins: Redefining the Scale of Social
Problems." American Psychologist, vol. 39 (issue 1), pp. 40-49.
Peter's quiet recruitment policy is an example of what Karl Weick calls a "small win." A small win is a "limited doable project that results in something concrete and visible." Peter knew what he wanted to achieve—dramatically increase the representation of minorities at Western and create a context in which they could succeed. He started where he could, with initiatives that were doable. In starting small, he made immediate tangible progress and over time created a cascading process that not only made a meaningful difference by itself but helped set a context for change later on.
Celebrate small victories - that's a common sentiment among those who work with families that aren't thriving.
Big victories are too much to hope for. But bit by bit, you can accomplish things. And maybe that will add up at some point to a big impact.
K. E. Weick defined a small win as being "a concrete, complete, implemented outcome of moderate importance."1 Effective organizational leaders realize that small wins are the basic building blocks of accomplishment and must be the focal point of the leader’s motivation. Whereas leaders focused on the short term may superficially aim for "victory" and those focused on the long term may prematurely cry "defeat," effective leaders continuously praise progress toward the accomplishment of small wins.
In praising progress toward the accomplishment of small wins, the leader plays the role of exemplar, coach and celebrant. The leader is an exemplar in modeling the accomplishment of small wins in his areas of responsibilities. Rather than pursuing the mythical, ultimate victory or giving up due to weariness, he consistently moves forward in accomplishing the incremental steps that lead to personal and organizational success. In motivating others toward the accomplishment of small wins, he communicates "Do as I do" as well as "Do as I say."
David Churchville on Small Wins: Agile Psychology in Agile Project Planning
Small wins create momentum. Continous small wins create tremendous momentum.In Innovation Through Action Research in Environmental Education: From Project to Praxis thesis by Julie Margaret Davis at Griffith U:
OK, but what kinds of small wins are important in software projects?
* How about early positive feedback from customers?
* Or early clarification of an important feature (that leads positive feedback later)
* Early detection and resolution of defects before they lead to not-so-positive feedback.
* Early proof that you can build and deploy the software somewhere other than your own machine
Towards the project's end, however, my continuing reflection led to an exploration of chaos/complexity theory which gave new meaning to the concept of a "small win". According to this theory, change is not the product of linear processes applied methodically in purposeful and diligent ways, but emerges from serendipitous events that cannot be planned for, or forecast in advance. When this perspective of change is applied to human organisations - in this study, a busy school - the context for change is recognised not as a stable, predictable environment, but as a highly complex system where change happens all the time, cannot be controlled, and no one can be really sure where the impacts might lead. This so-called "butterfly effect" is a central idea of this theory where small changes or modifications are created - the effects of which are difficult to know, let alone determine - and which can have large-scale impacts.