This is a brief post on the theory called the Progress Principle. The idea is to introduce the concept at a high level & share resources to help you learn more if you're interested.


Professor Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer wrote about how progress can boost performance in their book, "The Progress Principle."

Essence of the theory

We believe there are 2 main ideas in the Progress Principle.

I. Inner work life is the greatest predictor of productivity: This invisible aspect of people’s work lives was found to be the biggest predictor of how engaged & productive people are at work. Inner work life means:

  1. Emotions that are felt during work
  2. Perception of life at the office / work
  3. Motivation one has for a specific task

II. Small wins on meaningful work significantly boost productivity & engagement: Through research they found that when people or teams take even small steps forward consistently & make progress, and this progress is recognised, they are more productive & creative. The catch is that this progress needs to be on work that is meaningful to people.

The progress principle also suggests that there are 7 catalysts & 4 nourishers that can help create small wins & rich inner work lives. Here is a high level list.

7 catalysts:

  1. Clear goals
  2. Autonomy
  3. Resources
  4. Timeline to finish tasks - not too much, not too little
  5. Support from leaders for unblocking
  6. Reflection & learning spaces
  7. Knowledge sharing

4 nourishers:

  1. Respect
  2. Encouragement
  3. Empathy
  4. Affiliation

Learn more about this

Ideas to apply the theory

PS: These are our suggestions, use them as such or simply as a trigger to spark other creative ideas about how you can apply this theory!  

If you are an individual team member:
Take stock of your inner work life. Consider keeping a journal everyday with these prompts:

  1. What energised me the most during work today? What emotions did I experience?
  2. What felt the most draining? What emotions did I experience?
  3. What were my top 2 wins today (even if they were small)?
  4. How would I score my day on a scale of 1 to 5?

As you write these everyday, patterns will emerge and give you clarity on what affects your “inner work life” positively or negatively. Take this knowledge into your growth & development conversations with your team lead.

Additionally consider getting other team members to do this activity as well, or do this reflection once a week as a team together.

If you lead a team(s):

  1. Begin by doing a self assessment on the 7 catalysts for your team. What are the strong points? Which catalysts might you need to introduce or strengthen? Consider taking feedback from your team on these & perhaps do a collective team self assessment on these.
  2. In your check-ins with your team members, have conversations about their inner work life.
  3. Create a visible dashboard with milestones to showcase team progress.
  4. Create rituals on your team to celebrate achievements & wins on a regular basis. Make the ritual frequent enough to see that small wins are acknowledged regularly. We recommend doing it once a week!

Image Credit:  Jr Korpa on Unsplash

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