The enormous power of the small win


Harry Greenspun, M.D.

Chief Medical Officer, Managing Director, Health Solutions

Korn Ferry

April 17, 2018

We’d like to hear your thoughts and experiences. Is your organization becoming more agile? How are you adapting to the challenges of the digital economy? 
Join the conversation on LinkedIn

I met my friend Sharon at a bank robbery. My wife and I had gone to a local hardware store to buy some paint. Walking out, we were surprised to see dozens of police officers in and around the bank next door. With the perpetrator having already fled, the scene was remarkably calm.  Sharon, from the K-9 unit, stood with her partner Buck, a stunning Belgian Malinois, the same breed as our dog Tarot. Favored by the Navy Seals and Secret Service, they gained national attention following their roles in the Bin Laden raid and an impressive take-down of a White House fence jumper. Amazingly intelligent and athletic, they are true “super dogs,” excelling in herding, agility, dock diving, frisbee competition, and, of course, police and military work.


Because these dogs are somewhat uncommon (and require a lot of training and experience), I introduced myself to Sharon, saying simply, “We have a Malinois.” Incredibly, through mutual friends she had already heard of Tarot. I would have never predicted that moment would lead to an important revelation.


Having a diverse network of contacts and being active on social media, I see a lot of calls to action. Messages regarding diseases, natural disasters, political activism, and other causes fill my inbox and newsfeeds. While clearly concerns about privacy and veracity need to be addressed, one of the great aspects of social media is the ability to raise awareness of issues and bring together like-minded individuals.


I try to help with causes that resonate with my family and my community. We are particularly passionate about fighting the devastating pediatric brain tumor that took the life of our 6-year-old neighbor Michael (please visit We are also big supporters of a local youth cycling team (see Similarly, we have helped programs for diabetes, autism, and heart disease, for conservation, and many other worthwhile causes. All of these are long-term commitments, working toward improving the future.


However, one cause was different. Sharon wrote me that her colleague Gil had been bitten by his Malinois, Chip, during a training exercise. Although the bite was minor, the department opted to retire the dog. What was so devastating to Gil was that, rather than be able to keep Chip (as normally happens when dogs retire), he was told to surrender him to an organization that rehomes police and military dogs. Most police K-9’s both work and live with their handlers and are members of their families. Sharon was fighting to bring Chip home. Through Facebook, Twitter, and online petitions, awareness grew and spread to local media outlets. After several agonizing weeks, with pressure mounting, Chip was ultimately returned to Gil and his family.


Of all the causes I have supported over the years, I still find this one incredibly significant.  While the others are all important, it is often difficult to identify a discernable impact or resolution. In this case, I helped reunite a dedicated officer with his beloved dog, restoring my faith in the ability of people to make a difference.


In healthcare we often embark on paths toward dramatic transformation, seeking to revolutionize what we do. Along the way, however, our people often forget why they are on this journey with seemingly no end in sight. Without some clear, tangible results, motivation wanes and energy fades. For many, it is the small win that makes the critical difference. A problem is identified, and people come together to collectively solve it, boosting morale and providing the confidence to tackle bigger, longer-term challenges.