The Theory of Marginal Gains
Sir Dave Brailsford, Performance Director of Team Sky, and previously British Olympic Cycling, has been instrumental in leading a period of huge success in sport. He has transformed the sport during his tenure in terms of thinking, performance, and results, winning eight gold medals at the last three Olympics, and masterminding Tour de France wins in 2012, 2013 and 2015. So what can we learn from this and how could the theory of marginal gains be applied in business? Brailsford’s philosophy of 'marginal gains' came from the idea that if you break down everything that goes into riding a bike, and then improved each by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together. As well as looking at traditional components of success such as physical fitness and tactics, Brailsford's approach focused on a more holistic strategy, embracing technological developments and athlete psychology. He is noted for his emphasis on constant monitoring of key statistics, developing training regimes which target any observed weaknesses, however minor. So how can this theory be applied to your business? Start by identifying your goals. Consider where you want to be and how you are going to get there. Analyse relevant data and see if there is statistical evidence to support the attainment of your goals over time. Next, spend some time thinking about the gap between current performance and your goals. Create a tangible measure for assessing how far away each goal is, and how well the business will need to progress in order to achieve those goals. Now consider what is needed to close that gap. Break the gap down into its component parts and identify the differences between where the firm is now, and where it needs to be in order to achieve its goals. Look at successful firms in your industry sector and create a comparison document. What do they do well that you could implement in your business? Execute your plan. Commit to carrying out the plan meticulously and reassure employees of the importance their roles and responsibilities play in the process. Use KPIs and regular reports to monitor progress and continually refine and tweak your plan as you move towards achieving your goals. If you stick to your plan you should get there in the end.