The concept of ‘marginal gains’ is usually associated with cycling, after it was introduced – with great success – by Sir Dave Brailsford when he became Performance Director of British Cycling.
Brailsford’s idea was to break down riding a bike into component parts, and then make a small improvement in each. He believed that if just a 1% difference was made across a whole host of areas, the cumulative gains would be significant.
It might be hard to imagine how a 1% improvement can significantly improve performance but…by optimising everything – the diet and nutrition of the riders, the ergonomics of the bicycle seat, training plans, footwear, discovering which pillows ensured riders got the best night’s sleep, and teaching them the most effective methods of washing their hands to avoid infection – by 2012, Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France, and the British Cycling Team scooped up 70% of the gold medals available at the Olympics.
Now, enough of cycling talk…how about applying the same philosophy to business? Applying the marginal gains theory to specific business goals might just help to realise your ambitions.
By breaking down your goals into component parts and making a 1% improvement in each, then, in aggregation, the impact will be substantial.
How to approach marginal gains…
1. Start by identifying your goals. Consider where you want your business to be and set tangible targets and timescales. Goals could be business-wide or might refer to a specific department, product or service.
2. Consider the component parts of what you’re looking to improve upon. If your goal is to achieve a business-wide improvement, you might start by breaking your business down into departments, such as finance, customer service, administration, marketing, HR. Then go on to separate each department into responsibilities and day to day tasks.
3. When you have your component breakdown, consider their current performance – conduct aSWOT analysis (look at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).
4. Set to work on making those changes! Remember, you are looking to achieve a 1% improvement in each area…you don’t need to be too drastic!
5. Analyse progress. KPI (Key Performance Indicator) reporting will help you to keep track of your progress, and will let you know when you’ve achieved your goals.
6. Don’t stop. If you achieve your goals within 6 months, repeat the process and make further improvements. The marginal gains theory provides a simple, achievable formula for ongoing business growth.
If you’d like to discuss marginal gains for your business, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
We can help with business planning and analysis, and can recommend the best technological tools to help you along the way.