How Can Marginal Gains improve Business Productivity

marginal gains increase business productivityI originally wrote a version of this article in 2016 after the summer in Rio – it still applies to many sporting achievements – we tend to “punch above our weight” in many sports.

So what makes TeamGB / ParalympicsGB so successful?

Well funding for sure, all those lottery tickets we buy have a purpose, and part of that is to fund our elite athletes, and also to provide funding for grassroots clubs.    Money in itself isn’t the reason, but it enables the athletes to travel, pay for equipment etc. and most importantly it pays for the best coaches and support staff they can get.

If we take Cycling as a (very good) example, there is no secret of the mantra that they use – the Aggregation of Marginal Gains as outlined by Sir Dave Brailsford back in 2012.  The “secret” is that if you make tiny improvements to many different factors; the weight of the frame, the composition of the tyres, the shape of the helmet, the fabric of the cyclists’ suits, their diet, their muscle mass, the side of the bike where the chain runs, the angle of the wrist on the handlebars…  and so it goes on – then every tiny change gains a few milliseconds – and they add up – and in fact each tiny improvement multiplies as time progresses. 

So what does all this have to do with business?  Well you probably need a coach for a start (but that’s a whole other topic), but consider making a few small changes to your operations, and you are likely to see an improvement in your sales and profitability?

However, there some important things to consider before you rush headlong into changing things.  Firstly, have you got an accurate measure of where you are now?  (Who your customers are, where they are, which are your most profitable customers / products and so on)?  And then, have you set clear goals (another success factor for Team GB) so you know where you are going, and you know when you have got there?  Lastly, don’t change everything at once!  British Cycling have spent years analysing every tiny detail, but need to know what changes have been effective.  If you change too many things at the same time then you won’t know which has had the greatest influence on your business.

In summary, think about all your business processes, and consider what you can do to shave a little time off, reduce the costs (by just a little bit – and over your entire business those changes will add up to significant reduction of time taken, or a large reduction in costs!


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