Thoughts from the Circus

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Written by Ben Gross

Date: 21.09.2016

How 1% helped win the Tour De France
Marginal gains, the key to excellent performance and culture


In 2010. Team Sky appointed David Brailsford with the vision of building a British cycling team capable of winning the Tour De France. In the 100 year illustrious history, Britain had never had a winner, so the task was enormous. 6 years later Britain have claimed the coveted title 4 times.

This was achieved by great cyclists, supported by a great team but reason they won and kept winning was the 1% performance gain culture Brailsford embedded. He describes the process as “It struck me that we should think small, not big, and adopt a philosophy of continuous improvement through the aggregation of marginal gains. Forget about perfection; focus on progression, and compound the improvements.”

So, why are we writing about it and how does it affect you? Well, our vision is to help organisations achieve great things. To do this we need need a culture of excellence. It’s an ongoing process, but we identified everything we could improve and change and started trying to make them better.

  • 1. Our People
  • 2. Our Equipment
  • 3. Our Skills
  • 4. Our Knowledge
  • 5. Our Processes
  • 6. Our Office

Each one of these areas can be broken down into lots of sub areas. For example Our office. Is the lighting right, are the chairs comfy, are the desks big enough, is the meeting room a good space, do we have good drinks. If we improve each area we’ll attract the best staff and create projects that really make a difference.

One thing we found was that you have to focus on the right elements to improve. Something Team Sky also encountered “We took an honest look and realized that we had focused on the peas not the steak. We tried so hard with all the bells and whistles of marginal gains that our focus was too much on the periphery and not on the core” We went after everything at the start. Now we’re trying to fine tune the things that matter

Which brings us onto work for our clients. Again, we applied this principle to all our projects and made sure that at each phase we we’re analysing and improving. For example in our research phase we map out the overall user journey. If we’re building a website we will look at how the user gets to that point and the route they go on after the experience. This gives the our clients an overview of how people interact with them. This process has definitely made our work stronger

We’re continuing to learn but after a year of implementation the 1% gains are starting to look pretty big. The question is, how do you drive your companies performance?

Sources from
https://hbr.org/2015/10/how-1-performance-improvements-led-to-olympic-gold https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2016/aug/15/five-factors-team-gb-olympic-success-medal-rush

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