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British Cycling and How to Improve Your Business

Posted On - 18/11/2013 15:51:47

Can British Cycling's success through Marginal Gains be applied to business?
British Cycling: Success Through Marginal Gains
Success in sport is often used as an example to business. There are many parallels from which to draw inspiration. Great team captains approach to game strategy. Players grit and dedication to their learning and growth. Outstanding people:  outstanding performance.

But what happens when the challenge is more than just about playing an individual game or being in a tournament? What happens when what's at stake isn't being better at business but being in business at all? Are there examples from sport when it wasn't about winning but just being able to turn up at the starting line?

With a lamentable post war performance British Cycling would be an unexpected example. But after decades without a single medal win British Cycling is now the best in the world. If there were a model example of genuine sporting transformation this is it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly British Cycling success owes much to one of its enthusiasts. Sir Dave Brailsford, Performance Director of British Cycling and General Manager of Team Sky, started cycling in France before ascending the sport in Britain. But if the link between success and a passionate devotee is unsurprising, the way in which he went about it perhaps is.

Pareto teaches 80% of gains come from 20% of changes. So revolutionary change is often expected the result of a magic bullet. And with management often fixated on ‘the biggest bang for the buck' it's not surprising. Yet British Cycling couldn't have achieved the same in a more different way. How? Through the Aggregation of Marginal Gains.

The root of Marginal Gains: problem solving techniques - Ishikawa Diagram, Fish Bone Diagram, Root Cause Analysis, Cause Effect AnalysisWith no obvious way to transform performance Brailsford enrolled the team in what's actually a quality management technique: the Japanese call it Kaizen.

More commonly known as Continuous Improvement or Quality Circles the principle is simple. Break down the issue into its smallest parts then apply incremental but unremitting improvement across every single part over and over again.

The result is why the approach has the name it does - the aggregation of marginal gains. But the name belies the true scale of impact this approach has. Because many gains don't just improve performance by adding to it, they actually multiply it. So the result is astonishing - transformative - levels of change achieved astoundingly easily.

Like to find out more about the story behind British Cycling success and how it can be applied to an IT business? Over the next few weeks we'll be examining the ‘Aggregation of Marginal Gains' in detail, explaining how it works and how you can apply it to your business.  

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