Posted: Tuesday 2 September 2014. Author: Capita HR solutions.
WINNING the rugby World Cup was not about doing one thing 100 percent better, but about doing 100 things one per cent better, coach Sir Clive Woodward once said.
Very often in HR, as in life, we concentrate on the big wins and the grand designs. We want to see an instant impact and a clear gap between where we were and where we are now. Maybe, however, there is another way to achieve, one that doesn’t require an all or nothing solution. It’s a principle called the ‘aggregation of marginal gains’. Sounds fancy, yes? It’s really quite simple.
What highly successful people like John Wooden, Clive Woodward, Jim McGuinness and Dave Brailsford (a chain leading all the way back to 1886 world chess champion Wilhelm Steinitz, largely credited with the concept) realised was that rather than go for the knockout punch each time, a succession of jabs, of small victories and marginal gains can all add up to larger success.
Eight years ago Team GB cycling started such a programme under the direction of Brailsford. He paid attention to every detail; ensuring they had personalised pillows and mattresses brought to every hotel to ensure a good night’s sleep; using a personal chef to keep the food consistent; making sure each rider had a saddle that was built just to their specifications, even down to teaching them how to wash their hands properly so they would fall ill less often (John Wooden went even further, teaching basketball players how to put their socks on correctly to avoid blister injuries).
As Brailsford explained: “The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by one per cent.”
The result – eight gold medals at the 2012 Olympics for Team GB Cycling.
So how can this be applied to HR and your business? Well it’s pretty easy really. Just think of all the areas you could implement small changes, very easily, with minimal effort.
It’s a relatively simple (and interesting) concept to explain to staff and introduce into the business. And here’s the added advantage, the really good part – if you gather staff into teams and give them a mission to look for their own one per cent gains, you now have staff who are engaged, working together and reviewing processes, talking to each other and learning something new about other areas. It means you start joining up the dots, creating a culture of continuous improvement and , as the highfalutin would say, aggregating a set of marginal gains.
And that basketball coach, Wooden, the one obsessed with socks, well he won 10 national championships in 12 years. Makes you think.