If you are a cycling fan like me, you are no doubt aware that the Tour de France is currently making its way through the high mountain passes of the Pyrenees, on the border between France and Spain. The race is once again being dominated by Team Sky and their leader, Chris Froome.
What you may not know is that Team Sky and their General Manager, Sir Dave Brailsford, are advocates of the power of the aggregation of marginal gains. While there may seem to be a simpler, more direct cause and effect relationship between marginal gains and success for a team of high performance athletes trying to win the hardest annual cycling event, the same principles apply in many settings. Aither’s expanding strategy and performance work in complex systems shows that these principles are just as relevant for our clients as they are for elite athletes. Understanding your system and achieving small, consistent incremental improvements over time within its many component parts can deliver substantial benefits.
How substantial have these benefits been for Team Sky? Well, if Chris Froome and Team Sky can regain the lead (he currently trails by 6 seconds) and stay in the leader’s yellow jersey all the way from the Pyrenees to the finish line on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, then they will have won 5 of the last 6 years of Le Tour.
Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as “the 1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.