The Aggregate of Marginal Change

The Aggregate of Marginal Change

Great Britain’s cycling team, Team Sky, was facing the 2010 season with an impressive (losing) record: no British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France.  That year, however, something was going to change.

In 2010, they hired Dave Brailsford as the new General Manager and Performance Director.  Brailsford took his job seriously, and declared that if the team followed his plan, they would win the Tour de France within five years.  He began a training regime that would have baffled most outsiders.  It began by optimizing the obvious:  the weight of the bicycle tires, the type of seat the riders used, the nutrition plan of the riders, their training practices.  After a thorough overhaul of the bike, he turned his attention to some less obvious details.  The new General Manager changed the way the cyclists washed their hands – helping them to become less prone to infections.  A careful study of sleep led them to change the pillows the riders used, and they brought them with the team to hotels before races.  They researched the most effective type of massage gel for the riders.

Brailsford prediction came through.  Team Sky did win the Tour de France.  Just not in five years.  They won the Tour only three years after Brailsford’s implementation of what he called ‘The Aggregation of Marginal Gains’.   Brailsford understood that by making small, incremental changes to the team’s program, it would begin a domino effect of changes that would lead to big results.  By executing a 1% margin of improvement in every area of Team Sky’s process, they were able to leverage themselves into a position to win, and win big.  The dramatic turnaround of the British cycling team has led to what analysts have dubbed one of the most successful winning streaks in cycling history.  Their success has lasted over 10 years and carried over into the Olympic arena as well.

This same aggregation of marginal gains can bring success to areas of your life and business as well.  It is easy to convince yourself that improvements or change has to happen in big, noticeable ways.

If I can land just one large contract, then things will change. 

I need to implement a massive computer program that will revolutionize the way my company runs.  

With those goals hanging out there, it is easy to be overwhelmed, which can lead to paralysis.  Or, since the change is so big, it is easy to dismiss it as unobtainable.  By approaching the problem using marginal gains, though, the steps become easier.  How can you make a 1% marginal change?

Contact one new potential client a week.

Spend 10 minutes every morning prioritizing your tasks.

At first, the results may not be noticeable.  (Ever try to lose weight? No one notices those first few pounds.) Eventually, however, those little changes start to add up in a big way.  Suddenly, you’ve landed several new clients.  Your to-do list is actually getting done.  Your work load is manageable.

Think of it this way.  If a rocket launched, and the course was set incorrectly by 1%, it would not be noticeable in a visible way by those watching the launch.  As the rocket moved into space, however, the error would become obvious as they missed their target by thousands of miles.  That 1% change is overwhelmingly important.

Most likely, you won’t be entering the Tour de France, and probably will not be launching a rocket into outer space.  But you can make small, marginal changes to your business that will pay off over time.  Where are the areas in your business that you can improve by 1% this week?


Eat That Frog!

Eat That Frog!

At the end of the week, do you look at your desk and wonder what you accomplished? Does your ‘To-Do’ list seem to be growing, instead of shrinking?

One of the most effective methods we’ve discovered to manage the tasks that pile up from day to day, and have helped to guide us as we have grown our firm came from Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog! (Not a reader? You can listen to the audiobook like we did.)

“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.  And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” – Mark Twain

According to Tracy, you should think of your ‘To-Do’ list as a pile of frogs.  When you tackle the biggest frog first, it’s easier to tackle the rest.  This doesn’t come easy – especially if you’re prone to procrastination.

“I don’t procrastinate! I just get my very best ideas at the last minute!” – Every Procrastinator

The first part of the book helps you get organized: you’ll make to-do lists, develop a timeline for the next day, week, month and year, as well as prioritize both your goals, and the actions necessary to achieve them.  The next section deals with learning the skills you need to be successful,  as well as teaches you the ABCDE method of organizing.  By rating the tasks on your list, you can easily discover which ones you must do, which can be delegated to someone else and which ones are just taking up your time needlessly.

One of the biggest lessons of the book? Once you start a task, don’t stop until you’ve finished.  No one wants to see a half-eaten frog on their plate.  Start with the largest, ugliest frog on your plate and don’t stop until it’s gone.  With that out of the way, you can concentrate on the next item.  Before you know it, you’ll have worked through your entire day’s worth of tasks.

It sounds easy, doesn’t it? We know – easier said than done.  It can seem difficult to implement.  But the results are worth the struggle.  You’ll find that you’re not just shuffling papers all day, you’re accomplishing your goals.

With his 21 tips to overcome procrastination, Tracy offers more than a simple motivational speech.  He gives the reader actionable steps that anyone can implement.  If you find yourself stuck in an endless cycle of not getting things done, you owe it to yourself to give it a read.   

What methods do you use to avoid procrastination and stay organized?


Drowning in paperwork?

Drowning in paperwork?

After your taxes have been filed, what are you supposed to do with all the mounds of paperwork that you’ve saved all year? Should you keep it in case the IRS audits you? Do you really need to hang on to every gas receipt for the year?

Picking Up Speed

Picking Up Speed

“If you don’t feel a little uncomfortable, you’re just not going fast enough.”– Mario Andretti

Business changes at the speed of the internet these days.  Technology changes every day and the ‘way we used to do things’ just isn’t good enough if you want to remain competitive in today’s fast moving business world.


Finding the Balance

Finding the Balance

Google CFO, Patrick Pichette, went public in March with his resignation letter.  He used the tried-and-true cliche of ‘spending more time with family’ as his reason for leaving, and it was anything but cliched.  It serves as a cautionary tale to keep the balance of work and home in check. You can read his letter below.

Patrick Pinchette Resignation Letter

How do you keep your priorities in order? What are some ways that you stay balanced?