The science of marginal gains

A wide range of small minor improvements together make a significant difference to performance. This is particularly significant when the difference between success and failure is so small. The recent international and Olympic successes of the British cycling team has given a massive boost to the science of marginal gains. Marginal improvements in 1001 areas, technical, training and dietary, combined to give the British team an advantage over elite athletes from other countries. Could the ideas behind marginal gains be applied to the public sector/Local Government.

Big changes are disruptive, distracting and provoke resistance. Whether you supported these changes or not you would have to agree that the changes promise more than they deliver.

So maybe rather than the Big Bang," transformation agenda" we should focus on a 1001 marginal improvements.

It may seem counterintuitive in these cash strapped austere times but to encourage a 1001 very small improvements give front line teams a small budget, £5k to spend any way they like as long a it makes an improvement no matter how small.  The amount is  not important the budget is symbolic, it's about giving first line managers and staff permission to make the small changes that will lead to minor improvements in every area.The accumulated effect would be significant. 


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John Rudkin 5 Years Ago - Edited
Ultimately, it is the decision about what constitutes a gain of improvement. Whatever gains can be made makes sense - and incremental change/marginal gains can be very beneficial unless they prolong a fundamentally flawed system. My point about 'what constitutes a gain' comes down to transparency and honesty. I really detested the way that reporting can be dishonestly presented to others who cannot argue their concerns. The worst case as in the case of a systems thinking programme where a member of staff actually manipulated figures in order to satisfy their manager's declared interests. Sadly, it was just what someone wanted to hear, and clearly offered no gain where it really mattered. It is worth saying that the staff member concerned saw nothing wrong with doing this, but it also confirmed previous strange anomalous outcomes from poorly managed research and needs analysis! I cannot help but point this out because I have seen such claims overblown, and indeed incorrectly reported. Sadly, it was a fact of life in the ICT Dept where I once worked. It'd be interesting to see examples of summary additive gains being assessed as combined gains, but isn't this generally how most departments work days to day anyway? I hope the revelation that these sort of issues arise, but at the end of the day if there is a fear of Management, this can sometimes be about a staff member seeking praise or (in the recent past - of cost cutting and the potential of redundancies) so called 'cost-cutting.