“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”
About two decades from today- precisely 2003; The world and in fact the British themselves had no clue as to the wind of change headed for British Cycling.
At the time, Great Britain was fast approaching a century of mediocre performance at the professional cycling level. For exactly 95 years from that point [in 1908] the best performance from the British cycling contingent had been just one gold medal at the Olympic games…faring even worse in cycling’s biggest turf, the Tour de France.
The resultant equity of the British cycling was nose diving such that top bike manufacturers declined selling bikes to the team as they feared decelerating bike sales if other professionals spotted the British cyclers using the gear!
The British cycling leadership then decided to hire Dave Brailsford, a fine gentleman to take over as the head of the professional cycling team in Great Britain. His task was singular- reposition Britain back on a positive pedestal. But what was he going to do differently from his predecessors?
He set out to apply what I like to call ‘Incre-mentality’… in this case deploy a strategy which he (Brailsford) would refer to as “the aggregation of marginal gains.” This principle would involve the identification of small margins of improvement in everything one does. According to Brailsford, “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 improve it by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”
In executing this principle- Brailsford and his coaches began making small adjustments within the resources and capabilities of the professional cycling team. From re-designing the bike seats to enhancing tire grip by rubbing on alcohol; to wearing the right gears to maintain ideal muscle temperature while riding down and to even deploying biofeedback sensors to monitor how each athlete responded to a particular workout.
They continued to drive 1% improvements all round to include surprising areas like hygiene focus to prevent cold and enhancing night rest- basically unexpected and seemingly overlooked areas.
This ultimately led to Great Britain’s best performance in 100 years with two gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games. But this was only just the beginning… the team went on to win two multiple world championships in road, track, BMX, and mountain bike racing. Four years after, the team led the cycling medal table at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games bringing home an amazing eight gold medals and laying the foundation for British cyclists to win 59 World Championships across different disciplines from 2003 to 2013.
The term Incre-Mentality refers to the continuous improvement mentality, the philosophy that small consistent and thus incremental Improvements [Kaizen] would eventually scale up to significant breakthrough improvements [Kaikaku] and when efficiently utilized can enable disruptive changes [Kakushin]
The Spectrum of Improvements is a great way to articulate the methodology of Incre-Mentality as it shows entire three-fold spectrum, starting with Kaizen horizon [small, mini improvements], Kaikaku horizon [breakthrough improvements] and Kakushin [disruptive change]. This comprises the below:
- First driving small but consistent improvements leveraging existing resources and capabilities
- Accelerating /scaling up those improvements to breakthrough improvements once critical mass is attained [still leveraging existing resources and capabilities]
- Finally embarking on disruptive changes to existing models where new resources and capabilities would be utilized.
“Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress.”
Activating your Incre-mentality?
- Convert big goals / objectives into smaller, workable sub-goals for easier implementation and tracking
- Breakdown the structure (s) of processes critical to achieve sub goals. This will ensure each process is qualified appropriately to create the right value – to deliver on your goal
- Establish complimentary links between activities. Every activity needs to give life or / and support to another activity. This is how to ensure the whole is an amplified version of the sum of individual constituents
- Further establish complementarity via teamwork. Seek to scale up individual competencies to achieve faster more sustainable results
- Create headroom to pivot where and when needed. This will ensure feedback can be received and implemented without entirely distorting the entire process flow significantly
When you implement these, you ultimately turn on the Incre-Mentality mindset to enable you drive at least 1% improvements daily. Think about what 365% worth of improvements would do in your life? That’s more than 3600 Change!!!