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Making Marginal Gains. Podcast by Safaraz Ali

Making Marginal Gains. Podcast by Safaraz Ali –

Marginal gains is a concept that is widely associated with Sir David Brailsford, the former director of cycling with the GB team and one of the top professional teams.

At its heart is the concept that small gains accumulated can bring huge benefits.

For example, in cycling, Sir David made sure that his riders had the most aerodynamic skin suits to ride in. He also wanted his riders to have their favourite pillows so that they had the best chance of getting good sleep between stages in a race.

Another example from the world of sport was Sir Clive Woodward, manager of the England Rugby team that won the World Cup, beating Australia in the 2003 final. He wanted his players to change into a fresh strip at half time, so they really felt they were starting again in the second half.

Safaraz believes that the ‘big thing’ is too often too big to be sustainable but small change can collectively make a big difference to how a business performs.


The examples are numerous but a one percent increase in sales or wastage can over time make a big difference as can cutting the average time in which payments are received by just a single day.

One of the challenges for a good manager is to identify the areas in which marginal gains can be achieved. But sustainability is vital, and this is why marginal gains can make such a big difference. They are often easier to sustain.

The supermarket chain Tesco had a simple strapline ‘every little help’s’ that can be applied to huge benefit across almost every business.

An example of this from everyday life is illustrated by how someone with a weight problem is best likely to sustainably shed the pounds – not by joining a gym and trying to run 5K every day but doing a 20 minute daily walk and cutting out cakes. It is doable not to painful and SUSTAINABLE.

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