A term that has come up a lot during the Rio Olympics has been ‘marginal gains’, famously coined by Sir Dave Brailsford and his team during his time at British Cycling.
The concept, as outlined by Sir Dave himself on BBC Olympic Breakfast this week, hinges around identifying a clear goal, making a detailed and accurate assessment of the current situation and then identifying and delivering those improvements that need to be made and those improvements that can be made in order to achieve the goal.
EML designs and delivers team building interventions for a living so we thought about our experiences of working with teams and we wondered if the theory of marginal gains could be applied to our clients’ teams in order to help them achieve their goals.
EML receives a broad spectrum of team building requirements from clients ranging from pure fun to highly facilitated but in every case clients are hoping that the team building event they are investing in will have some kind of positive effect on their teams.
The pure fun end of the spectrum tends to look after itself, if teams walk off a field with big smiles on their faces, clients are very satisfied that the team building event has boosted morale and created a feeling of greater unity within their teams – goal achieved.
It is perhaps the facilitated / business focused end of the team building spectrum that can be linked more effectively with the marginal gains approach.
So you’re spending £50 per person on your team and you’ve allowed a 2 hour window in a busy conference schedule to “improve team work”. What is a realistic goal relative to this investment of your time and money? If EML could quantifiably resolve all conflict, impart the ability to manage change, teach project planning, improve communication, boost trust and generally fine tune your team in this 120 minute window then I’d be writing this from the deck of my Monaco based luxury Yacht and you would have done a team build years ago. Sadly we are still working on being able to deliver all of this within these time and budgetary constraints so perhaps, like Sir Dave, we need to be a little more realistic.
As a Manager you know the things that you would like to work on to make your team better tomorrow so why not pick one and work on it? Are they communicating effectively? Are they thinking before they act? Are they challenging each other enough? Are they asking enough questions? Are they agile enough in the face of change?
By identifying and achieving a realistic marginal gain in relation to the time and money that you have to spend on building your team you can tailor your team build so that it delivers that particular improvement in a more tangible way.
I guess what Sir Dave was saying is that by breaking down the task, being highly detailed and realistic you can take any endeavour, including your next team building session, and turn it into pure Gold.