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Measuring ROI - Create Marginal Gains

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Mar 25, 2019

marginal-gains-British CyclingAchieving growth in your business comes in many shapes and forms.

For businesses looking for an ROI on coaching, or a measurable improvement in performance, frequently, it’s not one breakthrough, rather, it’s a series of small gains that add up to major achievements.

Sir David Brailsford, formerly performance director of British Cycling, currently general manager of Team Sky, helped British Cycling achieve remarkable results.

For over 100 years British Cycling had never won a Tour de France. When Brailsford created Team Sky he predicted they would win it in 5 years.

He was wrong.Sir David Brailsford Record Synopsis-1

They won it in 2 years. See Brailsford and Team Sky’s achievements in this chart.

Brailsford explains how he achieved this success through Core Principles and Marginal Gains in several YouTube videos.

Follow these principles and your business can achieve similar success. As Brailsford’s Methods show, success isn’t getting one breakthrough rather it’s doing many small things just a bit better, to overcome and beat your competition.

These are the same principles we use through Strategic Discipline and Scaling Up.

ROI Measurements - “What’s in it for me?”

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure, and what you don’t measure you don’t understand.”

Everything can be measured. If you’re not measuring, you don’t understand.

Measuring isn’t the only answer.  Your people have to buy in. They need to understand, “What’s in it for me?”

Brailsford shares, “When you align what their doing with a group of other people behind the goal, then you’re in business. It doesn’t matter if they get on or not,   Give people ownership.  As human beings we like to have an influence over what we do and how we do it. The people I see who are successful, the doers, they get shite done. You can walk a thousand miles, but you can only do it one step at a time, but it doesn’t take too long before you’ve done quite a few steps. If you go after all these incremental gains, aggregate them all together, we were capable of getting better, it was something we could believe in and achieve. “

Core Principle

In the video Brailsford explains Team Sky’s Core Principles:

C = Commitment - Screen people for commitment.  Do they have an intrinsic desire toward achieving a goal? Are they committed to it?  Commitment is different than motivation.  Motivation ebbs and flows.  Commitment is an underlying drive to where we want to get. You may have Immensely talented people, but if the commitment toward the goal isn’t present, Team Sky won’t work with them.

O = Ownership - People don’t like to be told what to do, they don’t like being given non-negotiable tasks to do. They like to be asked their opinion, not told what to do. Let your people have a say in what they are doing, in what their development plans are.  Give them ownership.  British Cycling requires everyone to have an opinion.  It’s a professional obligation. “You’re expected to have an opinion and then wherever possible they work with collective opinion. Whenever you want to get the best out of somebody, create environment where people are free to speak, don’t feel frightened or under scrutiny to speak their mind. If they don’t speak to you, they’ll speak to somebody behind your back, and all of a sudden the dynamic of the team will disappear.” Take the crown off the head of the coach and putting it on the head of the rider. Giving them freedom and ownership over their development and training plan. When our coaches realized they were there to manage & support riders, everything started to flourish in the right direction.

R = Responsibility - Accountability has to be made clear to every individual. Your people need to understand what they’re accountable for, and equally, what they’re not accountable for. What’s expected and what’s not expected in performance terms. What’s expected and what’s not expected in attitudinal terms. Which leads to…

E = Excellence - This is personal excellence, not on the world stage, it’s about being the best YOU can be.  It’s the best you can work for YOU. It’s excellence for themselves.

Do your Core Values in your business provide this brilliance in expected behavior for your people?

Marginal Gains

Brailsford feels this is more of a philosophy than a tangible system.

Sir David Brailsford-Aggregation-marginal-gains-2-1Improve everything you are working on by a small percentage, when you put it all together you’ve got this big improvement (This intention is similar to our Cash Resource, the Power of One)

Starting at about 7:30 on the video, Brailsford explains his discussions with his mechanics on tires, how they push back on suggestions, that’s not his job, it’s their job, leave it to us.  This is highly ineffective in a team.  

By looking for the marginal gains, the conversations took on a whole new mindset. Everyone looks for little things collectively. What can make us improve?  Your team becomes open-minded to it. No longer do they see it as someone scrutinizing their area, or criticizing for not doing something they’re meant to be doing,

It’s a team concept we want to develop.

What do Marginal Gains look like?

The Video provides two examples.

Here’s one you may struggle with, spending a lot of time in meetings.  Brailsford measured the time invested, set up the exact same format for their meeting agendas, minute taking, follow-up action steps, eliminate interruptions, specify what the outcome should be. (See our ScaleUp meetings) Team Sky moved from ineffective to effective meetings.  That’s a marginal gain.

This video shares more: 

Growth demands Strategic Discipline.


3 Disciplines of Execution (Strategic Discipline)Positioning Systems is obsessively driven to improve your business and your team’s execution.  A winning habit starts with 3 Strategic DisciplinesPriorityMetrics, and Meeting Rhythms.   Your business will dramatically improve forecasting, accountability, individual, and team performance by creating alignment.

As an Execution Decision, Strategic Discipline increases your Profitability.

Consistently planned daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly meetings, focusing on performance metrics drive performance gains.

Positioning Systems helps your business achieve these outcomes on the Four most Important Decisions your business faces:












Acheive Execution Excellence BP Guarantee poster-1We help your business achieve Execution Excellence.

Positioning Systems helps mid-sized ($5M - $250M) business Scale-UP. We align your business to focus on Your One Thing!  To achieve growth, you need to evolve in today’s rapidly changing economic environment.  Have you been avoiding a conversation on how you can successfully grow your business? Contact to Scale Up your business! Take our Four Decisions Needs Assessment to discover how your business measures against other Scaled Up companies. We’ll contact you.

Turning the Flywheel - Jim Collins


Next Blog: Turning the Flywheel

To achieve Marginal gains, often you don’t have to innovate imaginatively or dramatically.  In Good to Great Jim Collins described success as steady slow progress on the flywheel.  Collins’ new book Turning the Flywheel describes how Amazon and small businesses and departments use the flywheel concept to achieve greatness.  You can too. How next blog.

Topics: Core Values, Execution, Core Behaviors, Execution Excellence, Marginal Gains, ROI

Challenges of Scaling Up a Business 







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1. Priorities: Determine your #1 Priority. Achieve measurable progress in 90 days.

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Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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