Yesterday while I was listening to a podcast, the host mentioned something very interesting. If I am not mistaken, the subject that was being talked about at the time was continuously building new skills. If it was something else, I am sorry, but the idea remains the same, and I will explain more in a bit.
It is very common that once we get good at something we decide to stop. This is true in most of our professional lives. The moment we reach a high level of, lets say, seniorship on your craft, we feel that there is not much to learn and we stop.
The same goes for improving our day to day work. When things are going good, it is very common to forget about improvements. There are even some that will say
“If it ain’t broke, don’t touch it”someone, somewhere
It is human nature. So why spend effort on small improvements?
British Cycling team
Since 1900 this team has been nothing but mediocre. The last time they won anything was 1908. A gold medal at the Olympics. But everything was about to change.
In 2003 they hired a new guy, Dave Brailsford, as their new performance director. Brailsford’s idea for improving the team’s overall performance was not to implement big changes. Instead, his strategy was called the “aggregation of marginal gains”. The philosophy of searching for tiny improvements and implementing them.
“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.”Dave Brailsford
5 years after Brailsford joined the British Cycling Team, in 2008, the team dominated the Olympic Games in Beijing winning 60% of the gold medals. The same year, Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. And the story goes on.
Just because the British Team started winning didn’t mean they stopped improving. The first 1% improvement is just the start, what makes it so successful is the continuation. Compounding.
And this brings me back to the Podcast that I was listening to yesterday. During the talk, the host makes a very good point.
If we are going to the gym to get in shape, we don’t stop going to the gym the moment we are in shape. Right? Everyone knows that is not how it works. If we want to keep in shape we have to keep going to the gym. So if we know this to be true for continuously improving our body and our health, why would we think that other things are different?
They are not. The principle is the same. It is the consistency that makes the difference. The continuity.
As agile coaches, we need to make sure that everyone is aware of this. We need to coach our teams and our companies in continuous improvement. That is the only way we can get out of mediocrity like the British Cycling team.