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Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Maximization vs Aggregation

With the 6 Nations about to kick off and 6 nations about to charge into each other at maximum throttle, I wanted to look at a concept that has been flavor of the past few years.
England RWC winning mantra to add up 100’s of little 0.1% improvements, Team Sky/GB cycle teams fight to nail down every little advantage as two examples - is known as the “Aggregation of Marginal Gains”.  The theory being that if you get lots of little things right - you will make a huge improvement.
And for sure - what’s not to like when targeting constant improvement - everyone is in for that I am sure.

However - where the theory fails to deliver is where an organization makes the theory the goal, rather than sticking to the original goal of the theory (namely to improve your organization).
There seems to be an increasing number of folk whose modus operandi is a slavish devotion to detail, to dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t’.  “If we concentrate on getting the small things right, then we will be a champion organization” is how the saying goes.
However, in organizations where there are ‘big things’ wrong - a devotion to lots of 1%’s is a very dangerous tactic to use.  Even in organizations who have all the big things right - but who still have a long way to go to ‘tick off’ all the mid-range things that need to get done....
An organization that is focused on the aggregation of all the 1% bricks is going to fail badly - as the 20% and the 10% blocks crumble around them.  You need to get the building blocks of your CLub right, you need the get the major strategies set in the right direction, you need to employ the right people in all the right places (and no doubt get them to deal with those 1% bricks).
So make sure that you don’t get too hung up on the detail, till you know you are ready to.  (Of course, if you have all the big stuff sorted, then let’s look at the detail).
OK??  Well - not quite - one further point to make.
The theory behind the collection of the all the little 1% bricks is that as you hoard all the tiny improvements, you take yourself further and further away from (or in front of) your opponents.
Once more, the fly in the proverbial raises its wings when you realize that with the onset of a more professional age - all your opponents are chasing 1% titbits aswell.  And though you might squeeze a bit more out (if you are more competent / hard working etc) - the edge that you thought you were going to gain is getting smaller and smaller.  You work harder and harder to gain smaller and smaller benefits - until.......  well failure may well happen!!!
So - what’s the solution.
Well - for me, to be a success in anything you need to stand out, you need to be better or you need to be different.  So in sports - you either need to be doing all the little things just that little bit better....  Or you can make sure that (whilst you continue to demand excellence from all departments and staff - ensuring that the 1%s do not become liabilities) - you focus on the unique skills that your Club has.
It may be history, culture, athletic prowess, facilities, player development - but whatever it is - find what makes you stand out - and then maximize that.
The “Maximization of Differentiated Gains” will drive your USP. will deliver an advantage over your opponents - you are making the best of differences vs your opponent (ones that provide a benefit!).
If you are a team that is locally produced, make sure you build on that time your players have known each other.  If your brand is more recognizable than your competitors  - then milk that.  And so on.... (you should know what your strengths are)
Do not forget to do everything else that makes you strong (including getting the detail right when ready) - but focus on that which your competitors can’t do - and that will give you your edge!!

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