Can the science of marginal gains be used to improve channel performance?

5th December 2022

The science of marginal gains has historically been most widely used in sports. The methodology was used by Team GB, for example, while they were training for the 2012 Olympics and were rewarded with a massive 65 medals, an increase of 38% on the 47 won just four years earlier.

Similar to the Six Sigma methodology widely used in manufacturing, the focus is on small parts instead of the whole process. And it’s much easier to make improvements in this way.

The power of 1

The premise behind the science of marginal gains is that if you take a process and break it down into its individual steps, then improve each of those by 1%; you get a much bigger overall improvement than you would by simply trying to tackle the whole process. It’s also far less daunting to focus on smaller parts of the process than the whole.

And the results achieved using the science of marginal gains haven’t gone unnoticed in the business world. Many organizations now use the methodology to improve processes, team performance, and overall business results.

So how does it work in reality?

The first step is to break down each of the steps involved; in the case of Team GB, this includes everything from mindset, goal setting, nutrition, physical training, team training, relaxation, and even sleep.

Next, you identify parts of the process that could be improved by just 1%, and those who are most successful using the methodology look outside of their industry as well as inside.

Back to Team GB, they looked at the hygiene routines used in surgery, and the entire team was taught how to be more effective with hand washing. This resulted in fewer training days lost through illness. From ballet, they took a tip about sleep, so when athletes were traveling to different events, they took their pillows to improve the quality and quantity of sleep.

The East Warrington NHS Integrated Care Team also made a very simple change to support a reduction of time patients spent waiting for an ambulance. They switched to a “pull” model, actively looking for category 3 and 4 calls where longer ambulance waits were anticipated. They are convinced that supporting even a small number of people in the community could make a big difference to emergency departments, and hospital patient flows.

How can this help you to improve your Channel performance?

There are many steps involved in delivering products and services through your channel; recruitment, onboarding, reward mechanisms, support tools, through and to partner programs, and lead generation are just a few of the processes you could look at.

It's probably best if you don’t try to tackle them all at once, and of course, where you start will be different for each organization. You could start by thinking about some of the following:

  • If the lead time from inquiry to sale was reduced by 1 day, what difference would it make to your financial forecasts?
  • If you could generate 1 additional lead from every through partner campaign, how much additional revenue would that create?
  • If ongoing technical support issues for customers could be resolved 1 day quicker, what impact would that have on client retention and satisfaction?
  • If your channel support teams could spend 1 additional day with partners rather than on admin, what difference would that make to your channel partner performance?

Taking a little time to think about why certain processes exist and how you can improve them can make a difference to your organization.

Change of any kind can be daunting, knowing where and how to start, considering what could go wrong, and ensuring you have your entire team on board, but as Warren G Bennis said, “In life, change is inevitable. In business, change is vital.”


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