I believe a reason many organizations fail to meet their goals is not because the goals are unrealistic but because they don’t have a clear path to achieve them.  Setting is goals is necessary and valuable.  Goals are motivating and provide a benchmark for performance.  However, setting a goal is only part of the story.  There must be a plan for achieving the goal.

That is why I love David Brailsford’s approach.  He sets goals and has a plan for achieving them.  In the video above, Sir David explains his approach.  I have summarized this below.

  • The cumulative effect of 1% gains leads to significantly improved performance.  What is the goal?  Not victories but improved performance.  See points 3 & 5.
  • Look at every aspect of your operation.  His team looked at obvious things like diet, fitness, and tactics but also considered recovery, technological developments and psychology.
  • Enough fractional improvements add up to a larger fraction and lead to a better outcome.
  • Analyze every aspect of your operation, set goals and work out a plan to achieve them.
  • “Focus on the process not the outcome and you’re going to get the best chance of being the best that you can be.  What can I do today to optimize my chances?”
  • Coaching is important.  If you expect the rider to be the best then why don’t you expect the same of the coaches?

Where did this approach take British cycling and Team Sky?

— Source: Wikipedia

This approach is radically different than most organizations take.  In an era where outcomes dominate our attention, it is hard to adopt a process-oriented approach.  It is a vastly different mindset that many cannot grasp.  It takes courage.  It takes confidence.  It takes humility.

Another thing I like about this approach is that it is scalable.  No matter how large your organization or the size of your team you can apply the principles listed above.  Team Sky has less than 30 riders and 18 support staff.  The key is your mindset.  Do your employees know what to look for?  Do they feel comfortable bringing ideas for marginal gains to you?  Are you willing to meet and discuss opportunities to gain with your employees regularly?