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UK business should look to British Cycling's improvement approach

British Cycling
Dave Brailsford

London: A report from IT services consultancy Atos, published today, says that almost two thirds of managers (63 per cent) and more than half of non-managers (51 per cent) believe they could be over 50 per cent more effective if an 'aggregation of marginal gains'1 approach, as used in elite sport, were to applied to their business.

The Atos report, Maximising the performance of your employees through the aggregation of marginal gains, based on a survey of 500 managers and non-managers in the UK, also found that over a tenth of their working week is spent on activities which have no value and could be avoided.

Lee Timmins, Senior Vice President of Atos Consulting in the UK said, "What British Cycling has done as an organisation is put in place systems that enable each athlete to achieve their maximum potential. We firmly believe that there is a place for applying the marginal gains approach within a business context.

"We know that employees are still spending significant amounts of time on activities which add no direct value to their organisations and, more importantly, their customers."

The report is structured around Atos' framework — which identifies the following eight key areas — that collectively enable individuals to perform to their maximum:

  • 1. Performance Goals — A fifth of people felt objectives were unclear, and almost a third felt performance management systems were poor in their organisation.
  • 2. Skills — Over a third of managers and almost a half of non-managers believed they do not receive appropriate training.
  • 3. Process — A fifth of respondents felt that accountabilities in their organisation are unclear, and over a third are monitoring too many non-critical performance metrics.
  • 4. Information — Over a third of managers and slightly more non-managers could not access the right level of information to do their jobs.
  • 5. Collaboration — A third of managers felt that collaboration with other departments was poor and almost a third cited too many meetings as a barrier to effectiveness.
  • 6. Communication — The Atos report found that communications was seen as one of the top impediments to effectiveness — chosen by a third of workers who spend more than 80 per cent of their time in the office, and just over a third who spend less than 20 per cent of their time in the office. The report says that based on the response to Atos' zero email campaign and subsequent research on inefficient use of email, poor internal communication comes as no surprise.
  • 7. Environment — Poorly designed or unwelcoming office space can sap motivation and effectiveness, with around half our respondents indicating an uninspiring work environment was impeding effectiveness. Even people who spent less than 20 per cent of their time in the office cited this issue.
  • 8. Custom and Practice — The final area of Atos' enablement framework considers the behavioral or managerial environment in which people work. This can be seen as a major barrier to effectiveness, with a quarter of non-managers citing micro-management as an issue and almost a fifth of managers holding this view.

Lee Timmins concludes, "It is now possible to look at the individual rather than the process and the organisation as a whole. You only need to look at British Cycling to see that audacious goals can be achieved with many small interlinked steps."

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