YKK Stories

2018-09-10 Issue 67 Fundamental Behavior 12 Seek Improvement In Everything

February 19, 2019
Author: YKK
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No Brit had ever won the Tour de France. It was 2010 and Dave Brailsford was tasked with changing that fact when he took the job as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky, Great Britain’s professional cycling team. Dave brought with him a ‘secret’ weapon he called ‘aggregation of marginal gains,’ which was to seek 1% improvement in every aspect of operations. These small incremental improvements, when compiled over time, lead to big advances. Brailsford predicted the process would bring Team Sky a Tour de France victory in five years.

They immediately went to work. Team Sky sought 1% improvement in every nook and cranny of their operations. They explored rider diet, bike seat ergonomics, training schedules, and bike weight. They even looked at the quality of sleep and developed improved pillows the riders would use at home and on the road. They even developed a hand washing regime to minimize the risk of a rider falling ill.

They broke down every aspect of the program looking for that incremental 1% improvement in every area. With this commitment to continuous incremental improvement, Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first Brit to win the Tour de France, and the Brailsford prediction was only off by three years – he won in 2012, not 2015. Not only that, but Team Sky won the Tour de France the next year with a different rider, Chris Froome (who would go on to win it again in 2015, 2016, and 2017).

I am not sure where Dave Brailsford developed his commitment to the ‘aggregation of marginal gains,’ but Tadao Yoshida was talking about it as early as 1963, when he was interviewed in Zakai magazine. Mr. Yoshida called it a ‘paper thin effort.’ Check it out in Chapter 1 of Volume 2 of How YKK Sees and Thinks. Look around you, can you find something we can improve by at least 1%? If so, please contact me at jimreed@ykk-usa.com and let me know what you find.


Jim Reed
YKK Corporation of America