There is one idea that can increase your effectiveness exponentially. And that’s not a boast: it’s mathematically precise. It’s the concept of marginal gains.
Sometimes a big idea seems new, because lots of people are talking about it. But in fact, this one is a very old idea. Everyone is talking about marginal gains because this old idea has had one more recent and stunning demonstration.
What makes the idea of Marginal Gains so interesting to us, is the way it ties together a number of other big ideas.
There are few models that are as beloved of management trainers as Robert Dilts’ Logical Levels of Awareness.
It is popular among those who have learned it as part of formal NLP training, through reading books, or by osmosis. The logical levels model is pervasive and hard to miss if you are alert to these things.
So, in this article, I want to explain what it is, how it came about, and why it is a big idea that merits your attention as a manager.
What are you really capable of? And what holds you back from achieving it? Competing against your own mental obstacles is the ‘Inner Game’.
Although many people in the world of work have never heard of the Inner Game, nor of Timothy Gallwey, its founder, this big idea has been extremely influential.
Because Gallwey and the ideas behind the Inner Game are very much the immediate progenitors of modern performance coaching. It it is hard to over-estimate the impact that has had on management and organisational life.
For hundreds of years, there has been little to challenge traditional hierarchies for their ability to organise at scale. Holacracy is doing just that.
It’s a form of Adhocracy, which we covered in an earlier article. But, whilst we are way past ‘peak adhocracy’, it seems that holacracy is is thriving.
Holacracy is a modern attempt to reform traditional hierarchies. It keeps the aspect of senior level overviews and subordinate focus. But it gives a far greater autonomy to individuals, and a more substantial decision authority to small teams at the focus of operations and change.
If you are in the business of selling, who are you selling to? Do you know the characteristics of your customers? To target your marketing well, you need an archetype, which marketers call the ‘Buyer Persona’ or sometimes the customer or marketing persona. And sometimes they use ‘Avatar’.
Each of these terms means the same thing. If you do the work, up front, of characterising the people you want to sell to, you can better target your marketing.
The story of stakeholder engagement is a familiar one.
The term stakeholder starts as a new coinage. It becomes a word of art, understood by a select few. It then takes on a very public persona, widely used and at the heart of public discourse.
So managers seek to manage their stakeholders because it’s what they do. That’s their nature. Until we start to realise the category error that represents. And so, a gentle revolution brings us to today, and stakeholder engagement.
Total Quality Management, or TQM, is more than ‘just’ a quality initiative. It is an approach to management that cuts across all aspects of an organisation. It has a deep story that stretches back to the 1920s and beyond, yet its principles are as relevant today as they have ever been.
While some of our Big Ideas came to the world of management and made themselves relevant there, Total Quality Management started in the business world. And here it remains.
But I’m not talking about the nasty mixture of cough syrup and soda that is hooking young Americans on codeine and promethazine.
I’m talking about the current favourite method for reducing corporate corpulence, which has been popular for nearly twenty years.
But don’t for one moment think Lean is a passing fad. Its day will come, for sure. But its pedigree is a rich one. And whatever will replace it must share many of its aspirations and principles, just as Lean shares much with TQM*, BPR* and much that has gone before.