The answer lies way back in the 1940s when the US Air Force was struggling to understand why its B17 bombers were experiencing a large number of accidents. Close examination of the planes led investigators to understand that the switches that controlled the wing flaps were next to identical switches that controlled the landing gear. Under pressure in the cockpit, pilots were using the wrong switch and inadvertently causing calamity.
Once the problem had been identified, the solution was small and simple. A small rubber wheel was placed on the landing gear switches and a flap shape on those for the wing flaps. The problem was solved, accident rates fell and the concept of marginal gains had entered the aviation industry.
Marginal gains are small, often tiny changes in processes that can lead to great improvements. The British cycling team, under the leadership of David Brailsford, has been widely praised for adopting the method and going on to win global honour after global honour. Whilst we aren’t going to win any Olympic medals, ALX Training is similarly focused on improvement through marginal gains and we spend a great deal of time working with clients to improve their working processes, helping them to become more effective and far more efficient.
Keep up to remain efficient
One of the problems with the modern workplace is that processes become fossilised, often for two reasons. Firstly, they are no longer questioned. “It’s just the way we do that here,” is a refrain that our trainers have become very familiar with. Secondly, there’s the issue of not keeping up with technology.
Take Excel, for instance. This is a very common workplace tool that is used in probably every business in the Channel Islands. Whilst companies have been using Excel for a range of functions over decades, we’ve found that many have not had the time to understand what each new version of Excel can do and often, once our expert trainers have had a chance to look at existing processes, we can see that a new function will automate a currently manual task.
Those companies that have asked ALX to look at their business processes, particularly in relation to the way technology is used on a daily basis, have discovered that it is possible to save not just minutes but hours of working time, just by using their everyday workplace tools in a better way.
Over the course of a year, those hours add up to save days and weeks of time, all of which can be repurposed to make the company more competitive.
The beauty of these changes lies in the fact that they are often small, easy and quick to implement. The results, on the other hand, can be enormous, particularly when the tasks are repetitive because the new efficiencies are repeated throughout the business.
At ALX, we may not save lives or win Olympic gold with our focus on marginal gains but just like the US Air Force, we can make small changes that deliver impressive results.
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