Improve your team projects by applying Marginal gains on their components.


Marginal Gains is a philosophy that aims to improve a project by breaking it down into tiny components and then by making small improvements to each of them. The overall aggregate gain will lead to the sought after improvement.

DavidBrailsford.jpg WikiMediaCommons_Tour_de_France_2012_wiggins_-_froome_14683360257.jpg The philosophy of Marginal Gains was conceived by Dave Brailsford who became the program director of British Cycling in the early 2000s. In 2010 he was given the objective of having a Briton win the Tour de France, quite a task given that no Briton had ever come close to winning this race. After applying his ideas Briton Bradley Wiggins won the tour in 2012 followed by Chris Froome in 2013. Added to these successes the British team profited from this philosophy and have dominated world indoor events including the 2012 Olympics.

The principle of Marginal Gains is to not look a subject as a whole but to break it down into the tiniest components and to improve on each of them. Brailsford’s idea was to improve on these by just 1% and then reap the rewards of the aggregate gain. Some of these components are directly related to the cycling (e.g. materials and training) and others to the social well-being and the team's environment (e.g. diet and comfort while traveling)

The reverse scenario


In his blog James Clear argues that the converse of marginal gains (marginal decline) can result in an aggregate deterioration. So many small poor decisions could lead to a problem.







Application goals

This application provides a template that helps to itemize the components and encourages the user to break down components even further in order to focus on the finest details.

A new TWiki topic is created for each component and an improvement action can be created to each of these components.

The application makes use of several Plugins including the ActionTrackerPlugin and the CommentPlugin. A map of the process is also provided using the TreePlugin.


Following the success of Marginal Gains in cycling other areas beyond sport have started to adopt this approach. Hospitals in London and Seattle have reported quality and financial improvements through the use of marginal gains and there are further examples in education , sales and marketing and aviation. Other areas of use could be:

  • Improving the quality of an IT service (e.g. improve documentation)
  • Student preparation for exams (e.g. ask 1 more question every day)
  • Losing weight (e.g. use stairs instead of the elevator)
  • House-keeping (e.g. cleaning kitchen work unit every evening)
  • Sports teams - improving performance (e.g. providing better transport for away matches)

Example - Improve the performance of a football team

In this example a club's management looks to better the performance of its football team.

First they think of everything that could affect the performance of the team. Once these components have been identified they try and break them down again and again and look for items to improve. For this example I have used an indented list for each child component (a mind-map also works very well for this).

Click the twisty below to see the start of a breakdown of the team into small components. A possible action can be attributed to each component.

In this list the icon Right is used to show a possible action.


  • Players by position
    • Skills
      • Poor Skills
        1. Throw is not accurate - Right 10 minutes throw coaching at end of training
        2. Right foot kick not long- Right 10 minutes right kicking at end of training
        3. Left foot pass not accurate - Right 10 minutes left foot practice
        4. Heading the ball - Right 10 minutes left foot practice
        5. Free-kicks - Right 10 extra minutes
      • Good Skills
        1. Catch high ball -
        2. Corner kick from the right - Right practice from the left too.
        3. Left foot pass accuracy - Right work with player 3 (see above)
    • Fitness
      1. Stiff calf muscles - Right set specific stretching exercises
      2. Tires at the end of game - Right set endurance task
      3. Slow of the blocks - Right set sprint exercises task
    • Behaviour
      1. Talks during team-talk - Right introduce fines
      2. Poor Communication - Right introduce better, simple calls
      3. Often late for training - Right introduce competition for this position
      4. Too many red cards - Right introduce competition for this position
      5. Good Communication - Right try player out as captain during training
      6. Often disruptive and argumentative - Right organize a one on one chat
  • Supporters
    • Crowd numbers
      • Improve through advertisement - Right start a Facebook page
      • Improve through advertisement - Right create supporters newsletter
    • Satisfaction - Right organize a survey * Coaches
    • Head Coach
    • Fitness Coach
  • Equipment
    • Training pitch - Right remove cow pats
    • Balls - Right buy more match day balls to have match day conditions
    • Training Ladders - Right repair it
    • Wet weather gear - Right buy some water-proof coats for the substitutes
  • Resources
    • Changing room
    • Showers
    • Pitch condition
    • Supporter facilities
      • Sitting area
      • Standing
      • Toilets
        • Lights - Right install better lighting.
      • Buvette
        • Food - Right supplying some may bring in more fans.
        • Drink - Right supplying some may bring in more fans.
  • Finances
    • Gate money - Right introduce tombola with entry fee.
    • Sponsorship
  • etc
  • etc

  • Next from the MarginalGainsProjects topic create a new project. This one is called FootballTeam
  • The manager then creates components and actions based on the above information.
  • All child pages under FootballTeam will now have the same template. The following screenshot show a page for Team Poor Skills. Actions have been added for 2 players


Installation Instructions

You do not need to install anything on the browser to use this add-on. These instructions are for the administrator who installs the add-on on the server where TWiki is running.

  • Download the ZIP file from the Add-on Home (see below)
  • Unzip in your twiki installation directory. Content:
File: Description:
data/TWiki/AllActions.txt Topic that shows all actions
data/TWiki/ComponentHeader.txt Header topic
data/TWiki/ComponentTemplate.txt Template topic for all components
data/TWiki/MarginalGainsProjects.txt Home topic
data/TWiki/NewComponent.txt Form for creating a new component topic
data/TWiki/NewMarginalGainProject.txt Form for creating a new project topic

  • Copy the above files to the web of your choice
  • Test if the installation was successful:
    • Go to the MarginalGainsProjects topic and create a new project.
    • Create components and then further child components if necessary.
    • Create actions for Marginal gains where appropriate.
    • Notes for the actions:
      • Action for : here enter the full path of your TWiki Name e.g Main.PeterJones
      • Due date : the date format show be YYYY-MM-DDD
      • Comment : this is free text but should include the subject and purpose for the action.

Add-On Info

  • Set SHORTDESCRIPTION = Improve your team projects by applying Marginal gains on their components.

Add-on Author: TWiki:Main.PeterJones
Copyright: © 2016 TWiki:Main.PeterJones
License: GPL ( GNU General Public License)
Add-on Version: 2016-03-24
Change History:
2016-03-24: Initial version
TWiki Dependency: $TWiki::Plugins::VERSION 1.1 (TWiki 4.0)
CPAN Dependencies: none
Other Dependencies: ActionTrackerPlugin , CommentPlugin and TreePlugin.
Perl Version: 5.005
Add-on Home:
Related Topic: TWikiAddOns

PeterJones - 2016-03-30

This topic: TWiki > WebHome > MarginalGainsAddOn
Topic revision: r1 - 2016-03-30 - PeterJones
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