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    September 6, 2023

    Unlocking Success Through 1% Improvement with ValueOps


    Excellence only comes through relentless pursuit of improvement. Amidst this pursuit, leaders have come to realize that incremental advancements, no matter how small, can fuel monumental transformations.

    One such transformative concept is the art of improving flow in the value stream. In value stream management, "flow" represents the progression of work items from idea to deliverable. Teams improve flow by optimizing efficiency, reducing waste, and meeting market demands.

    For today’s organizations, improving processes and creating smooth workflows are crucial for success. In this blog, we delve into the transformative power of 1% improvements, also known as “marginal gains.” We'll explore the metrics that steer these gains and share an inspiring real-life story that demonstrates the astonishing power of this approach.

    The power of 1% improvements

    Often, when aiming for progress, we set our sights on major leaps forward. Yet, it's the small, consistent steps that often lay the foundation for profound change. The philosophy of seeking continuous 1% improvements has the potential to yield staggering results over time. Imagine a stream of water gradually eroding a rock—a seemingly insignificant movement that, in the long run, reshapes the landscape. In the business world, a similar principle applies. Incremental progress compounds over time, leading to substantial advancements.

    The British Cycling Team's triumph: A lesson in 1% improvement

    The British Cycling Team's transformation from mediocrity to Olympic dominance is a testament to the power of embracing marginal gains. Before 2003, the team had a history of poor performance on the global stage. In fact, results were so bad that the team’s bicycle manufacturer did not want to continue to provide bicycles for the team, fearing that association with the team would actually hurt sales. However, when Dave Brailsford took over as the team’s performance director, he introduced a revolutionary approach: focusing on the tiniest improvements in various aspects of training, equipment, and riders' health.

    Brailsford's philosophy was simple—find areas where improvements could be made, no matter how small, and relentlessly pursue them. From bike designs to sleep quality, every detail was scrutinized for enhancement. These seemingly minor changes added up, resulting in a remarkable turnaround. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the British Cycling Team went on to dominate, winning seven of the 10 gold medals available in track cycling. Four years later, in the London Olympics, they matched these dominant results. The team’s story underscores the profound impact of consistently striving for 1% improvements and how they can revolutionize an entire system.

    For more information about 1% marginal gains, you can refer to this HBR interview with Dave Brailsford and discover how these incremental improvements steered a team to Olympic gold.

    The compounding effect and the yearly perspective

    Embracing continuous 1% improvements isn't just about isolated gains—it's about recognizing the compounding effect they generate. Just as investments multiply over time, the impact of these small enhancements becomes more pronounced as they accumulate.

    Consider a scenario in which a process is improved by just 1% each week. Initially, this may not seem significant, but over the course of a year, these weekly improvements compound to yield a remarkable 67.6% overall enhancement. To illustrate, imagine you have an Agile Release Train composed of 12 teams. If each team boosts efficiency by 1% in every two-week sprint, the collective growth is astonishing. After just one year, this compounding progression leads to an 837% overall enhancement or an 8.3 times improvement over the train’s original performance. This illustration underscores the immense value of consistently focusing on minor advancements.

    Flow metrics: Navigating the path to improvement

    To effectively harness the power of 1% improvements in value stream management, teams must first identify and measure their flow metrics. These metrics serve as guiding stars, illuminating the areas that need attention and enabling informed decision making. Here are a few essential flow metrics to consider:

    • Cycle time. This refers to the time taken to complete a task, from start to finish. Monitoring cycle time can help teams identify bottlenecks and streamline processes.
    • Lead time. This represents the time it takes for a request or task to move from the initial stage to completion. Reducing lead time enhances agility and customer satisfaction.
    • Throughput. This tracks the rate at which work is completed within a given period. A steady increase in throughput signifies improved efficiency.
    • Flow efficiency. This captures the ratio of time spent actively working on a task to the total cycle time. Optimizing flow efficiency reveals opportunities for minimizing idle time and maximizing productive output.
    • Work in progress (WIP). This metric tracks the number of tasks or projects currently in progress. Managing WIP prevents overburdening and promotes focus.
    • Cumulative flow diagram. This diagram offers a visual representation of work stages and flow, highlighting potential imbalances and areas for improvement.

    ValueOps by Broadcom: Empowering flow metrics for agile success

    As teams pursue enhanced flow and value stream management, it is essential that they have access to the right tools. This is where ValueOps by Broadcom comes into the picture. ValueOps is a suite of advanced tools that enable teams to measure and improve flow metrics across different levels of an agile organization—including at the portfolio, program, and team level. ValueOps empowers businesses to achieve operational excellence. By leveraging this comprehensive toolset, teams can gain unparalleled insights, enabling them to identify bottlenecks, streamline processes, and facilitate continuous improvements.

    With our newest addition to the ValueOps suite, ValueOps ConnectAll, you can now connect your ecosystem of tools. With ValueOps, you can measure the entire flow of work, from the generation of an idea all the way through to its delivery to your customers.


    In the tapestry of progress, the threads of 1% improvements are often overlooked, and dismissed as inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. However, as the British Cycling Team's remarkable journey illustrates, these minor advancements can spark monumental transformations. In the dynamic landscape of value stream management, the relentless pursuit of enhanced flow through consistent, incremental enhancements holds the key to sustained success.

    At Broadcom, our team of value stream management experts is eager to help companies measure the flow of work and gain maximum benefit from 1% improvements. We believe in the “art of the possible,” and our tools are uniquely equipped to aid in transforming how you work, aligning your teams, and boosting your business agility. The journey may appear challenging, but with our experience and tools, we're confident we can help you adapt and succeed.
    Reach out to us, and let's start the conversation on maximizing your business’ potential with ValueOps.

    Fridgeir Eyjolfsson

    Fridgeir (Frikkx) Eyjolfsson works as a Client Services Consultant at Broadcom. He is a SAFe SPC with a rich Agile, SAFe & IT background. He founded two startups. His expertise as a Software Developer, SAFE consultant, RTE, Product Owner, and Head of APMO provides valuable insights into digital and agile...

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