Why some people can start and complete new projects and other can’t

Howard McClusky, an educational psychologist, developed the Margin of Power concept to explore the limits of human capacity. He formalised his thinking into three elements Margin, Load and Power.

Load: the demands placed on a person by their family, work, civic duties, and their own ambitions.

  1. External — tasks of life such as family, career, socio-economic status
  2. Internal — self-concept, goals, personal expectations

Power: a person’s energy, skill, competence, and integrity. this also includes support from friends and family, society and their employer.

  1. Physical — strength, stamina, energy, health
  2. Social — ability to relate to others
  3. Mental — ability to think, reason
  4. Economic — money, position, influence
  5. Skills — what the individual knows how to do

Margin: a measure of the “wiggle room” each person has to complete a meaningful task, that is a surplus of power provides a cushion to handle demands placed

McClusky expressed this formally as

Margin = Load / Power


  • Margin can be increased by reducing load or increasing power
  • Howard suggests, subsequently, that if values could be assigned to load and power indicators, a resulting Margin of 0.5- 0.8 would provide a cushion to meet the various emergencies of life


It’s a great idea and seems to hold water. My issue with this is how are you supposed to be able to quantify this? It seems quantitative and objective measures are out. That leaves qualitative, self reported and relative measures as the basis for the theory, and we all know where that road leads.

Source: strategy + business, infed

Published: March 2, 2016. Categories: Robert's Blog.