Improving Team Performane – The F1 Way

This article has recently been published in F1 PITLANE Magazine. Read the article in its published format here.

The finely-honed skills of the world’s top Formula One racing teams – from the driver to a pit stop engineer – is a winning formula for business success.

Here, change management and business strategy specialist Johnny Frankland, Managing Director of Winning Teams, which has devised the F1 performance programme for businesses, explains why the principles behind success on the track are just as relevant to the wider workplace.

“I first came up with the idea of the F1 programme for businesses whilst researching more than 200 change projects and programmes in both the public and private sector.

This highlighted the disturbing fact that most businesses and organisations did not appreciate what a measurable benefit really was and were therefore left 'shoe-horning' intangible benefits into business cases at the last minute.

I therefore started to look around for an approach that would put benefits at the top of the agenda and focused on the F1 environment which is, effectively, the ultimate team model.

To become the best in business, you must learn from the best and what better environment is there to emulate than F1?

It is the most competitive environment there is. It never sits still and, although a team may have won the last Grand Prix, they are constantly striving for improvements to win the next race and then come out on top at the end of the season and beyond.

It is therefore no surprise that the F1 industry attracts some of the most talented people in the world – whether that is research and development, marketing, the drivers or pit stop engineers.

Having researched what makes teams such as Red Bull and Brawn so effective on and off the track; Winning Teams has developed a unique model for businesses to help them emulate that success.

The F1 performance programme’s key concept is that a successful team is much greater than the sum of its parts and keeps everything in balance under all circumstances.

After all, the driver’s talent is effectively redundant if his car is not up to scratch or his tyres aren’t changed quickly in the pit stops and, as testament to this concept, the winning driver is always keen to attribute success on the track to the whole team when interviewed on the television after the race.

To achieve a winning team and therefore a positive return on investment, it is vital that the benefits to the business are clearly measurable – whether that is in terms of increased revenue, protected revenue or increased efficiency.

But, before the engines can be revved, we need to look at where a business wants to improve performance and that requires a clear focus from them, which is not always an easy task.

A common issue for businesses and organisations whatever their size is that they largely concentrate on what they do – rather than focusing on and analysing how they can do it better.

They often quote a whole list of ‘problems’ such as poor communications, weak management or lack of motivation and think that these can be fixed by training.

However, such issues are merely symptoms and the root causes actually lie in the structure and culture of the organisation.

Only by diagnosing a business’ current performance, illuminating and eliminating the root causes of performance limitation and inspiring greater performance from the team as a whole can real measurable improvements be achieved.

The F1 programme therefore has four core stages: Focus, Alignment, Integration and Innovation.

Case Study:

Among the many businesses that have already benefited from this structured approach is a long-established company which specialises in the development of non-destructive testing equipment.

Our original brief was that the management team was ‘dysfunctional’ and needed sorting out so our first task was to investigate this claim further and determine the key business performance objectives for the next 12 months.

We agreed with the company that the primary focus was the successful launch of the company’s latest product with budgeted revenues worth several million pounds. They had never yet been able to launch a new product on time and thus quickly realise a profitable return on their significant R&D investment.

With that focus in mind, we turned our attentions to the senior management team, who were ultimately responsible for launching the new product.

The success of such projects is reliant upon the total alignment of purpose, vision, goals and behaviours with everyone driving in the same direction. However, it soon became clear that only two of the senior team were actively involved in the research and development phase of the new product. We therefore devised a project plan that aligned every aspect of the business from R&D through sales & marketing, production, customer liaison to finance..

Traditionally the R&D guys did their work and then stood back and handed over ‘cold’ to production. By integrating R&D more closely with production they worked together from the outset which speeded up the new product launch and generated design changes that improved production efficiency and reliability.

In the meantime, it was imperative to address the process of accelerating future innovation in the company to survive longer term. The company had inadvertently developed a blame culture which crushed fresh ideas at source.

By introducing a continuous improvement programme we were able to ensure that the management team regularly engage with staff at all levels and put into place the mechanisms for them to be able to come up with ideas for change and innovation in a supportive environment.

The measurable benefit of the F1 performance programme for this company has been that, for the first time, the new product will be launched on schedule and an initial forecast of 40 units being sold in this first year has been increased to a target of 60 which they are confident of achieving.

The management team continues to work as a single unit rather than in silos and are already looking ahead to the next product launch to stay ahead of their competition.

By having a clear focus on improved performance and empowering everyone with a common goal – measurable benefits have been achieved and the culture of the business is now supportive and aligned to the long term success of the business.

The business world therefore has a great deal to learn from an F1 team which is a flexible, dynamic organisation that attracts highly talented individuals and inspires them to deliver beyond their own personal potential within a team setting.

By emulating this success, businesses will be on the right track not only to survive this tough economic climate but flourish longer term and compete at the highest level in their own market places.”

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