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February 07, 2021

What can we learn from a Formula One pit stop when looking at Productivity?

What can we learn from a Formula One pit stop when looking at Productivity?

I know it is a bit sad, but I find the process and pace of the pit stop a lesson in how teams could work and how some of these lessons apply to productivity.

A pit stop is where a racing car stops in the pits during a race for refuelling, new tyres, repairs, any mechanical adjustments required as well as cleaning windscreens and removing any debris from radiators. 20 roles are involved. The quickest pit stop is now around 1.6 seconds!



I believe a formula one pit stop truly shows the what can be achieved in a very short timescale. There are several reasons behind this and lots of articles on the methodologies used. My observations include – 



  • Knowing your role – everyone in that formula one pit stop knows exactly what their role is and the roles of their colleagues. This is vital, you need to know what you do and how you fit into the whole. How many times do we lose sight of this in business and miss the context out of the task?



  • Having the training and practice as a team – each person is fully trained and practices until the task is second nature. It needs to be completely second nature to achieve the times managed.



  • Teamwork and communication throughout the tasks – The team is only as good as the weakest link and nowhere is this more obvious that in the pit stop. Each team member communicates the status of their activity clearly and quickly.



  • A compelling sense of urgency – everyone understands and is bought into the urgency, the place buzzes with energy! The pace of the whole activity is completely in the hands of the slowest team member. In a business process we often see bottlenecks or wait times where people are simply unaware of the impact they have on the whole.



  • Very clear objectives – the objective is crystal clear, and everyone is aligned to this objective. The great thing about this clarity is that it acts as an enabler from the outset. It engages everyone and opens up ideas and contributions.



  • Brilliant handovers – handovers between the driver and the mechanics are superb with no loss of time or rework between the two. Handovers are one of the big areas of rework and lost time in business. The more handovers between internal groups you have the higher the risk of rework.



  • An environment conducive to success – the pit stop is built around its purpose, thought through and makes success easier. Is your office?



  • All the right tools are to hand and in their place – there is no making do with poor tools for the job. We often bend a tool around the job we need it to do. We workaround minor shortfalls and issues and tolerate them. We don’t see how they detract from the efficiency of our team.



  • Measuring performance to the nth degree – each team member if measured, each task, each step. Nothing is left out and the data is accurate. The measures are used to unlock improvement and learn. Often a business will measure what is easy to measure rather than the things that will drive improvement.



  • Improving, improving, improving – never accepting that we have reached the end – there is a constant drive to shave off the next millisecond, knowing that each difference could mean the difference between winning and losing the race.



I could go on.



If we created a checklist from the above, how many would we score ourselves strongly on in our organisation? How would productivity improve if we paid attention to these areas?



If you consider one of your frequent and critical processes, how long does it take today? How good is it?



Imagine if you could do (whatever it is you do) with the same energy and co-ordination of a formula one pit stop team?

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