Among the range of topics I get asked to speak about, team work is one of the most popular, and it isn’t difficult to understand why. Getting people to work together, communicate effectively and achieve the organisation’s goal is never straightforward. Throw into the mix the fact that many people work in international businesses with differences in language, culture and, yes, time zones from one part of the world to the other, and the issues quickly deepen.
Formula One is a technology business, and at its heart the teams are in essence engineering companies which design, develop, manufacture and bring to market a highly sophisticated product; An F1 car that has more in common with an aircraft than the vehicle you and I drive to work each day.
The people and suppliers who work for these companies have to work together seamlessly, and all the time with their eyes fixed firmly on immoveable deadlines; the 20 Grands Prix events spread across the world from March through to November each year. There is no point turning up on Monday morning with the best product in the world; the race starts every Sunday and if you haven’t kept pace with the continuous improvements required to compete, you quickly become an also-ran.
The collaborative approach required to produce and operate these F1 cars is astonishing, and a lesson to wider industry in terms of project management. Not only is the car to be produced on time, every time, with new regulations to meet and technologies to embrace every year, it has to be done with a critical emphasis on the fundamentals; safety and reliability.
For the team at the race track, the racing can only begin when the team of suppliers and the team of personnel back at headquarters have done their job over the course of many months. Once the race starts, the team work is more public than ever, and never more so than when the end user of the product – the F1 driver – comes into the pits for some ‘customer service’ two or three times in each race. These days, with refuelling banned, the top teams aim to replace all four wheels and tyres, adjust the front and rear wings, and get the car back out onto the track in 3.5 seconds. Now that’s team work.