How a team culture fuels high performance
A Formula One team has to design, manufacture, develop and operate a high performance vehicle which combines technologies from aerospace, automotive and ICT. Compliance is essential, so too ensuring that the cars are safe, reliable and high performing. Deadlines cannot be missed; the Grands Prix which comprise the FIA Formula One World Championships represent series of non-negotiable deadlines.
Team work is key; the top teams have 1000 staff, only 10% of whom attend the races, so the high performance team work starts weeks, months and years before an event in the research & development facilities and factories where these fascinating Formula One machines are developed. Trackside, the high performance team work continues, perfectly exemplified by the pit crews who can execute precision pit stops in 2 seconds.
Developing the right team behaviour and culture is a key focus for the leadership teams. This means ensuring that everyone is accountable, takes responsibility and understands the importance of avoiding silo-mentality and embracing cross functional communications.
Alignment behind the team’s strategies and ambitious goals is a vital, so too having the agility to flex strategy in the face of constant changes in technology and the performance of competitors.
More than any other sport, Formula One has embraced a data-driven business culture, particularly as regards its near-obsession with marginal gains and continuous improvement.
Starting in the late 1980’s teams began to develop the ability to gather, process, store and utilise information streams in order to better manage risk, optimise performance and guarantee outcomes.
Data acquisition and analytics is now a cornerstone technology, enabling drivers, trackside engineers and headquarters staff to determine precisely how the car and driver is behaving, diagnose issues, resolve problems and speed decision making. As information flows seamlessly around the globe, linking car, team and factory, data security is essential, and robust systems ensure protection from multiple threats.
The use of simulators has transformed driver training, enabling systems to be learned, tested and developed in a virtual environment prior to real-world deployment. And with the advent of additive manufacturing, machine learning and AI across Formula One, the sport’s use of Big Data to transform all aspects of its operations is set to accelerate further.
Safety is a first order priority in Formula One and the last 25 years have seen a profound change to the way in which the sport manages risk. Between 1950 and 1994 there were over 40 driver fatalities at events; there has been one since. This has been made possible by creating clear priorities as regards safety, mandated by the sport’s leadership and shared by the individual teams and race promoters.
Process safety has played a key part in this transformation, whilst a data-driven approach to understanding incidents and accidents, backed up by extensive research and development, has created cars capable of withstanding high-energy impacts, and fully protecting their occupants.
The safety and risk management story goes far beyond the racing itself, the employees and contractors of the teams benefitting from best practices shared between the industry’s HSE management. Furthermore the sport’s governing body, the FIA, transfers knowledge gained from motor sport into promoting road safety around the world through its Action for Road Safety Campaign, employing the United Nations Safe Systems Approach and is a founding partner of the European New Car Approval Programme (EuroNCAP) which has transformed vehicle safety.
Driving business benefits from the pace of change
Business models break, new ones develop, technology evolves, regulations are revised and customers alter buying habits.
Every industry is witnessing change, and Formula One is no different; as a multi-billion dollar sport it has seen unprecedented change in the last 20 years. The number of events has grown, shifting from its heartland of Europe to a truly global calendar which sees 65% of events in long-haul destinations. The media landscape is changing out of all recognition; gone are the audiences made up of families watching television together, instead global sports are having to develop products to appeal to all ages and demographics, across multiple digital media platforms.
Not only are the sport’s teams doing business in new places and in new ways, but diversification strategies are being implemented as business models evolve. The EU ban on Tobacco Advertising and Sponsorship in 2005 caused a seismic shift, so do did the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Today teams are selling technology solutions into diverse sectors including automotive, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and aerospace; a radical transformation for Formula One teams, now operating as technology providers to industry.
Above all, Formula One’s leadership teams have had to communicate, manage and implement transformation strategies, bringing their teams with them, and ensuring that they make the most from embracing change.
One thing has become very clear during the course of working at hundreds of business events across a wide range of industry sectors; content from Formula One can be tailored to suit any business theme or topics, primarily because Formula One itself is a business.
Leadership topics around building, leading and inspiring teams of people are often combined with insights into building resilience into a business, coping with adversity or the importance of celebrating successes.
Since Formula One’s leaders understand the importance of empowerment, adaptive leadership skills are often discussed; providing teams with the support they need, intervening when necessary, plus mentoring and coaching the next generation of leaders.
Building client centricity into a business’s day to day operations is reflected in the way that Formula One teams have sought to provide their corporate partners with a wide range of added-value marketing solutions. In more recent years they have also had to become adept at meeting the demands of new customers, in new markets segments and geographies, while operating to an increasingly diversified business model.
The same focus that goes into providing service to a Formula One driver during a 2 second pit stop can be applied in ensuring seamless customer service, and a winning performance.
There are over 200 brands involved in Formula One, and for the leadership teams and drivers it becomes part and partial of the day job to understand each brand’s values and the way in which their owners nurture and cultivate them over time.
Formula One has helped make Ferrari arguably the most powerful automotive brand in the world, and made Red Bull a household name, and powerful insights are available in how brand positioning, content creation and promotion lie at the very heart of this sports business.
The main point about themes and topics is to be understand what is required of the speaker, discuss the relevant touch points, and to work on crafting a keynote presentation that will be entertaining, insightful and – most of all – relevant to the audience.