May 152012

precision and practice

The Importance Of Precision And Practice:  The Formula One Pitstop Example

I was watching a Formula One race this weekend, waiting for an English Premiership game to come on, and it reminded me of the importance of precision and practice.

It has been a long time since I watched Formula One racing and I was completely amazed by everything I saw, from the onboard cameras that make you feel like you have the point of view of the driver, to the incredible concentration of the drivers and their ability to make split-second adjustments based on the actions of other drivers and the performance of their car.   Nothing amazed me more though than the speed and precision of the pitstops and the pit crews.

Under normal circumstances, how long do you think it would take to change four tires and refuel a car?  I’ve not tried it recently, so I’m not exactly sure, but I’d estimate that we’re talking a matter of minutes, at best.  How fast do you think the Formula One crews can get it done?  The best I saw was 3.5 seconds!  What?  Yes, they changed four tires and refueled the car and had all the equipment out of the way and the car back underway down pit lane in less than four seconds!  If they had to change the nose cone of the car as well, it was still under ten seconds!

I had to check my glasses a couple of times to make sure I was seeing it correctly, but it was indeed less than four seconds.  That completely blew my mind.

So, being a coach and someone who’s always been focused on peak performance and how to make it happen, I asked myself how in the world the pit crews got this done.  It boiled down to the following:

1.)    They understood the task at its most basic elements.  As I’ve written many times before, if you want to become great in any endeavor, you must first understand the key requirements to achieve greatness.  Those pit crews have done this and they’ve used every technology and technique available to understand the key elements at their most basic level.

2.)    They separated the tasks and assigned specific team members to become specialized in those tasks.  Just as most any team in business or sports has members who are specialists and who need to become proficient in their specialty, Formula One pit crews are no different.

3.)    They understood the benchmark performance of other teams and they set their own incremental goals to meet and exceed that level of performance.

4.)    They practiced incessantly, both individually and as a team, to perfect their roles and work toward improving their performance.  They employed deliberate practice, that is, practice with a feedback loop, for as long as necessary to achieve their objectives.

5.)    They identified their weaknesses and worked with team members to improve in those areas that were slowing the team down.  Team members who could not meet the standard were replaced with others who could.

6.)    They sought world-class analysis and coaching of their performance, in an effort to make the pitstop a competitive advantage for their team.  In one case I heard of, the team hired a human performance coaching company started by Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson to analyze every aspect of their performance and recommend specific training exercises to address and overcome any areas of weakness.

Granted, these Formula One teams are extremely well funded and they pull out all the stops to optimize their performance, from both a training and equipment perspective.  It’s all about precision and practice, and of course, results.  Not everyone has the luxury of spending the kind of money these teams do, but I think you’ll agree, most of the principles they employ can be used by anyone.  In fact, all but number six above can be used by any individual and any team.

So, ask yourself a few questions with regard to the performance of your teams’ and your own individual performance:

1.)   Do you have an in-depth understanding of the key elements required to achieve greatness in your endeavors, whether they be business, sports, personal, or otherwise?

2.)   Have you become proficient in all of those tasks?  If not, have you identified and trained team members to be proficient in those elements?

3.)   Do you understand the benchmark, best-in-class, performance of other individuals, companies, and/or teams with which you compete?  Have you set incremental goals to get you to the point where you meet, then exceed your competitors’ performance?

4.)   Are you committed to practice incessantly and deliberately until you meet, then exceed your objectives?  Do you and your team members have that type of commitment and perseverance?

5.)   Are you willing and do you possess the necessary knowledge to take a critical look at your performance on all levels, identify your weaknesses, then do what it takes to reach an acceptable level of performance?

6.)   Have you sought the counsel of coaches and experts who can help you achieve your objectives more quickly and efficiently.  I understand that you may not have the luxury of contracting with a world-class performance analysis company or coach, but if you’re serious about performance improvement, you should find a way to work with professionals, even if it’s just a little at a time.

I hope you will take a close look at your performance and that of the business, sports and other teams and organizations with which you are involved.  Be honest with yourself and decide if you’re ready to step up and seek greatness in your endeavors.  Either way, your decision is your own.  It may change, but trust yourself to make the right decision for where you are now.  Regardless of what you decide, usually you will be better off being proactive and committing to a course of action, rather than just letting things happen.  Take control of your future.  Be proactive.  Be precise.  Practice.

I look forward to your thoughts.  Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.

Paul Morin

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  • jennifer

    Consider some factors towards the reality is a great way to find what’s the best to do so, thanks for sharing this wonderful post…

  • Randy Bowden

    Great analogy Paul and good insight!

  • Thanks, Randy! Much appreciated.

  • As Randy Bowden stated: Great analogy.

    I like being in control, this is not news to me, but as I look around me, many, many people could benefit from reading this. I am sharing!

  • More leaders should think like you Paul, teamwork is a beautiful thing. I am impressed that the team changed four tires under four seconds.

  • Well said, Karla. Thanks! Teamwork IS a beautiful thing!

  • I like this because I use a team of people to make my biz run smoothly and if each one isn’t truly clear on what their task is or the overall big picture, it doesn’t work. Thanks for sharing the benefits of teamwork!

  • Thanks, Martha! Yes, at the end of the day, unless you’re involved in an individual endeavor (hard to find and truly individual endeavors), it’s all about teamwork. Precision and practice are a big part of the equation when it comes to achieving optimal performance as a team or as an individual!