Flow in the F1-pit - thoughts on an inspiring video

· August 9, 2017

This little clip pops up from time to time in my twitter feed

I finding absolutely mesmerising and it’s fascinating to watch and see each of the individual crew members in action. Pick one and follow his actions and you’ll see what I mean.


Let me tell you what thought about.

There’s a lot of people involved here, at a quick count I see 21 crew members each with highly specialised skills for the job coming up.

  • Did you see the guys holding the tires for the guy operating the drill
  • Did you see the two guys at either side of the front-lift guy that is brushing (?) part of the front wing?
  • And my favourite, from right tire removing guy. Notice how he positions his hands to minimise the movements needed to remove that tire as fast as possible

There’s also a lot of specialised gear in action;

  • the lift at the front and in the back - notice that they are different since their applications are different
  • The long beams with, what I presume, pressurised air to drive the drills for the wheels
    • Did you see the spare drill for each position?
    • Did you see the guy hooking in his headset in the cord inside the beam?
  • The drills and the bolts on the wheels are custom-made to be fast to take on and off at this speed.

And the list goes on. It’s so cool to see in action.

But what fascinates and inspire me even more is the history and strategy that led up to this. This shows what amazing feats (ca 2 sec to change 4 tires, refuel and make adjustments) when an organisation optimise for flow.

Here’s what I notice as I think about it:

  • Everyone in the crew knows the goal - win the race! It’s super clear
    • They are working as a team to achieve this goal (notice how the right-front-tire team is talking to each other just before the car enters the pit)
    • They are highly specialised (I wanna be right-front-wing-swiper-supervisor too!) but still works together. Should an emergency or blockage happen they know who should ditch what they are doing now and where to help
  • The guys in this team is not active throughout the race. In fact I would think that most of the crew pretty much do nothing else but changing that tire, during the entire race.
    • They have optimised their organisation for flow (or the car) not resource utilisation (making sure that all crew member are busy)
  • All of those small, small improvements comes from thousands of hours of deliberate training and practice
    • I’m betting that the way they work change after every race. A new way to position yourself, should I hold my hands like this or even a new type of drill
    • I’m betting that the crew members are encouraged to improve their ways, rather than waiting to be told how to act.
    • I’m betting every single move of all of the team members are tracked and measured, retrospected and improved. And I think they do that without anyone asking them too - there’s no other reason to be in the team. They are here to win.
    • I’m betting that the right-front-tire-remover guy is not rewarded for his individual contribution/performance but rather the overall team performance.
  • No expense is spared to reach the goal
    • These guys are not free and the drivers, in F1, are among the best paid sportsmen in the world.
    • The gear is all custom made
    • The car is … expensive. To say the least

All of this… because winning the game is important for this team - every team on the F1 circuit. In fact - that’s the number one reason to have a F1-team.

[Here I wrote a long section on that in most business don’t have clear goal, don’t optimise their organisation to reach that goal but rather to utilise their resources to the maximum or that we are very particular about having everyone work the same way but very vague on the why / the goal. But I removed all that. It became snarky]

Seeing this amazing team in action inspired me to look for clearer goals, better flow and opportunities to learn and improve everywhere.

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