Success on the track is dependent on many variables. As a team owner or owner/driver, it is your responsibility to make sure your team has the right infrastructure to support a winning effort. This includes tools, equipment, and people to make winning a realistic, attainable goal. Without the complete package, the chances of you and your team becoming winners is just that: a chance occurrence.
Developing a team is not an easy undertaking. Many fortunes are made and lost over this seemingly simple task. How tough can it be? If you have been around any group of people, it is easy to see that getting them to work together can be a very difficult process. Herding cats is easier.
You may think that team development is applicable only to professional racing teams. Wrong! Any race team is just that-a team-and the ones that do the best are not successful just by accident or random occurrence. It may seem like a result of luck, but the truth is that someone is behind the scenes acting as the coach or facilitator. Someone has taken responsibility and is making it happen.
Racing has become a much more complex process than it was 20 or even 10 years ago. Added to that is the very expensive prospect of getting a car to the track, equipping it to race, and outfitting a team.
In my experience observing multiple teams on a weekly basis, it becomes very clear to see the differences between the teams that are winning on a regular basis and those that are just participating. When the car for a successful team arrives at the track, each person on the team knows the individual and collective responsibilities for the day, the evening, or the weekend. Everybody has a specific job to accomplish to get the car and the driver ready to race.
Another significant trait is the willingness to do multiple jobs. If one team member is delayed for any reason, someone else on the team fills in to make sure the team is ready to race. No job is more important than the other; they all contribute to the success or failure of the team as a unit. Given that they win together, they also lose together. While it is easy to explain team dynamics, it is difficult to accomplish given that people can sometimes be difficult to control.
Step 1It is the job of the team owner or the crew chief to mold the team into a cohesive unit. In a smaller team this person may be the owner/driver/crew chief. This activity involves planning and defining job duties within the team. This is where it starts to get a bit more difficult, requiring a real effort.
Defining the specific duties of individual crew members may require the creation of documentation that outlines the duties of each person on any given night, or a general description of the tasks that need to be accomplished. While this may sound like a daunting task, it is really not that difficult to accomplish. First, as owner or crew chief, take an hour or so to write out the activities that take place over the course of a race night. This includes everything from loading the car and fueling the tow vehicle to arriving at the track, unloading and setting up the pit, parking the tow vehicle and trailer, and getting the car ready for mud packing or the first practice session. Record what is done, who is doing it, and the methods for ensuring that it is accomplished.
Then, develop a checklist or a verbal report to define what is really happening each race day and who is doing each job. This could take the form of a simple list. List the individual tasks on the left side of the page. Next, delegate specific tasks to team members. Keep in mind that more than one team member may work to complete a specific task. The team member(s) will be listed on the right side of the list, across from the task.
This list only addresses getting to the track, and it will be much larger when completed. It is a starting point nonetheless. Include your crew/team in the next iteration of the list. This list includes activities at the shop on race days and spans from getting to the track to the activities included there before loading up, to getting the car and the team back home. This list forms the genesis of a master document. It gives you a complete inventory of the tasks necessary to campaign your car. This also helps you to further define tasks and develop a working checklist for getting the car ready to go to the track, doing pre-race settings, and performing any adjustments that need to be made at the track prior to going out for the first time. You will be surprised at the number of steps once the whole team starts spelling out the details of what they do each race day.
Step 2With the list in hand, you can separate the individual tasks and identify the skill sets required to accomplish a given set of tasks. This can be separated into logical subgroups that relate to systems on the car-such as engine, suspension, tires, brakes-driver preparation, logistics, and record keeping. This will help you as the owner/driver to determine the skill sets you need to develop on your team. It will also let you visualize if any one person is doing too much or too little on the team. This identifies a need, and it will be up to you to implement a development model.
Many of you are not in the position to cull through many applications and rsums from people who want to be part of your team. If you are, then you are in the minority of Saturday night race teams. Most small teams do not have the luxury of having many people who want to join them. We are talking about a team of three to five people at the most. But, for your existing team members, that is the point: If you see skill sets that are under-represented, it is up to you to develop a mitigation process to address and develop those missing skills. It is time to take your team to the next level. (A well-developed and defined team is also a necessary attribute to help secure sponsors.)
We have added colors to the same task-basic list to help delineate which subgroup the tasks fit into based on the list of skills we developed using our subgrouping strategy. It is clear that the tasks done in the early part of our race day require some skills that fall into the logistic and hospitality skill sets. While this list is only a start, it is clear that there are different skill sets required just to get the team to the races. You may already know this, but you need to gather the data to support what you may view as facts. Until you get the data, you will miss something if you rely on feelings and not an empirical data set.
Once you review the list in its final form, you need to determine which skill sets you are lacking and determine how to develop those skills. It may be as simple as moving some responsibility around on the team, enabling some of the less-experienced team members to work more closely with a more-experienced team member. If this is not an option, you may want to look into some outside help. If your team members are really dedicated to winning and developing as a team, you might want to pay for some technical schooling to help bring a particular team member or members up to speed on a skill you need. It may be as simple as taking some classes at the local community college.
It may sound like a crazy idea to send members of your race team to school as part of a team development initiative-crazy like a fox! I asked some guys at the local speedway about this topic, and the majority of them were very excited by the idea that they might get the team owner to send them to school to get focused training on a specific automotive skill. Granted, it will be very difficult to locate a local school teaching Race Suspension 101, but some schools offer advanced automotive classes that are very applicable. If you live in the Carolinas, there are several schools that offer racing-related programs. If you live elsewhere, you will have to look a bit harder to find schools that offer racing lasses.
Another option would be sending team members to special seminars offered by some of the various industry suppliers. Some of the manufacturers of welding equipment offer classes that teach advanced welding techniques. This is a great solution if you find that welding skills are what you are lacking within your team. If that is not an option, you may have to train the team members yourself by giving them a greater level of responsibility on the team. This baptism by fire is one way to help your team gain valuable experience. The point is that if you find that your team is short on specific skill sets, you may have no other options than to hire some help that fits the need or train the team yourself.
But wait-we are not out of options just yet. You still have the lists developed as the earlier part of this analysis. You may find that by changing the responsibilities within your team you may be able to strengthen from within. This is a true OJT (On the Job Training) opportunity. In industry, they call this type of activity cross-training. The first step is to use that list to make sure everybody on the team knows what jobs they are responsible for and when they need to accomplish them. Just making the team members more efficient in the execution of the various jobs that are necessary to support the car will raise your team efficiency level. Doing different types of jobs within the team produces several positive results:
1. It offers the opportunity to learn something new. (Remember, this is not a positive for all people. Some people like what they are doing and may not want to take on the challenge of learning something new.)
2. Changing job responsibilities makes the team members have a better sense of belonging and importance to the team.
3. It makes each team member more flexible should someone on the team leave or become injured or sick.
4. It gives the owner/driver some latitude and further capacity when it comes to expanding team member roles and responsibility.
Getting a higher performing team is the ultimate win-win situation for the racer. The team will have more fun when everybody is working together and toward the same goal. The key to the whole process is communication. It is so important to make sure the team is involved in the decisions you will make regarding changes to the program. This is not to say that the team has to have complete concurrence to the path you are taking or the decisions you will make. What you need is a clear path of learning and development and a timeline to measure your progress.
Learning is the key to development. Measuring team performance can be a painful process, but it does not have to be. Make the process of measuring a second-nature activity. Here are some characteristics of a good set of metrics:
* Makes a meaningful contribution to the development of the team
* Is easy to measure-data collection does not cause any undue hardships on the team
* Drives the right behaviors
* Is fairly easy to track and document
The third bullet point is one of the most important things to consider when developing your team metrics. Metrics will drive behaviors. Take the time to determine what behaviors you want to develop within your team. Please remember that this is another idea that is much easier to articulate than to develop and implement. Make very sure that what you are measuring is of real importance to the team and not just something you would like to have. It is your job as architect of this improvement process to separate the real need from the wanted or would-be-nice-to-have components. Development of a viable metric will be a key to measuring and developing your pathway to success. This metric should be tied to the overall goal. The goal we talked about earlier was improving the performance of the team. While that may be a bit broad and lacking the specific detail you seek, the measurement needs to be simple and to the point.
While many may scoff at the development of team metrics, they are critical in measuring the health of the organization. One has to wonder how many professional teams do not have some kind of team metrics. I would guess that every team that made the Chase for the Nextel Cup has a broad spectrum of team metrics. If you do not measure, it is impossible to improve. I would suggest something as simple as measuring the number of hours it takes to prepare the car each week.
As a team, you need to develop a way to measure your performance. Another simple measurement might be to track how often you find that an important tool or part was left at the shop-the left-behind metric. It is important that the team metric is aligned with the goals of the team. It may be as simple as the average finishing position. Is it going up or down? This is easy to calculate and the historical data is easy to get. Start out slowly. Develop an initial plan, present your plan to the team, get feedback from the team, then develop a list of goals and a plan for implementation.
The plan is almost as simple as the directions on a bottle of shampoo: plan, measure, implement, improve, and repeat. Sometimes the best recipes are the simple ones.
|Task ||WHO |
|Fuel the truck ||Bob |
|Buy food and drinks ||Bill |
|Buy ice ||Bill |
|Clean the cooler ||Bill |
|Fill the water cooler ||Bill |
|Load the tools in the trailer ||Bob |
|Load the food in the trailer ||Bill |
|Load the car on the trailer ||Bill |
|Load the driver's equipment ||John |
|Fill the air tank ||Bill |
|Make sure the generator has fuel ||Bob |
|Attach the trailer to the truck ||Bob & Bill |
|Secure the electrical connections ||Bob |
|and the safety chains || |
|Fill the ATV with fuel ||Bill |
|Start the ATV, make sure it runs ||Bill |
|Load the ATV ||Bill |
|Pick up the rest of the crew ||Bob & Bill |
|Drive to track ||Bob |
|Unload trailer ||Buddy |
|Set up the pit spot ||John |
|Park the truck and trailer ||Bob |
|TASK ||WHO ||TYPE |
|Fuel the truck ||Bob ||Logistic |
|Buy food and drinks ||Bill ||Hospitality |
|Buy ice ||Bill ||Hospitality |
|Clean the cooler ||Bill ||Hospitality |
|Fill the water cooler ||Bill ||Hospitality |
|Load the tools in the trailer ||Bob ||Tuning |
|Load the food in the trailer ||Bill ||Hospitality |
|Load the car on the trailer ||Bill ||Logistic |
|Load the driver's equipment ||John ||Driver |
|Fill the air tank ||Bill ||Tuning |
|Make sure the generator has fuel ||Bob ||Logistic |
|Attach the trailer to the truck ||Bob & Bill ||Logistic |
|Secure the electrical connections ||Bob ||Logistic |
|and the safety chains |
|Fill the ATV with fuel ||Bill ||Support |
|Start the ATV, make sure it runs ||Bill ||Support |
|Load the ATV ||Bill ||Logistic |
|Pick up the rest of the crew ||Bob & Bill ||Logistic |
|Drive to track ||Bob ||Logistic |
|Unload trailer ||Buddy ||Logistic |
|Set up the pit spot ||John ||Tuning |
|Park the truck and trailer ||Bob ||Logistic |
|Go to registration ||John ||Driver |