JUST as F1 cars decelerate in the curves and accelerate in the straightaways, organisations and leaders need, at times, to slow down to go fast.
This statement may seem counter-intuitive to most individuals who are drivers of performance and have accelerated in their careers, believing that business is a "straightaway" journey. But the decision to slow down and adjust is, in fact, critical to long-term success, and often one that is overlooked.
Slow down to go fast
Many business leaders worry about this concept of "slowing down" because it not only seems counter-intuitive, but positively detrimental to the fast-reacting, immediate and urgent needs of business. While it is indeed difficult to balance immediate business risks with this need to slow down and review, the process remains essential in order to avoid a purely reactionary approach in business.
When we take a closer look at "slowing down" in F1, as in business, however, we note that it is often not a halting of activity, but rather a change of one.
If we consider the pit stop once again, we notice that even when an F1 car is at rest for a few seconds, it is often cited as one of the most intense periods of the race - a good or bad pit stop could make or break the entire competition for a driver. In this sense, the pit stop is not a complete withdrawal from action but rather, a strategic "break" from the race, where essential decisions and changes are made.
The pit stop as an acceleration activity
In F1 racing, the most significant "slowdown" is the pit stop. In this situation, the car pulls in to where the F1 team readies it again for the increasing intensity of the race ahead. This is a pre-planned and pre-assessed activity. They plan ahead to equip the car with things like new tyres, make adjustments to the set-up, install new components in the event of damage - everything you need to continue the race at a higher speed and intensity, and maintain performance or to address the degradation of performance.
The same is needed in business, both on an organisational and individual level. Like an F1 car, a business and the individuals that drive it have to deliver cutting-edge performance in each curve, at each stage of the race. It is only with development, training, room for reflection - the necessary "pit stops" - that they are able to not just drive successfully on the race track of their business, but move on at a greater intensity, speed and effectiveness.
In F1 racing, a pit stop is a fast-tracked activity, with world-class pit crews accomplishing the task with lightning speed and incredible accuracy within seconds. Success in a race is often related to the team that "pits" the best. Each pit crew has 20 or more members, everybody highly professional as an individual but, even more importantly, able to perform in perfect coordination as a team. Achieving this level of performance takes practice, focus and analysis. Success requires the team to be well-oiled and systematised for maximum results. Excellence is not a random occurrence; it is achieved by design.
Just as a pit stop is really not a stop, likewise, in business, leaders have to plan for strategic pit stops in order to accelerate the performance of their team and organization. The race car (business) has to be in top condition in order to perform in the dynamic market environment that is equally, if not more, high-pressured and competitive.
Ask questions such as: Does the strategy need adjustments? Is the organisation still the right one? Have competitors changed their race strategy? And are there any respective adjustments needed? Do we have the strategy, talent and culture for success? Are we in alignment?
Tuning up the machine and the man in it
Just as much as they are about the machine, races are also about the man inside it.
In addition to tuning up the race car (business) itself prior to the race and during the pit stop, the driver (the top talent) also needs to be supported and aligned with the race strategy. He needs to be equipped with the skills and vehicle knowledge to effectively maximise performance.
But this is clearly not enough. The driver must also have the experience required for success. Driving success is also about learning the lessons from the experiences of others. This wisdom is critical for sustained performance. Wisdom is about listening to key advisors and making good decisions.
In the business parallel, top talents need to be developed and provided with the necessary skills to steer their businesses to success, like pit stops, feedback and review processes provide top talent with individual improvements for maximum result. Not only that, it also helps cement and enhance the individual's connection with the business and commitment over time.
In F1 and business, the race is always fast-paced, intense and relentless. However, putting in place key strategic pit stops, no matter how tempted one may be to simply surge ahead, is the key to individual resilience and in ensuring continued short-term success and long-term excellence.