Fernando Alonso and the Renault team are all set to win the FI championship and get crowned as the “kings of speed” or shall we say all set to become “The Fast”!

The once invincible Michael Schumacher and the Ferrari team are furious observers as they watch the season slip by. Undoubtedly this would leave the other teams thinking on what they should do to make it to the top.

What’s going right for the winner and what’s not working for the “also drove”? Is it the car? Is it the way the pit stops were managed? Is it about race strategy? Is it because of driver capabilities? Was the track very treacherous? Or is it because competition spoilt our game plan during the race?

 
“The ability of an organization to create value for its stakeholders is a function of its mission critical processes. How many organizations have identified leave alone clearly defined these?”

Analysts say that winning the F1 – drivers and constructors championships is a function of four factors. These are engine, chassis, tyres and driver. Teams that have won may not have had the best engine or the best driver but have been best overall. Teams that have mastered these factors in terms of a sound strategy, an able driver, great technology (engine, chassis and the use of relevant tyres) have been successful. Analysts also emphasize that for these tangibles to succeed sound processes are a must that come together in a robust system. These mission critical processes are:

  • Car (chassis) development
  • Engine development
  • Tyre selection,
  • Pit management,
  • Race planning, execution and management for ensuring consistent performance on the various circuits.

It would be interesting to follow how team Ferrari has been successful. They have been very consistent since the FI began in 1950. They won 18 constructors titles and were in the top 3 for an astounding 38 times out of the 55 seasons. How did this happen? Were they only dependent on great drivers or great cars? Of course not! It has all been about sound processes. Michael Schumacher joined Ferrari in 1996. However, there was a lull and the team came back to winning ways only in 1999. What happened?

The team Principal Jean Todt put the vital few processes in place to pull the team through.

It was not only the technical superiority of Ferrari cars. The expert pit management system of Technical Director Ross Brown was also a major asset.

 
A graphic of a race track with a car moving toward chequered flag. The track is supported by pillars – each a process.

Todt and Brown joined Ferrari with Michael. Earlier all three were together with team Benetton earlier. How is it that they were not successful in creating the same magic? The difference, of course, was the mission critical processes. This same story repeats itself the world of business. Everyone wants to win the race.

They too want to win the prize. Their goal is to make profits at the base level and create value for their stakeholders at a higher level. Similarly, the driver and the team winning the prize money have to justify the investments made in the whole race. Here too, the team must provide value to its stakeholders – the viewers, the fans, the race organizers and the investors.

Likewise, every business organization wants to put in place a winning combination of strategy, people, fixed assets, software, processes and culture to win. What are the key success factors that are vital for an organization to keep winning?

Organizational dynamics are complex. A thorough assessment is needed to identify these success factors. Such an evaluation will reveal that the organization is an intricate web of processes that run across the functional silos. Yet how often do companies get down to identifying and defining their mission critical processes? How often do they zero in on the processes they must excel in to achieve their long term goals?

Understanding of these basics is easy. Every FI team too, if asked, would agree. Yet, how many teams manage to achieve success after success? Organizations struggle not because they do not know what to do. It is the consistency of implementation that is the culprit. Others become dependent upon the expertise of a few. When these experts leave, their methodology goes out with them. There is no focus on the creation of inter-dependent organizational processes that ought to have been embedded in their wood work.

The so called process-driven organizations have their own fault lines. How much time does the upper management spend on process excellence as compared to say strategizing or driving the business through financial metrics? Who owns the responsibility for identifying and implementing mission-critical processes? Does the senior management have a role in this?

 
“Only the organizations that quickly adapt to changes in the environment continue to remain successful. They have institutionalized processes that take such changes in their stride.”

The rules of the game keep changing. Just when it was becoming predictable that Ferrari would win (becomes a monopoly); the FI bosses changed the rules (in the business language, use of MRTP or other legal or environmental changes). As per the new rules teams have to have the same engine and tyres both for the qualifiers and the main race. The result: A need for reliability, resilience, adaptability and better planning. Several issues have therefore resulted during this season. Ferrari has struggled. Renault has capitalized on the changes. The US GP had most of the teams unwilling to participate due to the risks. The field was wide open for Schumacher and Ferrari. A win at last! In stead, what went wrong for team Ferrari? They still had the best cars, drivers and systems. However, they were not able to adapt to the changes as well as Renault.

This brings us to the adaptability of organizational processes. Do organizations achieve a linkage of the environmental changes with their vital processes? Why is it that the time and energy spent on making the business processes robust low as compared to the same dedicated to financial numbers? Is this not similar to driving by looking only in the rear view mirror?

A good streak may help anyone to win occasionally. We all know about organizations normally doing well. We also know that many of them fall apart due to not being able to adapt to environmental changes. Their business processes are not robust enough to adjust to the external changes. During such times, of course there is introspection. Even the health of the processes is looked at. However, once the crisis is over, they get back to business as usual. The inertia of doing things in the same old way asserts itself. Would it be business as usual once Ferrari manages to overcome current woes? It would be, but only after all the learning from this season is fed back to the system.

It would be interesting to note how team Ferrari fares in the next season. Would it be a repeat of this year or would the intrinsic strength of this team with Michael Schumacher or another driver put them back on their winning ways?

It today’s boom times most businesses are doing well. Will the enlightened leaders show the wisdom to examine their mission-critical processes? Which are the vital few processes that if made robust would continue to make them win year after year regardless of the changes in the external environment? In these times of globalization and rapid changes, making long term forecasts is not easy. Instead “winners” have no option but to institutionalize robust and interdependent business processes. Then and then alone they will achieve speed and flexibility to adapt to changes that they have to face up to.

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