If you live or work in Indianapolis, then you know that May is all about the Indy 500.
Known as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the Indy 500 features 33 of the top racecar drivers racing for 200 laps to complete 500 miles at the fastest time.
It’s a fun event for everyone to witness. But for CIOs and IT leaders, it can also be a learning lesson in speed, agility, and teamwork.
How do race cars racing in a loop at speeds over 200 mph relate to IT organizations? While on the surface, it seems as though IT organizations and the Indy 500 have nothing in common. But, there are actually quite a few similarities between winning the Indy 500 and leading a highly efficient IT organization.
For most drivers, winning the Indy 500 will come down to the pit crew. The pit crew is a team of mechanics who work on the racecars during the “pit stops” of a race. Pit crews perform the work of refueling, changing tires, or any mechanical adjustments needed during the race.
The pit crew is a lot like the IT organization of a business. They might not be the face of the race team, but they do the heavy lifting that helps the driver win the race. Much like the IT team who implements and manages the technology that keeps businesses growing, winning customers, and enabling value.
Let’s look at some of the hallmarks of a great pit crew and how that compares to a great IT team.
A Great Pit Crew Will:
1. Work together to accomplish their goals
Everyone has a defined role on a pit team, and there is no room for a single superstar. No matter how fast one person is at completing their job, the driver can’t leave the pit until everyone has done their job. As Derrell Edwards, a jackman for NASCAR’s No. 27 Richard Childress Racing crew once said, “Pit crewing is like a symphony. Everything has to be in sync for it to sound good.”
A great IT organization must also put the goals of the business above any individual needs or preferences. They must abandon any silo mentality they may have and focus on the success of the team – the business – ahead of the success of individuals.
2. Have defined roles and processes
Speed is essential in a great pit crew, however, it’s just as essential for everyone to stay out of everyone else’s way. Imagine the pit crew member who is in charge of changing the tire somehow cutting off the one in charge of refueling. It would be pure chaos. Fantastic pit crews are a little like a ballet. Every member has their own timing and their own movements and they must understand how that timing and movement work around one another to create a masterpiece. They’re expected to perform their roles perfectly without getting in the way of anyone else who is doing their role.
Great IT organizations also have well-defined roles and clear processes. Everyone understands who is doing what, when, and how it contributes to the overall goals of the company. Members of excellent IT organizations also have a clear understanding of how every role works together in a process. As a result, everyone is empowered to complete their part of the process to the best of their ability.
3. Identify bottlenecks and weaknesses
Racing at the Indy 500 level isn’t about driving as fast as you can. It’s about eliminating as many mistakes as possible to shave off as many seconds as possible. Minor mistakes or bottlenecks can ruin races and pit crews are trained to continually identify and eliminate any bottlenecks.
IT organizations also have to be continually identifying areas for improvement and creating solutions that won’t slow down business growth. When IT organizations prioritize identifying and eliminating bottlenecks, no matter how small, they are able to optimize their speed and success in the long run.
4. They play by the rules
In elite racing, every pit stop is recorded and 8 officials review this footage to determine that everything was performed correctly and within race regulations. If the pit crew’s timing is even one second too early, their driver could be penalized. Pit crews are trained to understand the specific regulations that are in place and learn how to excel within those parameters.
Likewise, excellent IT organizations understand they must work inside business policies. To a certain degree, they must play “office politics”, as well as adhere to procedures that exist outside of the IT organization. They must do this in order to garner support from the other parts of the organization as well as the C-suite. If IT doesn’t understand or follow the rules of the business, they could be penalized by being excluded from strategy discussions or business projects.
5. They use data to drive decisions and create processes so they can stay consistent
This last point is something that many casual racing fans don’t understand about pit crews. It’s also an area where many IT organizations struggle.
In the heat of the race, pit crews don’t have the luxury of being able to figure out what actions to take when something goes wrong. In a sport where there are millions of “worst-case” scenarios, they must plan ahead and create processes for everything. Race crews are constantly monitoring everything about their cars, their drivers and race conditions. They have data on everything and they prepare their pit crews accordingly for various scenarios so that if for whatever reason, an unexpected pit stop occurs, the pit crew doesn’t have to stop to think about what needs to be done. They simply follow the protocol that’s already been set.
Smart IT organizations also use data to drive decisions and leverage defined processes. By doing this, these IT organizations are able to address problems quickly and efficiently, with minimum impact to the business.
How can you apply lessons of a great pit crew?
It’s important to note that no matter how fast race cars become or what technological advancements occur in the sport, winning races will still heavily rely on the success of a pit crew.
The same can be said for IT and the business. Technology will advance and more tools and trends will be introduced to the business. But much of the success of an IT organization will remain on these core tenants as exemplified by pit crews: the ability to work as a team, having well-defined roles, continual improvement, and leveraging data-driven, consistent processes.
This is why good ITSM still matters – and will always matter – for your business.
1.Map value streams
Understand who and what drives value within your business. Map how IT contributes to that value. Remember, each member of the pit crew understands how they contribute to winning a race. Your IT team should also feel the same way!
2. Identify services and define the service portfolio
Mapping value streams will allow you to start to identify services that enable the business to meet its goals. Define your services and include the cost of ownership, needed resources, and the business value of what IT accomplishes. This will help you understand the business of the business and how IT contributes so you can play within the defined rules of the organization.
3. Review current processes
Look for waste in your processes, such as bottlenecks or delays. Eliminate or improve any parts of processes that contribute to these delays. Also, review where a lack of defined processes is holding you back. Identify issues where ownership or roles were unclear and address why that situation occurred.
There is no single “race day” for IT teams, but IT has to always be race-ready. Take the steps now to start getting race-ready. Follow the lead of great pit teams and soon, you’ll be seeing the results of that effort as your business zooms ahead of the competition!Share