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Decisive Inclusion
By Jeff Butcher on May 27, 2012

Racing crew chiefs sign up for pressure-packed decision making and relish the opportunity to make important choices with split second efficiency. With all the distraction and activity found during racing action, crew chiefs analyze available information and act with the authority creating a teamwork model that applies in business.

Crew chiefs sit atop their pit box perches and look forward to the challenge of hundreds of crunch time decisions. Like crew chiefs, great managers  relish making important decisions. During the race battle there is little time to consult others. Prior planning identifies the specific roles of each team member and with no more than a single word, or hand signal, eager team members perform their individual duties in a well choreographed team performance. Teammates that are included perform based on their own integrity. Individual contributions are made even in an unsupervised fashion.  Quality people make good choices based on their own values and always do the right thing even when others aren’t looking.

Clear direction and role identification allows team members to complete tasks in a nearly automatic fashion. Repetitions and rehearsal during the week results in great work on race day.  These same team members are a wealth of information. The people that are on the floor, and at the center of activity, know the strengths and weaknesses of the entire organization. Information at the point of attack should be regularly cultivated by leaders.

Wise crew chiefs consult their teams during the week when there is ample time for discussion. Trial and error outside of the pressure of crunch time increases the odds of producing profitable decisions. The best information comes from the people that actually perform the work.

In business, the crew chief role can be interchanged with president, foreman or any team leader position.  The common theme is that effective leaders consult their teams when there is time to collect and debate the information. As managers, we can mimic a race team that prepares in the shop for optimal race day performance.  Storing gathered team information for future reference is a sound best practice.

Effective managers will improve decision outcomes if they learn to differentiate situations that fit the committee approach from when to make independent management choices. Employees that are included in the committee approach are content when independent command choices (direct orders) are made. Regular involvement allows team members to clearly see why command decisions are needed. During pit stops, everyone listens to one message and discussion is saved for another time.  The result is clean execution of processes improved through a group forum. Defining when the chain of command is needed, balanced by team participation and ROI, leads to better choices and a energized team.

When time is short, intimate knowledge of your collective team resources allows the successful manager to make independent decisions with the best chance of group approval. We as managers need to prepare for situations where group consultation is not possible. Independent decisions that are born with the collective team data stored in memory result in independent decisions that instinctively reflect the needs of the group. Managers that reach a high level of quality decision making have learned that regular inclusion and communications with their team produces an efficient and loyal operation. Successful leaders have the insight to make independent crunch time decisions based on the combined historical knowledge of their team.

Role identification and clear instruction provides the framework for a productive group. Content co-workers identify and discover a never ending supply of great ideas. Leading and following are replaced by guidance and participation.

Race day decisions made by crew chiefs are contrasted by the group inclusion found weekly in their race shops. Comparing your company decision making process to that of a crew chief will help you form the mental vision to make efficient decisions. The crew member making their contribution to a 12 second pit stop is very much like what we see in business.

The race day analogy clearly depicts how our decisions can’t always be supported by the committee approach, yet we know we make better choices if we include the appropriate team members often. We can vividly see how during a pit stop every member of the team has a clear and identifiable role. A pit stop dramatically points out the need for a time frame and a good deadline!

The crew chief comparison shows that game time success is dependent on contributions from the entire team. The collective knowledge of a group creates the decisiveness required for ongoing success. Effective teams have clear direction, identified roles and a time frame to complete their tasks.

If we as managers are respectfully confident in our decisions, then the groups that we lead will cover our shortcomings.  A sound decision making process that allows employees an active voice, results in actions that evolve into the wellbeing of all involved. Sound leadership is followed by personal and financial prosperity. Racing crew chiefs know how to motivate and how to create the ultimate team environment. Managers will be well served to emulate the teamwork model created by professional race team crew chiefs. Inclusion is contagious. Winning on the track or in business includes the entire organization.

Go Forward – Move Ahead
Jeff Butcher
JOES Racing Products, Inc

About the Author
Jeff Butcher's picture
Jeff Butcher is a veteran of the racing industry based in the Pacific Northwest.
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