• Donald Davis

High Performance Teams – NASCAR Pitcrew

Updated: Oct 21

“What sets apart high-performance teams is the degree of commitment, particularly how deeply committed the members are to one another.” – Jon Katzenbach

Throughout my career I have used this analogy several times. Individuals that worked with me at GE, BD and Roche have all heard my NASCAR story. The reason why I use this analogy to talk about high performing teams is that when you look at a NASCAR pitcrew they work so flawlessly that you have to wonder why do they do what they do and how is it that they are able to work together so well.

In business many teams are trying to deliver for customers, are trying to improve the bottom line or are trying to improve top line growth. The difference between mediocrity and greatness often times comes down to how effectively the team works together. I have been fortunate to have been a part of many great teams in my career and it made me want to better explain to people the story based on one of my favorites NASCAR.

In NASCAR in the 80’s the average pitstop took 34 seconds. Today the best pit crews complete a pitstop in 12.2 seconds. Getting pit stops right can help you win a race and the high-performance teams of NASCAR provide a structure that can be modeled in business.

Why does it matter?

  • The cars in NASCAR travel ~200 miles MPH

  • Roughly 300 ft/sec

  • 43 seconds per lap

Changing a tire

  • On average the guy operating the air wrench has to hit each lug nut in 1-1.2 seconds.

  • Missing one lug nut will add .3 seconds

  • If they miss one lug nut every pitstop it will mean the difference between 1st and 21st place

How did NASCAR build High Performing Teams?

  1. They hired the right people for the job – i.e. they have recruited professional athletes in some cases for certain positions based on core competencies of the position

  2. Everyone has clear roles and responsibilities

  3. There is one leader and the team knows what to focus on

  4. They train in the gym and practice at the wall for things to go right and what to do when things go wrong

  5. They review, tweak and take coaching

  6. They are all committed to each other

The items above pertain to everyone on a high performing team in business or in NASCAR. What are you doing to create a high performing team? What are steps that you can take tomorrow to ensure that your team is planning for the bad things that can happen? Does your team have clear roles and responsibilities?

As you consider where your organization is today consider things like the overall maturity of the organization. As your organization grows the needs for outlining what it takes to be a part of a high performing team change. I would encourage you to take our organizational maturity assessment as a part of examining where you need to improve. It is free and can be found here.

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