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Neil Harwood
18 Mar 2019

F1 Pit Stops. The hidden opportunities that await through embracing agile working practices

When the summer is approaching drivers across Northern and Central Europe start changing from winter to summer tyres which wear less. So I take my car to a local garage to have summer tyres bolted on. During the 90 minutes that my car is being performed "miracles" on I idle away time by drinking coffee, reading on my phone, browsing through a local rag and, well, frankly doing little of interest. After a long wait the car is finally ready and off I go.
Impressive speed of the F1 teams
The next day I tune in to watch the highlights of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. When the leading drivers come into the pits to change tyres my wife makes a below the belt comment saying, "they can do that in 3 seconds whilst you have to wait for an hour and a half".

While I wasn't best pleased with the comment it made me admire F1 pit stops. They are done at speeds unimaginable to us — everyday drivers, while it is unusual to see any that go awry. The teams have taken a complex everyday process and optimised it as far as humanly possible. The current record is 1.92 seconds — an amazing achievement.
The impact of agile working
But it is not just with pit stops. F1 teams are fantastically agile organisations. They must quickly adapt to so many variables and unknowns, often by having to make split second decisions. The variables are things like the weather and tyre wear. The unknowns are competitor tactics and the threat of safety car that can occur at any moment for a variety of reasons. Using large amounts of data mostly collected by sensors F1 teams are constantly calculating and thinking on their feet about the best strategies to get ahead of the competition. It is rare that a strategic decision is made based on gut instinct. Though when it does it is made public and they either pay off or, more often, fail spectacularly.
Agile research tools
For organisations agile research tools are the equivalent of sensors in F1 cars. They enable companies to quickly obtain the pulse of consumers over a range of business issues. Using the gathered insights organisations can very quickly decide or refine their strategies in order to get ahead or remain in front of the competition. Agile research tools speed up the decision making process and reduce the number of decisions made based on gut instinct.
The opportunities for the rest of us
F1 is the most advanced and forward-thinking industry in the world. It proudly boasts that it has embedded agile working (and AI) processes amongst its teams for decades. A by-product of these agile processes is that tyres on a car can be changed within 2 seconds instead of 90 minutes. It is amazing to think of the possibilities available once truly agile workflows are fully embraced by other industries. The future is exciting!
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