In 2018, when the Formula 1 season began in Australia as it usually does, the young Haas F1 Team appeared to be in a hopeful position having drivers in 5th and 6th on the starting grid. Being only a few years old and with much less cash to play around with compared to the titans like Ferrari and Mercedes, this was a huge milestone. Starting this high means the chance at points, and getting points means the chance at sponsorships. All possibilities came to an end though when both cars were retired early due to failed pit stops. According to the team, cross-threaded wheel nuts plagued both cars, one on a front wheel and the other on a back wheel, causing the wheels to loosen as both drivers roared onto the track in hopes of capitalizing on their good starting positions.
It wasn’t the drivers, it wasn’t the team principal (at least not directly), and it wasn’t the team owner, but the pit crew who lost the race. With the glitz and glamour of Formula 1 races, it is easy for fans to overlook the pit crew, but their failures are some of the ones we remember most.
A Pit Crew In Every Business
I am not a business operator, nor have I any experience trying to scale something full time, but even so, I can’t help but imagine that within every business there is a “pit crew”. There is a department, employee, or group of employees that are often overlooked, out of the spotlight, yet touches the most important parts of the company, and, if they fail, so too will everyone else. It may vary who the “pit crew” is for any business; it could be accounting for one, DevOps for another, but the fact remains the same that they need to be on the ball at all times. And no, like the pit crews in F1, they aren’t going to get the same glory as those out front and on top. When Lewis Hamilton wins a race, he is the one who stands on the podium getting showered in champagne, not the guy who installed his front right tire, but had that tire not been installed properly, all the glory disappears.
Whose responsibility is it then to make sure everything happens the way it is supposed to? Remember that the team principal (i.e. the big boss of an F1 team) was not directly responsible for the mistake, he never touched a tire or a drill in the incident, but he was indirectly responsible. Everything that happens on the team and every person working on the car goes through him, and when mistakes happen, the blame cascades all the way up.
Don’t Overlook The Pit Crew
It doesn’t matter how a business is structured, for it to be successful, someone or a small group of people have to be in control and oversee everything that is happening. Executives, partners, board members, managers, VPs, etc, or any combination thereof. They cannot overlook their “pit crew”, the employees doing the apparent grunt work, or the ones behind the curtain making sure their colleagues look good out front. Their job could be like installing a wheel nut, a seemingly simple task, granted maybe having its own complexities, but all things considered not at the front of everyone’s mind. But as was the case with Haas in 2018, failure to execute that simple task made the difference. Had their pit crew been overlooked by the people overseeing the operation? Maybe, who’s to say, but by the time anyone could have figured it out the damage was already done. Granted, a business can fail, or a team can lose a race for countless reasons, but I plan to keep this in mind as my career progresses; if something fails, above all else, just don’t let it be the pit crew.