Grand Prix Kanban

Grand Prix Kanban

Get in the pole position


What’s more exciting than Formula One?

It’s the highest class of international auto racing and is beloved my millions of fans worldwide.

The objective of each Formula One contest is to determine the winner of a race. The driver who crosses the finish line first after completing a circuit of 305 km (190 miles) is declared the winner.

Each team has two drivers in each race. Even though they compete on the same tracks each year, teams are always trying to improve — by working on their timing, by helping their pit crew be more effective, or simply by using feedback loops. 

What is Kanban all about?

Here are the core practices of Kanban:

  • Practice 1 – Visualizing your work
  • Practice 2 – Limiting work in progress
  • Practice 3 – Managing flow
  • Practice 4 – Making processes policies explicit
  • Practice 5 – Implementing feedback loops
  • Practice 6 – Improving collaboratively, evolving experimentally

What does Formula One have to do with Kanban?

By using visualization when adopting a Kanban strategy in your organization, you get a  deeper look on what is in progress — just like Formula One, where teams are constantly monitoring the pace of the car and are in constant communication with the driver, the visual Kanban system will be your source of data to get teams on the same page so they make better decisions.

As a Formula One driver, you run one race at a time and don’t focus on anything else. Limiting your work in progress (WIP) enables you to learn and improve your success rate. Even though there are only two drivers for each team, there’s an entire ecosystem supporting them behind the scenes and helping them succeed. Every individual has their own unique role — no multitasking allowed. What would happen if the pit crew was busy with something else when a driver arrived and needed a tire change? A major impediment, indeed.

Only one team can win the race and only one is piloting the winning car. However, there’s a group in the background managing the flow of the laps so that it’s not only the driver that wins, but the team as a whole. They are focused on helping to make that happen, even if sometimes it means patiently waiting in the pit stop, preparing the tires, communicating on the radio, and watching the drivers as they race to anticipate any emerging needs. The important thing is to help the driver achieve his best flow and not local optimization of resources. Not everyone is working at 100% capacity — they manage their resources based on the things they are trying to flow to their system at the time. It’s about getting things done, not having everyone busy.

For all of this to work, making policies explicit has an important role. The game rules need to be straightforward. Not only do the constraints of their governing body — the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) — need to be taken in account, but every worker there needs to know their job when a driver stops at the pit. Work becomes fluid by having policies that define the way we want to behave and lead. The focus should be on having “less waste time” in each lap of the track. 

After every race, the team needs to evolve. Feedback loops help you brainstorm about what worked and what didn’t. The information and data points that the team collects will enable them to work collaboratively on ways to improve. With the help of lead time, the cumulative flow diagram, and flow efficiency, you will be able to identify the bottlenecks and the waste in your system and begin making improvements to obtain better flow.

It’s important to note that even at F1, teams make changes and decisions that prove to be major errors. Failures are not detours — they are opportunities to experiment and iterate on constant improvements. Collaborative improvement via experiments is vital.

Having a vision and aligned goals helps keep the team on track. The same is true with companies. The final goal is to not to regress and keep moving forward. 


Want to learn how to implement the Formula One method?

Start here at the Kanban System Design and Kanban System Improvement pit stop! 

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