Recently, at the Learning 2006 conference in Orlando, Florida, Elliott Masie presented several awards for the most outstanding examples of learning and performance improvement. One award, which went to PIT Instruction & Training is particularly interesting because this team-building component is a relatively small program within a much larger set of training for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR). If you’re curious about it, read the New York Times article on the full PIT school.
Along with full programs for NASCAR pit crews, PIT offers these shorter team-building programs for individuals who want to improve their management and leadership skills. These "Think Inside the Box" programs are based on desired outcomes and goals, where groups participate in a fun and interactive pit crew Entertainment Program or benefit from a custom-designed program to address specific challenges within their organization.
The phrase “inside the box” refers to the pit box area in which motor sports pit crews change tires and fuel the race car in under 13 seconds. These programs can last for a few hours or for several days and is “based on the theories and concepts utilized by today's most successful pit crews...preparation, specificity, communication, efficiency, accuracy, performance, outcome...and the list goes on.” "Inside the box” is also a call for businesses and organization to creatively refocus and control normal operations that influence business outcomes rather than more nebulous “outside the box” thinking, such as strategic planning.
One example pits (sorry, couldn’t help it) two teams against each other with the task of successfully changing all four tires on a real NASCAR race car. Elliott personally attended one of these team building sessions at the PIT facility in South Carolina. He was amazed at how effective of this form of “visceral learning” is. Professional NASCAR teams can change all four tires in at about 12 seconds. At first, Elliott’s team took over 3 minutes, but dropped to around 30 seconds. This task involved critical elements such as feedback, process improvement, breaking everything down to small steps—all to improve the process and the team.
Even more interesting to me is how this program teaches such things as six sigma concepts! For example, each pit stop presents a different scenario and challenge that the Team must resolve. These situations may include:
- Performance Expectations
- Performance Feedback
- Exchanging Team Members
- Exchanging Team Member Duties
- Loss of a Team Member
- Equipment Failure
To add some fun to the Learning 2006 conference, PIT brought a NASCAR to Orlando along with a full setup—the tools, jacks, and blue team/red team uniforms. Anyone could sign up for an hour’s worth of instruction and then get timed to see which team successfully changed all four tires the fastest. Thanks to Mike Parmentier from Booze Allen Hamilton, I was able to get some pictures for you of some fellow Autodesk employees who took the challenge!