18 06 2012

We have all been there, getting increasingly frustrated when confronted with that “it’s not my job” mentality. Sometimes it’s a call centre, other times it’s face to face but we have probably all encountered companies whose staff appear happy to avoid helping you, safe in the knowledge that it isn’t their job.

It reflects poorly on them and it reflects poorly on the organisations for who they work. And yet, every now and then hearing someone say; “it’s not my job,” far from being frustrating, is a breath of fresh air and a sure sign of a well-run business.

The 24 hours of Le Mans. More than a race it is a test of man (or woman) and machine, of speed and endurance, of engineering excellence and motoring reliability. In this environment, everything has to be planned to the nth degree; the tiniest malfunction can finish you.

Add to that the pressure of being a team not only expected to secure overall victory but to do so using a new technology making its first outing at this classic event.

This was the position Audi found themselves in over the weekend. They had four cars entered; all diesels but two were also showcasing Audi’s E-Tron Quattro technology, a hybrid engine.

With less than three of the 24 hours to go the two E-Tron Quattro cars were vying for the lead when, out of the blue, a potentially race wrecking incident occurred. One of the Audi’s (car #2) was surprised when lapping a back-marker, expecting it to break one way and leave a space, it broke the other. Driver Allan McNish took avoiding action and in the blink of an eye was off the track and hitting the Armco barrier.

McNish carefully drove his heavily damaged number 2 Audi back to the pits and a seemingly huge repair job commenced.

Eurosport dispatched an interviewer to find out what the damage was and whether the car would even rejoin the race.

Visibly excited, the interviewer asked Audi’s Head of Motorsport, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, “What is wrong? Can you repair it? What is happening in the garage?

Calmly Dr Ullrich replied; “I don’t know. That is not my job.

This was no passing the buck, frustrate and move on, ‘not my job’ comment. This was a comment born of supreme confidence. Confidence that every possible angle had been planned, confidence that everybody in the Audi team knew their job and, importantly, also knew what was not their job. It was confidence that he didn’t need to interfere, that if the car could be returned to race, it would be.

Less than three hours later the Audi’s crossed the line to complete the twenty-four hours of Le Mans in formation, taking a clean sweep of the podium with the E-Tron Quattros in first and second place. Incredibly the number 2 Audi had not only been repaired but had finished the race only one lap down on the number 1 Audi.

This was not only a feat of engineering and mechanical reliability, nor only of exceptional driving. This was a feat of planning, planning so specific, so detailed that every eventuality could be (and was) covered effectively, efficiently and economically.

I wonder how many Chief Executives, company Directors, business owners and middle managers have the assured confidence in their strategic planning and preparation that Dr Ullrich had in his?

Could you ever hear yourself saying; “I don’t know, that is not my job,” without worrying that you don’t?

Why not?

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, June 2012

Read more blogs by Jim Cowan


Twitter @cowanglobal




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