When you see a Ferrari approaching the pit stop for wheel change there are twenty people in the pit waiting to perform a less than 2 second flash. This requires painstaking preparation, collaboration and combining of multi-disciplinary skills, all of them orchestrated through an optimization program.
This some years back took less than 6 seconds and we thought it was a huge performance!
The best performances stem from multi-disciplinary coordination and optimization across a range of options where actions have to be so guided that risks are weighed against the value that these actions deliver.
Think of procurement cost reduction and you will see this playing out either in terms of quality (product or service) or in terms of reliability or in terms of supplier risks that are slightly long term and are therefore not visible immediately. But some companies do this better than others.
Think of sales growth and you will see this panning out as conflicting with other objectives like value added per customer. But there are some companies who can do both better than others. They are better in optimizing than in maximizing.
There is never any outcome that is axially unidirectional and singular, meaning that it delivers only good; there is always the other axes where you will see that there are other objective functions where not so much good actually happened.
When many objective functions are involved the organisational silos and the boundaries across functions come to play out. Some global organisations have found a way to organise themselves in matrices where multiple objectives get delivered by nodal agencies collaborating.
This is however never simple as it is multifunctional and multidisciplinary, both at the same time.
Think of engineering discipline and it is configured on specialisation in each discipline, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil, metallurgy, etc. But most problems of the world are not predicated on this basis, some disciplines have to come together to make anything work.
Our engineering education itself is transforming to take care of this challenge, by combining these disciplines to see that some problems can be solved that needs optimisation rather than maximising in any particular direction.
The Grenfell Tower tragedy for example is a reminder that had material science combined with civil and electrical engineering, we could have avoided such a tragedy.
Thousands of examples abound where only one discipline went about solving a puzzle, like the NASA space shuttle problems from Challenger to Columbia, or Titanic to Bhopal Gas tragedy, the list goes on.
The best performing companies are those that understand the vulnerabilities involved and who have weighed their risks against the value that gets generated when their teams deliver results. Or that they tirelessly identify optimisation as a critical parameter, more important than maximising or minimising an objective function.
When I look at Formula 1 racing I see evidence of this phenomena. This is performance at the highest level where a split second is all that differentiates success from failure. You will find how all disciplines of engineering comes together in a Formula-1 team, electronics to automobile engineering to computer science to telecommunications all have to combine to deliver the best of results.
When the Ferrari approaches a pit stop, there are twenty people waiting, all of them with unique skills that must be combined to change the wheels in 2 seconds flat.
That is performance at the highest level where many disciplines will collide but the results will be exemplary. It appears as a mechanical coordination, but actually it is not so; thousands of hours of technological innovation across a range of engineering functions have to come together to make this happen.
Next time when you look at the turnaround times of vehicles inside your plant, think of the inter-disciplinary angle and the scope of improvement.