The Middle Manager

Surviving & Thriving as a Leader

Let’s Go Racing!

I’m a really big fan of endurance racing. Races like the 24 Hours of LeMans or the 12 Hours of Sebring fascinate me. Getting the SPEED channel was my primary motivation for ordering digital cable.

What does this have to do with process, quality, or customer support? Bear with me…

An endurance race car is an amazing machine. The pinnacle of this type machine is the LeMans Prototype – a car capable of incredible speed and handling. On long straights these cars can exceed 250 miles per hour, and cornering and braking forces can be compared to those in a jet fighter. There’s no doubt the drivers are gifted with the strength to endure the harsh environment and cat-like reflexes to deal with traffic and weather (endurance races run rain or shine). The driver’s job is simple: focus on driving, and win the race.

As important as the driver is the support crew. These high-performance machines are incredibly complicated, and over the course of 12 or 24 hours it’s normal that things break. Being able to quickly find and repair problems can mean the difference between winning or losing the race.

The Audi team has dominated endurance racing since 2000, consistently winning at LeMans, Sebring and other endurance events. The R8 race car is powered by a mid-engined 520 horsepower twin-turbo V8 with a six-speed sequential gearbox. It’s horribly complex, but the Audi support team has drilled to the point where they can change out the entire rear suspension and gearbox in 12 minutes! If you look at the picture, that’s everything to the right of the engine!

The key to this prowess is simple. Team Audi has a shared goal: wining the race. To do that, they must be organized, they must know how their machine works, and they must understand and follow the processes necessary to disassemble and reassemble the car quickly.

Are you starting to see how this ties into what we do as managers?

We have a shared goal with the rest of the business – to provide our customers with the best product or service possible.

To meet this goal, the business can be considered as the ‘drivers.’ Their job is to focus on ‘winning’ in their markets, to make the company the first choice with consumers.

The various IT functions are the support team. Client Support is most often the face of IT to our customers, because we’re there every day assisting them with problems. The question is, are we doing the best, most efficient job we can?

The first thing we can do to reach our goal is make good use of our tools. Are you familiar with how to use your work intake systems? Can you set up views of your work? Do you know how to properly document your work and record the effort? Proper documentation of work is critical because we report off of that information, and use the data to justify staffing levels, identify trends, and track how the process is working.

Knowledge Management is another tool in our arsenal that is taking on increasing importance. As the knowledgebase becomes populated, we will be able to provide a consistent and effective fix for incidents, improving the quality and speed of our customer service.

Our best resource is each other. Consider setting up brainstorming sessions with the support analysts to take a walk through your support processes as they exist today and examine them through a process improvement lens. There are four lenses of analysis:

● The Frustration Lens: what frustrations do you experience as you do your work?
● The Time Lens: what can be done to improve our speed of response or resolve?
● The Cost Lens: what does the process cost? How can we reduce cost?
● The Quality Lens: how do we make sure it’s done right the first time?

I encourage you to get together, talk about your work, and document all of your ideas. Then use them as a basis for improvement projects!

Like in racing, the only way for us to improve is if we work together as a team. We must recognize that our ultimate goal is the same as our customer’s: to make the business a winner!


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