7 de abr de 2009

Clash of Cultures in the Corporate Environment: The Case of Brawn GP F1 Team

(clique aqui para português)

Brawn GP F1 Team gains second life after Honda withdrawal 

Team regains 42% of disputed points

by Rodrigo Marques Barbosa 

The start of the Formula 1 2009 season inspires reflection on the conflict of cultures in the global corporate environment. I explain.

Two pilots leading the way in the early days of this year's championship were considered has-beens last year. After Honda announced its withdrawal in December, Brazilian pilot Rubens Barrichello was assumed to be retired, and his mate, Englishman Jenson Button, unemployed.

Despite both pilots having no major achievements in their F1 careers (apart from being among the best active pilots in the world), Rubens and Jenson have finished the 2008 season at 14th and 18th, respectively, and now are among the favorites for winning the title. How can this be explained?

Is it the car? This is perhaps the first answer that comes to mind, but what about the team’s backstage administration, something not always considered by the motoring press. That is Ground Zero of the culture conflict that makes or breaks an F1 team. 

I experienced the world of F1 in 2005 and 2006, working at Honda’s office in Brazil. I was the bridge between the team and the car manufacturer. In early 2006, I took a group of journalists to Barcelona, Spain, in the world media event to present car and drivers for that season. 
There I was able to witness some of this conflict of cultures. 

Even though Honda acquired 100% of the shares of former BAR Honda at the end of 2005, and from thence over the entire management of the team (something Honda hadn
t done since 1968), the English team's DNA was not altered by any means. The change came in the way things were run. The difference now was that the British had to report to the Japanese executives. 

Watching the training and the race of the Malaysian GP last weekend, I heard a comment from Brazilian TV
s commentator Reginaldo Leme that supports my point. The journalist mentioned that team members (whose majority of members came from former Honda) had complaint that there were too many chiefs in the previous team, run by Honda. As goes the popular saying, a dog with two owners dies of thirst. 

Today, the impression I take from watching the team when celebrating and smiling (at least until the conquest of the second consecutive race by Jenson Button) is that the team breathes more relieved. I even noticed a lighter air in Rubens, a brighter aura, if you will. Is it just an impression?

The fact is that there was indeed  a clash of cultures in the decision making process along with the team. I will not make any value judgment on any culture, but what I witnessed is that, on one hand, there was a staff of Japanese engineers and administrators that pointed to one direction, and on the other hand, a same sized - but subordinated to the first - group of Englishmen who saw the picture in different colors. 

Speculation or not, the results are there for everyone to see. After three seasons considered by critics and fans as mediocre, Honda did not support the weight of the investment (with no return) and gave up the team. Surprisingly, since the current design of the Brawn GP car was initially for a Honda engine, and not Mercedes, the result combined as wine and cheese. Although they still await the trial of the controversial issue of the rear diffuser, the combination of the Mercedes engine with the project captained by Ross Brawn, the team's current owner, is a success, having earned Felipe Massa
s comment that the car is from another planet . 

I will leave to the reader to take any conclusion on why the Brawn GP team got it all right from the beginning. Anyway, the joy of the pilots and other members of the team is pretty much visible. In the pits, on the podium or in the paddock, they are only smiles. 

For us, fans of the sport, a new F1 team is always welcome, especially when it comes to the arena ignoring favorites, and taking home two consecutive poles and two consecutive victories, besides the expressive mark of 25 points gained so far (or 42% of the total disputed until now). As a Brazilian, I am now cheering for Rubens to find his way and compete with Jenson for the position of first pilot of Brawn GP.

11 comentários:

Anônimo disse...

"Oi Rodrigo, o que temos em evidência no artigo são problemas latentes em muitas organizações multinacionais: excesso de níveis hierárquicos e problemas de comunicação. Some-se a isso a lentidão no processo de tomada de decisão (motor inadequado) que seria a de óbviamente desenvolver um outro motor ou cair fora da competição. De qualquer maneira, isso me lembra aquela história dos engenheiros de uma grande multinacional que investiram 80 milhões na construção de um mecanismo numa linha de produção de pastas de dente. Como algumas caixinhas saiam vazias (sem o tubo), eles colocaram uma balança de precisão no final da linha e pesavam os conjuntos. Caso o peso estivesse fora, a linha parava e um braço mecânico segregava o conjunto fora do padrão. 3 meses depois, eles notaram que o índice de erros era quase zero e foram visitar a linha. Notaram que o equipamento estava desligado havia 3 meses. Perguntaram para o pessoal de linha (os "peões" na visão deles) e estes disseram que o método era ruim e que o equipamento parava toda a hora o processo prejudicando o rendimento. Então eles fizeram uma vaquinha e com 80,00 compraram um ventilador e o puseram ao final da linha de produção. As embalagens abaixo do peso eram segregadas com a força do vento... Moral da história: você só inova realmente, só conquista os seus objetivos envolvendo a sua equipe e colocando em prática as melhores idéias. A vaidade hoje é o maior inimigo dos executivos."
Posted by Carlos Alexandre De Oliveira

Anônimo disse...

"The other side of the coin is that they were on the cusp of getting it right and the removal of the Japanese overloads was just the crowning touch. I am a bit ticked off hearing everyone call them a new team when the only thing new about them is the name and power plant."
Posted by George Daszkowski

Anônimo disse...

I think the Brawn team is one of the most exciting things to happen to F-1. It seems that they do everything right.
Posted by Herman Hudson

Anônimo disse...

"Dear Rodrigo, I just read your article and must recognize one thing, your analysis is very good. In fact, only the technical issues were not covered. I feel that where Honda can be frustrated today is that, when they understood during last season they were not able to compete, they made probably the best decision in their F1 career. They focused on the next coming year and left behind the current season. All the strategy was to build in 2008 the winning car for 2009. And, with Ross Brawn, which I experienced during 1.5 years at Ferrari, you have the best key person in the technical world of F1. With his amazing team building, even with Honda's japanese management way, he built an extraordinary adventure we all experience today. It is maybe only a beginning, maybe an end, but I must admit, it is such an amazing fun and such a frustration when you live for Ferrari success! When Ferrari and McLaren were fighting until the end of the season and so all along 2008 season they had to continuously improved technically the current car to win both championships, the Honda/Brawn team was taking advantage to build this year's car! And, in any sector, any business, when time is gone, it is gone for ever... Now, to go back to your analysis, I also feel that even after a tremendous period as they all lived in Brackley, when Honda decided to leave and none knew what was happening, we can all understand that it has probably not been easy... My feeling, above my understanding, is that with suh a huge and complex environment as at Honda, even if a motorsport team, and even more in F1, it is still another world, I felt that the power from the hq/shareholder might have been too strong... Now, they are "free"... Their only "boss" will be the sponsors and the future is only under the control of the team management and the sponsors... Is it sustainable?.. Another thought... Thanks for this stimulating conversation. With warmest regards, Sacha"
Posted by Sacha Tolegano-Jourdren

Anônimo disse...

"I agree with the analysis. If you need a streamlined team and a company that can win... you need to have a strong leadership - idealy in one single person. I once took over a wagging company where everything was doubled... 2 IT directors, 2 sales directors, 2 marketing managers...and each handling the same products but for a different set of clients. I had 2 companies in one single unit and shareholders were wondering why things didn't work out. After some cleaning and the setting of a clear direction, the company started functionning again (and almost doubled in the next 12 months)."
Posted by erik vanrompay

Anônimo disse...

"A Brawn GP é fruto de uma carreira vencedora de seu dirigente, que é um eximio desenvolvedor de máquinas vencedoras. Em seu histórico está, nada menos que, os 7 campeonatos conquistados pelo Michael Schumaker. Projeto técnico e aerodinâmico primoroso com um motor excelente, só poderia dar no que deu."
Posted by Pavan J.B.

Rodrigo disse...


Although the team does not have the kers system yet, it seems like they were just charging the battery in the last two years, and now pushed the kers button. :)

Anônimo disse...

Caro Rodrigo:
Muito interessante sua explanação, mas eu, amante do esporte e engenheiro mecanico não consigo me furtar a ignorar a supremacia do novo motor MBenz... Sem esquecer a aura, que, como vc bem disse é notória, mas talvez advinda do sucesso obtido desde os primeiros testes que chamaram a atenção de todos para a Brawn.
Abraço e boa Páscoa a todos!
Posted by Antonio Amato

Anônimo disse...

Good morning - very interesting and insightful comments that I enjoyed reading - especially since you certainly have personal experience with the subject. As much as I would like to think that coprporate culture had a lot to do with BAR and BAR-Honda's lack of success, (and it probably did), I would venture to say that in the racing business the 'clash' is between the racers and the business - even more refined and close to home that between the team and the overlords. Racers race to win - very cut and dry. Business needs wins to support racing. The same problem is attacked from a completely different perspective with no 'winners'.
As Honda, the team only went so far. As Brawn,look what has been accomplished.
Put in perspective, Ferrari (the team) is the above-all, and end-all. They race and the company sells cars. With Honda, as soon as cars stopped selling, the team is disbanded.
The Brawn GP team, to me at least, is more like Ferrari philosophically. We race, we win, we worry about the rest later!
Bravo Brawn!!
Posted by Victor Felice

Anônimo disse...

Isso serve de alerta àqueles que acreditam que o sucesso vem da noite pro dia. Pode até vir, mas só quando passamos a noite em claro trabalhando duro.
Posted by Reginaldo Nepomuceno

kashgar216 disse...

Great analysis. Can you now explain why BMW Sauber is so bad this season?

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