Ben Hunt-Davis – former Olympic Champion Rower
On Sunday Sep 24th 2000, exactly 20 years ago today, the British rowing team lined-up their boat in the men’s-eight finals race at the Sydney Olympics Games. Competing with them were Australia, Croatia, Italy, United States (defending champions) and Romania. The British team dominated the 2km race from the 250m mark itself. At halfway, they were leading almost by a full boat length ahead of the Croatian team (Aussies in the fourth place). The British team hung on to the lead and won the gold medal. The Aussies fought back hard to finish second.
The victory was a remarkable one – this was the first time that this British rowing team had won any international race for nearly a decade. In fact, two years prior to the Sydney Olympics, they didn’t even make it to the finals at the 1998 World Championships, in Cologne, Germany. This was the catalyst that started their journey to turn around their performance in the short two-year period.
How do you that? I’m glad you asked..
In my interview with Ben Hunt-Davis, based on his book “Will it make the boat go faster?”, Hunt-Davis explained how the entire team strategised on turning around their performance. It wasn’t just the nine people in the boat (including cox), but the 50 odd others that supported the team, all had to agree and work together on improving performance.
So, “Will it make the boat go faster?” became the team mantra, team slogan, conversation starter, framework to identify improvements and even the framework to review their training performance. They used this lens to identify improvement opportunities to make the boat go faster – from exercise routines, rowing techniques, improving design etc. They had fully embraced the concept that everything they did, had to assist towards making the boat go faster. If it didn’t, they simply rejected it.
Improving productivity in manufacturing is the same. All our team’s efforts need to be channelled towards the one common goal. Every improvement initiative needs to contribute towards this goal. The goal becomes the context to which your teams should provide the content (improvement ideas).
Many teams improve productivity like putting out spot-fires and are frustrated by the fact that they cannot demonstrate progress, despite their efforts.
So, how do you identify improvement initiatives? Will it make your boat go faster?