Great companies are almost always made great by a few small teams. Some people may say corporate strategy made the difference. Others may say it was corporate research. However, most people on the inside would say it was a team of committed individuals who believed they could create something that would fundamentally change how people worked—and their spirit and vision which spread, first throughout the company itself and then into the marketplace.
In essence, teams are the building blocks of the most successful organizations. The best teams complement one another and inspire. Smaller groups connect to form a larger system. Activities are linked; commerce is produced. The connectivity between the teams and the people on the teams make companies successful.
Just as the arch provides support for a structure, teams act as the foundation for any successful organization. Individual pieces hold the arch together, uniting to form a design that allows for the equal distribution of weight across the entire structure. Applying this concept, the Team Arch™ identifies nine performance characteristics that consistently build exceptional teams. The book, Team Renaissance: The Art, Science & Politics of Great Teams by Richard Spoon and Jan Risher, is based on the Team Arch™ and includes stories, specifics and immediate takeaways, crafted to illustrate and explain the dynamics of great teams—and how to create those change-producing forces in teams everywhere.
Way back in the infancy of stock car racing in 1950, the Wood Brothers Racing Team was formed on the Wood family farm in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The family’s four sons had a talent for auto mechanics and spent much of their time at their father’s garage. The Wood boys simply liked fixing and tinkering with cars.
With early success on the track, the Wood Brothers Racing Team turned the weekend hobby of Glen and Leonard into a full-time business. The other brothers, meanwhile, worked regular jobs and moonlighted with racing.
In the early days of motor racing, when a car needed service during a race, the driver would pull into the pits and turn the car off. Even back then, the off-track time couldn’t be described as leisurely, but drivers would then get out of their cars and even smoke a cigarette as the crew took the necessary time to use a hand pump jack to change tires, fill the tanks and adjust or tend to what needed attention.
The Wood Brothers realized if they reduced the time during these stops, they could increase their time and position in the race on the track. The brothers began to work to limit the time during these stops by implementing specific processes and are credited with inventing what is now known as the pit stop.
As other teams noticed that the Wood Brothers were winning races due to their efficient pit stops, these competitors soon copied the Wood method. The Wood team practiced and perfected the pit stop to mimic an acrobatic, mechanical dance.
Glen Wood credits his brother Leonard’s engineering skills with providing the necessary foundation for the innovation and for improving the equipment used by the team. Leonard Wood worked with Ingersoll-Rand to assist in developing pneumatic air guns to wrench lug nuts off cars at super-sonic speeds. Leonard Wood took the pneumatic idea a step further and developed the pneumatic jack. Between Leonard’s improvements and innovations to the equipment and the lean and precise choreography of the actual pit stop, the Wood Brothers brought the total time needed at the stop to exactly 20 seconds.
In 1965, the Wood Brothers were hired to run the pit for Jimmy Clark for the mother of all races—the Indianapolis 500. Clark won simply because he was in and out of the pits faster than anyone else in the race.
In recent years, as the sport has boomed in popularity and turned into a multi-billion dollar industry, former professional athletes, from the hockey rink to the football field, vie for positions on NASCAR seven-man pit crews and the $100,000+ salaries that go with them.
Their athleticism, along with continued improvements in equipment and choreography has the pit crew changing four tires, filling the gas tank and making other adjustments in 14 seconds or less.