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  • Writer's pictureRyan Hunt

Strategy Over Speed

Red Bull’s “Queen of Strategy”…

Hannah Schmitz.

The brains behind the speed! I say this with the utmost respect for RBR leadership and the rest of the pit wall. If there is anything we all learned at Abu Dhabi in 2021, Red Bull's strategy team excels at making snap strategic decisions. Do you know how difficult this task is when EVERYONE is watching, and your drivers trust their careers to your strategy? That is a heavy burden to carry. Most people have trouble deciding with days to ponder; Hannah has seconds. Hannah is empowered to make these tough calls. Imagine if she had to ask several people what they thought and have conference calls/groupthink…time is money… I'll expand on that later. Trust me when I tell you, Red Bull won Abu Dhabi 2021 because they reacted to the situation and made a decision. As Daniel Ricciardo says, "Lick the stamp, and send it!" Mercedes lost that race because they froze in surprise at the circumstances instead of making a decision and then reacting to the emotion of what was happening later. Time cannot be frozen while you process what's happening around you! This post is not a Max vs. Lewis post but rather a strategy & empowerment response. I can attest to this type of business culture, which shows in spades at RBR.

Empowering your team to make decisions stretches them to grow and makes them stand out in the world around them as a professional. Let me explain. Have you ever called phone support or sales centers? Most companies I run into fail miserably at this, making me sick to my stomach. I wonder how on earth they are still in business! If you feel the same, you're beginning to understand my point. During these calls, have you ever had a unique request (I'm not talking about blathering on because you need someone to take a bad day out on or get free stuff), and you were placed on hold, hung up on, or had to wait for another person to make the call? Ever call back to get another rep, and receive a different experience?

I will not name names, but I had a problem with an accounting software integration that was broken. It's a massive global company. Data being sent back and forth was degrading, duplicating, or just not accurate (financial software!). This was sold and advertised as plug-and-play. It took five months to get it to work properly and created problems all over the place. I spent hours and weeks on the phone getting transferred and BS'd to the point of engaging the corporate office directly. For weeks, support didn't believe me and sent me all over. Like a game of tennis, I felt like the ball being battered back and forth! Each problem created other problems, and each alleged workaround created problems elsewhere. BS'ing fixes with a company's financial software are problematic and time-consuming for the user. Long story short, I was sent to a group of high-level support and product people that worked it out in a week or two. Then it was a monthly call with them to make sure there were no ghosts in the system left. Had the team been properly trained and empowered to fix it or send me to the high-level team right away, how much faster would we have solved this? BTW, I do not include the costs to our company for the time we spent working with these teams and not generating revenue!

I asked them at one point why they were not part of the training team for the support teams at scale. They said they didn't have time! I said, you all spent five months on MY problem and cannot imagine I'm the only one. The average pay rate at this company is $24~ an hour. That is approx $20k worth of human resources to fix my $200/mo piece of software! Ummm, who is the fiduciary of this publicly traded company?!

The same applies to Formula One. What's a point worth? Let's not forget Max started in 10th (1pt), and a solid strategy moved him to 1st (25 points). It's alleged that the team champion's pot of winnings is around $66m. Mercedes scored 613.5 points in 2021. That is over $100k per point.

Hannah's empowered snap decision execution pulled in $2.5m of points revenue…just for Max!

Brass tax data would suggest Ferrari's strategist lost that much. They may have lost even more the confidence of not only Leclerc but also Sainz. I imagine a time of team order defiance from both drivers, which could be costly in and of itself.

Empowerment comes from leadership. Mattia Binotto walked away from the pit wall and into the back garage in the race. This is not what a leader does. I imagine that the CEO of Ferrari called immediately and told him to return to his station, as Binotto came back shortly after. Maybe he just had to throw up in the bathroom!

Mattia was certainly rattled during the post-race interviews. Mattia doubled down and stated, "There is nothing to change at Ferrari." I'll leave it at that.

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