C. Ed Massey, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), member of Kentucky’s Boone County Schools Board of Education, and avid NASCAR fan, discusses in Transforming Learning in Education Week what school board members can learn about teamwork from NASCAR.
As a school board member, I often talk about the concept of teamwork — working with the superintendent and upper-level administrators to guide the school district, working with parents and community members to ensure their voices and opinions are heard, working with teachers and school staff to ensure we are allocating resources correctly. Teamwork is a delicate balance because it requires everyone to fully understand and embrace their roles, lead without overstepping boundaries, and focus on a common mission. School leaders must work together to ensure our students get the best education possible.
So how can we learn from NASCAR, a sport that’s become known for the drivers with the most flamboyant personalities? What you may not know is that the success or failure of many NASCAR teams occurs on pit road. NASCAR races are won and lost by thousandths of seconds — and the execution of the pit crew’s duties can determine the fate of the race.
Pit road is where the real teamwork is exhibited. Every pit member has a very specific task and they do their job efficiently, effectively and very quickly. In a typical pit stop, a crew of seven members changes four tires, fills the car with 22 gallons of gas, cleans the windshield, adjusts the shocks and sway bar — ideally in 12 to 15 seconds.
The crews can accomplish this work so quickly because each team member has a specific role that they perform to near perfection. One member carries the tires while another changes them; one crew member fills the car with fuel while simultaneously turning a wrench; another crew member tears off the layover windshield so the driver can have a clear view. All of this work is overseen by a crew chief who has meticulously prepared his team. If team members are successful they will share in their driver’s fruits of victory; if a team is not successful they will be subject to evaluation, adjustments and countless hours of practice so the next stop will be successful. Because winning is the name of the game, mediocrity is not tolerated.
Suppose school leaders adopted this pit crew mentality. We would likely be more effective and show the continuous improvement for which we all strive. Instead, we often find ourselves multi-tasking and stepping on toes. We are often relegated to doing the same thing again and again with no change in the outcome.
Read Massey’s complete commentary in Education Week.