Within the racing community, the better you get at your job, the more dangerous you become to the overall process, but not in the context that your performance will degrade or you would become irresponsible. It means you become more likely to perform your tasks by rote than by working from a pre-described, documented process.

As you learn more about a specific operation or function, it becomes too easy for the team to become completely dependent on your performance. Let me explain. Within the framework of any race team, there are various people who are in charge of various systems and sub-systems of the car or the operation of the team. Depending on the size of the team, this may be a very specific area such as transmissions, brakes, engines, bodywork, suspension, rear ends, tires, logistics, and even the exercising of the team's supply chain. On a smaller team, one person may have to wear many hats and take charge of multiple related or unrelated components or sub-systems of the car and/or the operation of day-to-day administrative tasks. It just depends on the situation.

In my conversations with race teams, I will commonly ask the team to pick the most important component on the car. With the exception of the driver, the answer is almost a universal response; it is split between two components, tires and engines. To many teams, tires are viewed as a key component to remaining competitive.

I see no reason to argue the point. I tend to agree that tires are a key ingredient, but I don't agree to the exclusion of other components such as shocks, springs, brakes, aerodynamic components, and so on. They are all important. It is the integration of the multiple sub-systems into the whole that is really the key. We need to view the car from a systemic perspective and keep in mind the integration of all the various systems into the whole. But tires seem to get the most votes. If tires are so important to the performance of the car, then the team member or members who are charged with maintaining the tires and wheels have a very important job. Let's pick on the tire guys for just a bit.

The people in charge of maintaining tires are very valuable assets. If the job is making sure the tires are ready for the race, just what does that job entail? Short of mounting the tires, they are usually responsible for making sure the they are purged and pressures are set to the value the crewchief requests at any given time. They may be responsible for reading the tires as they come off the track and relaying this information back to the brain trust on top of the pit cart or standing in the dirt at any given track across the country on a Saturday night. This is a key position on any team, regardless of the size of the team. The team is relying heavily on this individual to perform an important and very specific task. So what is the problem?

Let's just suppose this individual does a great job working on the tires and this is noticed and appreciated not only by your team, but also the owner of a different team. The other team owner offers your tire guy a better deal. Your tire guy is conflicted, but he has a family to support and this is a better deal, so he leaves. He could leave for a number of other reasons-he hits the lottery, gets married, or in the worst case gets hit by a bus. But the real issue is not why he leaves-it is just that he is gone. When he goes, the knowledge of a highly important process, the process steps, and the knowledge of how to execute the process, goes with him. Racing of any type is a series of interrelated processes. Tires, in this case, are just the example chosen. It could be any process within the team.

This ex-team member has learned what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, in relation to tires. Now he is gone, and all that important process information is in his head. What is the next step? Obviously, your team gets to start over. You may have another team member that can double up for the short term, but that may cause capacity and capability issues. Please remember that out of chaos opportunity is born. This should be viewed as an opportunity to improve your team. That could have been the view of an opposing team, remember?

This scenario is no different than if you had a great transmission, rearend, or brake guy and that person left. Your team is now on the learning curve all over again, possibly with a new guy. You may even see a reduction in your overall capacity to complete tasks. The new guy will most likely need some help from another team member, who probably will not complete his tasks on time due to helping the new guy. There is a good chance that on- and off-track performance may suffer.