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  • Writer's pictureRandy Field

Teams Revisited: Toothpaste and Motor Racing

When there is a new third-party article or post that supports a previous LEVL5 blog, it provides a good addendum. The following is a partial reprint from Are Your Teams Effective? The Reality Conundrum:

Creating a team is like preparing for battle in a remote location. The team needs to be outfitted with the proper resources to achieve success. However, teams are oftentimes filled by job title rather than being staffed with the best resources needed to complete the mission.

A company needs rebranding. The Marketing department is too small to staff the project internally. So, the Marketing manager identifies other company staff members that have a “marketing aptitude” and selects five members from disperse departments for the team. The five members get a special “Team Five” logo on their business cards to use during outside visits. The team is a major success leading to significant revenue growth the following year.

Teams Revisited

The following excerpts are from a recent “The Guardian” blog:

“What have toothpaste manufacturing and Formula One motor racing got in common? Very little, on the face of it – unless you head to a factory in Maidenhead (England), which eight years ago was the scene of a case study beloved of manufacturing students … In 2011, a team of consultants from the motor racing team McLaren visited GlaxoSmithKline’s Berkshire facility, which pumps out millions of tubes of Sensodyne and Aquafresh.

The problem these hotshots had been invited to solve was this: each time the factory wanted to switch production from one brand of toothpaste to another, machine tubing had to be cleaned, tools rearranged and systems tweaked – all of which interrupted production… The changeover was detested by factory staff. It was a chore – laborious work that was unrewarding and unrewarded. At least that was until the petrolheads screeched into the factory and treated this conundrum as something akin to an F1 pitstop.”

“New tools were designed and McLaren created a team of changeover specialists, who were incentisized in seemingly minor ways (they got to feel awfully vigorous by slipping into McLaren overalls).”

All Teams are not Creating Internally

GlaxoSmithKline makes toothpaste. They did not have the inhouse expertise to solve their manufacturing problem. When forming an internal team, take a step back and ask yourself if the team has the collective talents to achieve success. Going outside for consultants or other specialists might seem expensive at first – but, the payoff can be enormous.

For GlaxoSmithKline, “the result was that the time taken to switch production was cut from 39 minutes to a quarter of an hour, and the concept was credited with allowing a £15m production system to fill an additional 6.7m tubes of toothpaste per year.”

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