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Beyond the rear view mirror: empowering major programme success with lessons from Formula 1

Harnessing the speed, agility, and data-driven approach of Formula 1 to propel major programmes to victory

Formula 1 is a sport that demands speed and precision, but safety is also of utmost importance. With speeds reaching up to 220 miles per hour, collisions can have severe consequences: from serious injuries to the driver, to impacting race standings and even team financials.

In everyday driving, rear view mirrors play a critical role in road safety, helping drivers remain vigilant and avoid collisions. However, in Formula 1 - where cars are designed for optimal aerodynamic performance - they are often seen as a necessary inconvenience. For all their safety benefits, their position on the outside of the vehicle adds wind resistance. As a result, cars tend to be designed with narrower rear-view mirrors that create blind spots. They are then rendered even more ineffective due to high speeds causing intense vibrations, which makes it difficult to see clearly.

It's clear the rear view is not always the key to success. Instead, given the exceptional speeds and split-second decision making required, Formula 1 teams focus on the forward look to anticipate the track ahead and react swiftly to changes in their racing line or potential hazards. Drivers may rely more on their peripheral vision to monitor the positions of cars behind them. Formula 1 teams also make use of over terabyte of data per weekend, pulled from 200+ sensors installed on the cars, to provide real-time information about their surroundings to pivot their in-race strategy. This allows teams to become results driven, making informed decisions, with constant feedback to revise the process.

The same is true for delivering successful major programmes. Just as Formula 1 teams seek to minimise the impact of rear-view mirrors in favour of the forward look, major programme leaders must focus on the future, avoiding excessive attention on the 'rear view mirror', and directing energy towards anticipating obstacles before they become an issue. Mature major programmes also mirror the emphasis on data in Formula 1, using digital capabilities like predictive analytics, digital twins, and control towers to design more precise and impactful solutions to their challenges. Data-driven decision making should be at their core, ensuring strategic and operational decisions are driven by data and analytics, rather than our original best guess of what will deliver programme outcomes.

A dynamic, digitally empowered, ‘forward-looking' mindset replaces a 'control' mindset focused on the rigid methodologies of the past. This is not to say the 'rear view mirror' has no role to play; delivery teams should pay attention to milestones achieved (as signposts only) and progress against the plan (as an auditable record of what happened), but they must not do this at the expense of adapting to new information.

Deloitte adopts a model of programme management that delivers ambitious goals, not because we adhere to a static plan set in the past, but because we look ahead and proactively evolve programmes to deliver amidst new challenges. To achieve this, major programme leaders need to scan the horizon for key risks and pivot points - just as Formula 1 drivers need total situational awareness to stay ahead of the competition.

Our approach, Programme Aerodynamics®, is a forward looking, data driven, next generation framework aimed at creating the conditions for success when managing large scale programmes. It comprises 5 core elements:

  • Continuous Strategy
  • Flexible Architecture
  • Transformation Delivery
  • Digital Catalyst
  • Human System Design

These five components of Programme Aerodynamics® learn from Formula 1's ethos and work together to empower programme leaders to effectively anticipate and manage change, risks, and uncertainty across a programme's lifecycle, shaping its success. Collectively, they form a delivery approach that challenges the status quo and delivers meaningful, impact and value for major programmes that benefit people and society.

Find out more about how Programme Aerodynamics® can shape the success of complex major programmes.

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