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Programme Aerodynamics®: Harnessing the Genius of Formula 1

In professional sport, marginal differences are everything. This is nowhere more the case than in Formula 1, where races are often decided by just a few tenths or hundredths of a second: even the smallest of improvements to performance can separate winners and losers.

In this environment, F1 teams require world-leading understanding and manipulation of aerodynamics. The faster you go, the more resistance you experience. With speeds reaching up to 220 miles per hour, the car’s ability to cut through the air is the ultimate game-changer.

The same is true for managing major programmes.

Just as F1 cars are meticulously crafted to minimize drag and maximize downforce – enabling them to navigate corners at blistering speeds – successful major programmes must be designed and delivered with the same level of precision to combat unpredictable external forces.

Organisations operate in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) delivery ecosystem. Whether it is the effect of inflation on supply chains, or the changing regulatory environment due to geopolitical factors, major programmes have never been more challenging to implement.

That is why it is important we adopt a model of programme management that is not focussed on making and sticking to rigidly detailed, fixed plans, but on delivering high quality outcomes. To do this, leaders need the tools to anticipate and rapidly respond to change throughout the programme lifecycle – just as Formula 1 teams fine-tune car settings mid-race, based on real-time data.

This data-led, adaptable mindset has inspired Deloitte to develop Programme Aerodynamics®, a framework that allows us to combine strategic thinking, programme leadership skills and digital capabilities to create a way of anticipating, shaping and managing large scale programmes.

Programme Aerodynamics® comprises 5 core elements:

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

Continuous Strategy

Just as F1 teams adjust their in-race strategy based on real-time information, major programmes need to anticipate future needs and adapt accordingly.

Leaders of major programmes need to identify and plan for the programme’s ‘inflection points’ – key moments after which significant change is expected to occur – where strategic choices need to be reassessed and adjustments in capabilities, programme structure and delivery approach may be required.

Flexible Architecture

Race teams have a clear understanding of every tool at their disposal and how they can be brought together in different combinations according to the needs of the moment – from pit stop timings, to refuel loads and choice of tyres.

In programme management, flexible architecture is a framework that enables leaders to map and manage the relationships between the key components of a programme (including processes, technologies, workforce, and intellectual property) in line with evolving strategy over the lifecycle of the programme.

Transformation Delivery

The plans and capabilities of the programme are nothing without excellence in delivery. Just as F1 teams follow a clear process for implementing their race strategy, major programmes must be set up to leverage best practice, with practitioners equipped to implement the methods and tools that will deliver the best outcomes.

Human System Design

Every successful team is resourced with the right people in the right positions. In Formula 1, the driver is the figurehead but they are supported by an extensive team of engineers, technicians, and managers, who must come together effectively alongside the driver if the team is to succeed.

Similarly, Human System Design ensures every major programme identifies, plans for, and deploys the skills, experience, and capacity required at each stage of the programme’s lifecycle.

Digital Catalyst

Formula 1 is home to some of the most cutting-edge technology on the planet. For example, tools such as digital twin allow teams to simulate thousands of in-race variables before they take place.

In the same way, effective major programmes simulate, visualise, and analyse potential scenarios to stay ahead of the game, using industry-leading data analytics to anticipate complex challenges before they arise.

These 5 elements – inspired by Formula 1 racing – come together in a truly unique and effective way, ensuring maximum efficiency and speed in delivery in the most challenging of programme environments. Collectively, they form a delivery approach enabling us to partner with clients across public, private, and financial sectors in leading and delivering large-scale and complex major programmes in a way that is fit for purpose in today’s context.


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