It’s the heart of the summer and that means that in the slopes of Europe, the Tour de France occurs. Annually, I am amazed at the fitness, endurance, persistence, strategy, strength, teamwork and technology that all must come together to complete and win the Tour. While following this year’s race, I was struck by the lessons that we all could take from a Tour team when we are adopting new technologies into our companies. While we like to think that we are adaptive, nimble and open to change, nothing tests these beliefs like the integration and institutionalizing of a new and disruptive technology. So, what are the lessons we can learn from sport’s greatest endurance challenge race? Consider these:
• Winning can’t be done alone. The winner of a stage, or the Tour, has to have a team to get them across the finish line. Each of the members of the team knows their role, their strengths and their responsibilities. No one deviates, no one argues, and when everyone succeeds, the winning rider comes across first. Similarly, we need to be sure that if we want a new technology to get across the finish line successfully, that every person who is involved in making it happen, know their role and make it all come together for the cause.
• Knowing the peloton. The peloton in the Tour de France serves an important purpose. There is safety in numbers and a large group of people riding together gives an opportunity for riders to shift, rotate, encourage, help and compete knowing that everyone in the peloton gets the same time. The peloton in a company is any group of people who have to work together and have to depend upon each other with the expectation that the team succeeds together. Knowing where the overall organization is, how they are feeling, and what they need is important if we want a new technology to be accepted.
• Drafting to get ahead. Anyone who has ever watched the Tour knows that the breakaway riders usually get reeled back in because the physical tax that cutting the wind by yourself can overtake a rider. Those that draft and know how to sit back, reserve their strength, and maximize the pull of drafting, have the better chance of winning when the chance comes. The lesson is that we can’t always attack, attack, attack with new technologies. Sometimes we need to find another technology or other priorities and initiatives in the company to draft behind. It might seem a little less aggressive than we want, but in the long ride, we still get across the finish line with plenty of momentum and energy left.
• The guy in the car is really important. We don’t hear much about the coach, the coordinator and the operational chief who drives along in the car behind the riders. But, without this person who is setting the strategy and also ensuring operational excellence, then no team could finish the Tour. Similarly, we need a champion, leader, and mastermind behind any new technology. The technology can be the star, but without this person, no technology has a chance of being accepted. It’s an important skill to be able to be strategic and operational at the same time, but this is what it takes.
• Stages matter. Finally, like the Tour, new technologies get accepted stage by stage. The Tour races in stages with each one having their own types of challenges, miles, time, etc. Trying to win without knowing how to win enough of the stages to add up to an overall win, would be like trying to just drop a new technology on everyone’s desk without having done all of the buildup, change management and “stage” work long before the technology gets deployed.
Only the best athletes with the greatest experience and physical and mental strength ever get to compete in the Tour de France. When thinking about what will be the new technologies to be deployed into a company and who will be the leader and team to lead that deployment, consider the same attributes of the Tour de France competitors!