Motorsport has a responsibility to adapt to change. Not just to keep innovation alive in the development of the sport but also in response to political and environmental factors – something which all businesses must be reactive to as part of their corporate-social responsibility and sustainability strategies. Here, change management specialist and NMA Business of Motorsport tutor James talks about how motorsport is showing resilience, flexibility and creativity when facing these challenges.
Tutor Talk: James Bailey
James Bailey is a tutor at the National Motorsport Academy, specialising in change management. He is also managing director of PitBox91, an automotive industry marketing agency, working with clients such as Goodyear, Kawasaki, Autosport International and Dunlop.
In a turbulent world, Einstein’s quote is more relevant than ever. In this uncertain time, clear strategy and strong leadership separate the winners from the losers. The strategy needs to be clear, and all colleagues need to be onboard. Strategy is irrelevant if the team hasn’t bought tickets for the journey.
Our change management module focuses on long-term vision and planning, but the past two years have shown how a winning strategy should include creating a culture of agility and reactivity.
Tactically, motorsport has done an incredible job in navigating two years of lockdowns and travel restrictions. To deliver sensational competition and launch new environmentally-led initiatives such as Extreme E and ETCR, the world’s most powerful touring car series, in a period when many commercial and engineering teams were working from home shows the resilience, flexibility and creativity of the brilliant minds in our industry.
In a change management context, this agility has allowed our industry to deliver in the most difficult of times, but it has also accelerated the march to a long term goal – making motorsport relevant in a world focused on sustainability.
During the last years of Bernie Ecclestone’s leadership, F1 blew its opportunity to communicate about the brilliant efficiency of its hybrid-era power units. Instead, the headlines were focused on losing the high-revving scream of V10s. The car manufacturers had all bought into the FIA’s vision and invested heavily, only for the promoter to undo the amazing innovations with an ill-judged quip.
Under Liberty, the leadership of F1 is now much stronger. A long-term vision on diversity, sustainability and entertainment has all stakeholders moving in the same direction. Lewis and Max are winning Grands Prix using half the fuel that Nigel Mansell used in his Williams FW14B three decades ago. The sustainability drive will go further: from 2030 F1’s environmental impact will be net-zero.
F1 is the most watched form of motorsport, but similar regulation changes have also transformed other categories. The move to hybrid in WRC has given us arguably the most spectacular cars since the Group B halcyon years. The FIA World Endurance Championship has lowered costs and reinforced the sustainability of their business model. The world’s greatest car brands will, within three years, create the greatest Le Mans 24 hours intermarque battle of a generation. At domestic level, BTCC will adopt hybrids to bring more power and fewer emissions but, crucially, delivered in a way that will further boost entertainment. That’s the key point. Having ambitions to improve entertainment, diversity and sustainability can create strategies that converge to create one unified strategy.
Such rapid progress in a changing world is driven by an aligned vision, clear stakeholder engagement and clear communication. In our NMA courses, we aim to build the motorsport industry leaders of the future. The past two years have shown that our industry can flex and adjust in the short term, but not lose sight of the long-term goal. We all need to play our role in racing forwards, with relevance as a key building block in the strategy.