I’ve been an avid runner for several years, having competed in various races both long and short. Perhaps what I love most about running are the various lessons I get from running that I can apply to both my professional and personal life. One of these lessons came during one of the lowest points in my running career, and focuses on the importance of effective team planning.

It was during a Corporate Challenge track race in Los Angeles, an annual event when teams from several different companies came together to compete. This co-ed event pitted teams of four against each other in a relay race in which each successive runner ran a lap more than the previous (the first runner would run one, the second two and so forth). I had been training to run a “440,” which was one lap. Just prior to the event, our coach decided who was to run which segment of the race, and I was saddled with the “880,” or two laps. Though my instinct was to protest, I soon fell in line with the plan.

The event began with our first teammate, a male distance runner, against all the other first leg competitors who were female. The next round, mine, saw me as the only woman against a male-dominated lineup. I was embarrassingly lapped by at least one of the other runners and finished feeling deflated and like I had let the entire team down.

So what happened? The answer is obvious: our plan wasn’t good enough. We didn’t have the right runners in the right spots to set our team up for success in the competition. The coach made the assumption that since I was fast in the 440, I would find success in the 880, a bad choice in hindsight.

What could we have done better? My instinct to protest was on the right path: we should have gathered the entire team together to discuss where our individual strengths were, both what we saw in ourselves and in each other. We should have talked about where we could stretch our capabilities, where our limitations were and also the strengths of our competitors so we could best create a winning strategy.

In essence, what we needed to do was create an FMEA – a Failure Mode Effects Analysis. Our knowledge of our own running abilities is the basis on which we could find our “failure modes,” and in fact, my instinct to protest the lineup was kind of the first step in conducting one of these. So while we may not have needed to perform a full-blown FMEA, looking at our possible failure points and making adjustments would have possibly given our team a victory, and saved me a lot of embarrassment.

So to those who may not be runners or familiar with the FMEA, I’d ask you: How are you doing in planning your work assignments? Do you have the right team members performing the work they are most skilled at or work that will drive their personal development? Are you doing failure analysis or risk assessment? If not, it may be time to reevaluate how your team works together and how you delegate tasks, and E Carey & Associates can help. Get in touch with us and let’s get your relay plan started right.

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