November 2007

"Lollipop man"

"Lollipop man." In Formula One racing, that’s what they call the member of the pit crew who holds up the paddle to get the car safely on and off the track. He is one of 18 people in the pit, not counting the driver: two to jack up the car, four to unbolt and re-bolt the tires, four to remove the old ones, four to install the new ones, one to refuel, one to intervene in case of fire, and one to restart the car if it stalls. In 1993, in Australia, a crew like this changed all four tires in an unexpected stop in under four seconds!

However different the circumstances, successful outcomes in clinical care require many of the same attributes as Formula One racing—in particular, precision, careful coordination, and safe handoffs.

In a still deeper sense, the world of racing teaches us what teamwork really means. Whatever the field, it involves a close-knit group of individuals who have each mastered their own role, who know they can rely on each other, and who understand that the end result depends equally on everyone involved.

On the road to greatness, it is genuine, mutually respectful teamwork that holds the key.