Lesson from Cycling: Drafting
Drafting is a strategy where two or more cyclists line up in such a way as to provide a greater efficiency in the ride. The lead cyclist provides an air stream draft for the others which can, according to some estimates, provide up to 30% greater efficiency. The optimum distance between cyclists is about 20 inches– being closer, cyclists run the risk of accidents. A greater separation diminishes the benefit of the draft.
We found the benefit of drafting was accentuated in strong head wind conditions. The stronger the wind the greater the benefit to the cyclist, but at a significant cost to the lead rider! Because the lead rider expends a great amount of energy, the lead position is rotated to utilize the fresh strength of each team member. We found the discipline of drafting was intentional and required focus for all team members. There were times when drafting was so effective that it provided profound moments of satisfaction along the way.
Drafting is a great illustration of team work:
- Each member of the team is important and carries responsibility for the success of the team.
- The importance of team work increases with the difficulty/complexity of the task.
- A team should never underestimate the importance of the “relational distance” in team efficiency.
- Effective teams accomplish more than any one member can on their own.
- A shared common goal provides the motivation and discipline required for working as a team.
- Trust is required for effective team work!
A thought from Patrick Lencioni in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable: “Remember teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”