Great Leadership at Scuderia Ferrari is Showing Us Successful Failure in Real Time

An older article wrote years ago that I published here since I believe the concept is still relevant.
I have written about SUCCESSFUL FAILURE on this blog in the past and while it is never good to fail, SUCCESSFUL FAILURE is something that I strongly believe in; I also teach it to students when lecturing management and operations management classes.  As is also obvious from reading this blog, I am also a fan of Formula 1 racing.  What is going on at Scuderia Ferrari this 2014 season presents a great opportunity to look at the right steps to take to make certain that failure is learned from and also never repeated.
To recap on how failure exists for Ferrari today, does not require a long explanation.  The most simplistic and telling way is to check their standings in team points.  As I am writing this on June 16th 2014, they are 3rd in the standings almost 200 points behind the leaders Mercedes AMG.  For a team such as Ferrari with all of their championships and history, this season is a colossal failure.  Like all teams in F1 and business operations in management, they started with a plan.  In this case failure became apparent 2/19ths of the way through the season.  The moves made since have put them on the correct path; anyone else looking to learn from their failures should follow the same road put forth by Ferrari this season.  Remember that merely being on the correct path does not guarantee success, it only improves its chances.
The first thing that was done correctly was implement a change in leadership at the top of the team structure.  Their former team boss Mr. Domenicali, failed to deliver a championship (drivers or team [constructors]) championship from 2009 to 2013.  The new set of regulations going into 2014 was a great opportunity for him to have a complete control of a project from its inception.  Immediately it was clear that either his creative vision or personnel decisions were to blame as the car was slow on the straight and lacked down-force in the turns.  The president of Ferrari Mr. Di Montezemolo was right in removing him from his position as soon as the failure was evident this 2014 season.  However with no more preseason time remaining, they had to continue with the plan in place for the time being.
As is best in cases like this, after many years of less than desired results, the best change in leadership is to bring in someone qualified to lead and manage, but yet someone who has never been part of that specific process.  Marco Mattiacci was named the new team boss, this high-profile change not only brought a fresh look, but also let everyone from the fans to team personnel know that what was would no longer be acceptable.
The next step in turning failure into success is to not eliminate the current short-term action plans.  Continuing with the plan in place gave the team the time that they needed to regroup and refocus.  It also allowed for the observation of personnel by new team boss Mr. Mattiacci.  A new leaders first responsibility upon bring brought in should always be to create an assessment of the current situation.  In management this is referred to as situational awareness.  What was also correct was to see the new boss call for nothing but maximum effort. (  These sentiments were also correctly exemplified with Mr. Di Montezemolo saying that there is “Little to talk about and much to do” (  What this article also references is that he is not expecting miracles.  Putting pressure to perform on team members is normal for a leader; knowingly putting unattainable goals on a team with brand new leadership will only create chaos in the short run with the potential to cause additional problems in the long run.
We’ve now established that in the short-term you do not seek to change much.  You stick with the plan as it was initially written making only minor changes.  Fortunately leadership at Ferrari is doing the right thing with respect to this as well.  (
To turn failure into success, I have established the best pathway to do so.  First, you appoint an accomplished leader with a fresh look who has not been part of the failure.  Second, you make clear that this new leader has the total support of all parts of upper management.  Third, you stick to your current implementation plan in the short-term so that the new leadership has every opportunity to create a sense of awareness and evaluate the current personnel staff.  After all these steps have been taken and evaluations have been performed, the new leader should put forth their plan for success, which fortunately Ferrari is doing as well.  (  This new direction brings changes from top to bottom.  What is very important is to always remember that change does not come overnight and that there may be a period of down before there is an upswing in performance and championships, just think of the Mets plan now under general manager Sandy Alderson.  There are many parallels to recent changes in leadership both with the Mets and at Ferrari.
The main reason I’m referencing sports teams are that they are large-scale, high value, multi continent operations with hundreds of moving operational components.  As an operations professional I have been part of house cleanings where I was brought in, and in one case asked to leave due to the poor performance of my business manager who was being fired.  In that case I was transferred to a different facility bringing in that ‘new look’ that I referenced above.
Always remember to never scrap an entire plan the minute that you have some sense that it may not work.  You will instantly be eliminating all of the preparatory work, research, development, and labor hours that went into it.  Also, most good operators have incremental additions and modifications to their plan set for after its implementation.  Immediately moving to an entirely new course would eliminate those incremental improvements and modifications as well, some of which may have been successful.  Lastly, whether or not Ferrari or any other organization is successful in the years that follow the taking of these steps is entirely up to the newly appointed leadership; but following the correct path greatly increases their chances.

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