Dreaming With Deadlines by Neelam Dihingia

Formula Bharat   June 25, 2020   Comments Off on Dreaming With Deadlines by Neelam Dihingia

Exactly a year back, there was news of Mount Everest getting crowded with mountaineers. Scaling the great mountain was something that had interested me for some time. However, after researching a bit about the preparation, money, time and experience, I came to the conclusion that this feat is no ordinary task; it requires patience, planning, timing and most importantly, goal setting.

After spending a good amount of time on various articles and blogs by passionate adventure seekers, I was looking for answers to questions like,

“Is money and experience the only factor for their success? Is practice and hard work not enough? What about passion?”

Each of the articles I came across emphasized on the importance of setting goals. The consequences of a small mistake in planning and implementation could cost years of savings, patience and hard work. Emphasis was also placed on adhering to strict timelines so that the climb to the peak could be achieved in less punishing weather conditions. Failure in planning has taken a toll on the most passionate climbers, who were never able to go back to the drawing board to see themselves on the summit.

Formula Student has been close to my heart since the start of this decade. I started wondering why teams perform differently in the event even though they all are bound by the same set of rules and regulations, just like Mount Everest. The terrain is the same for everyone and so as the knowledge. Although funding across teams may vary, I have come by teams who even with minimal funding, have touched the podium or have at least won an award. I have also seen these teams continuously improve annually, since their first competition. My gut feeling indicates that these teams had never dreamt of becoming the number one team in their inception years. I believe that they were rather focused on increasing their competency, driven by a concrete set of yearly goals.

Setting Goals

I would like to put forward my thoughts on this very important topic of goal setting and why it is crucial before starting a project or task. Since most of the teams are already in the planning phase or even at the design phase, I thought that it will be helpful to people who are either new or a bit confused on what they want to do.

A few examples of setting goals would be, “We would like to –

  • be 0.5 sec faster in acceleration than last year
  • be 5 kg lighter
  • pass TI in the first attempt
  • make our car presentable through ‘clean’ welds and neat wiring
  • focus on collecting more data on (….)
  • do more testing of (….)

etc”.

Goals clarify our desires and in doing so help us focus on only those areas that will lead us to what we want. Focus areas help us define our plans. Clear goals provide us with a framework for smarter choices and implementation methods for our plan. If you know where you want to go, it becomes much easier to focus on those activities that will get you there. Write it down somewhere and work towards it. Goals that are not written down are just wishes. Picasso once said:

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

However you should also keep in mind how much can you take in your plate. Take what you can eat and eat what you have taken.

I have never come across any team who does not say, “I would like to win at Formula Bharat or win at least one award in one at the competition”. It is good that we aim for the ultimate goal; however we must also be aware of where we stand and what we can do. Do not take this on a negative note but it is one of the perspectives that I have seen in my career of eight years in the automotive industry.

All automotive companies want to be the number one company in the world; they all want to get to the top of Mount Everest. But a closer look must be focused on their mission and vision statement because there state what they want to achieve and what their goals are. Some of the yearly plan examples: “In 2020 we would like to be an ISO 900X:XXXX certified company. By 2022 we would like to sell XX million cars/motorcycles globally. By 2025 we would like to capture XX% market share of India etc.”

If we closely look at these statements, we notice that they never put a comparative target with other companies. Their target is chosen as an improvement statement of what they are today. They are very Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound – ‘SMART’. Old and renowned companies of the world have understood the importance of ‘SMART’ goal setting and have mastered this art, to survive the cut throat competitive world.

The idea is: TO IMPROVE ONESELF.

“Success k piche mat bhago, excellence k piche bhago. Success jhak maar ke peeche ayegi” says Baba Ranchordas. [Do not run after success, follow excellence instead. Success will follow right after.]

Reasons to Improve Oneself in a Team Framework when setting Goals

Reason #1: It restores a sense of focus in an environment that has become complicated by too many options.

There are simply far too many things to be done at a given time. If you look closely at the timing sheets of all dynamic events in FB2020, then notice the car, analyze and ask yourself, “What is different about this vehicle?”. Perhaps we need to get a holistic view by also focusing on the team: “What was the team’s intended goal?” I have seen many Indian teams since their birth who are on the podium today. The common thing that I have noticed? They always focused on yearly self improvement and committed towards it.

Reason #2: It gives you a sense of discipline; which will help you for years to come either in professional or personal life.

Abraham Lincoln once said,

“Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.”

It is the ability to make yourself do something you don’t want to do in order to get a result you really want to get. Discipline becomes a bridge between your goals and accomplishments. It keeps you alert on seizing opportunities and possibilities. It drives innovation. A disciplined opportunist can find new ways of achieving goals.

For many, the Formula Student project involves an emotional attachment as well. Many students want to do something creative on their vehicle and then take upon that as a personal project. They spend hours and days trying to create that magic in the car to achieve the feeling of self accomplishment. Along the way, they tend to forget what the ultimate goal is as a team and the set deadlines get pushed to point of no return.

Self discipline is of utmost importance in your professional life and the industy won’t provide you with any training on the subject because it cannot be taught to someone. One has to realize why self discipline is important and how it affects the common goal of the team.

Reason #3: It leads to commitment.

Commitment gives you a depth of understanding of your course of action. You may be motivated to start something but commitment is something that keeps you moving. It helps you to achieve your desire to do something for the car, for the team and for yourself. While there is definitely no shortage of desire, teams that do not do well in Formula Student face lack of commitment. When we are committed towards something, we do not look for excuses but only results. A quote that I read on commitment,

“Unless a commitment is made there are only promises and hopes, but no plans”.

In my years of experience in technical inspection, I have come across teams who are very committed towards their work and in how they present themselves in the Technical Inspection bay. Many teams come with a ‘clean’ car on Day 1 and the car still remains presentable even on the last day. I see the commitment towards being presentable which is a secret which many teams tend to overlook. Tech Inspectors find many faults during the TI and suggest what needs to be done. A committed team will take some time but complete it with perfection with no shoddy work. One of the best examples is positive locking with wires. Yes, I agree that it needs a little bit of skill and experience to master the technique but I have seen teams who have not got a TI sticker because of their non commitment to do the work properly. That ultimately leads to wastage of time, which is very important in a Formula Student event. Looking at the bigger picture, a non-committed team ends up losing a year of hard work.

The best committed team comes with a ‘clean’ car – a properly painted car, properly welded structure, proper layout of wires and lines, no loose parts, a well organised toolbox, a well maintained team bay, presentable design reports, including a well kept demeanor with an attitude of politeness and generosity throughout the event. These are just some of the few things that we see from outside. I believe that what you see outside a team is a result of what each member on that team has committed on the inside to achieve a common mission. Commitment is not an easy task to master.

Commitment is always followed by consistency. Commitment of a team or individual is not that we need to follow only for a year but for years together. It should be infused in our veins which ultimately creates a brand image. I have realised that some teams are very famous in the event and some are not, even though the latter have been in the FS world for many years. For example TU Delft is very well known for their “Workshop for all”. That’s a brand name they have created for themselves. To be committed to helping other teams and be consistent over years.

The question for each team member to ask themselves is: are you committed as a person towards the common goal of the team?

Make Goal Setting a Habit

Now, the question that might come to your mind, “Ok, the ‘WHY’ part is covered but how do I do that?” Well everything that we do daily or monthly or yearly in our lives is merely a habit. And researchers say that it takes 21 days in order to change a habit. Goal setting can also be developed as a habit. Start with setting a small goal which you think can be achieved in 21 days. You can keep 3 days in a buffer. For example, set a goal of studying design reports of different teams to find out the torsional stiffness of the frame. Further break down into smaller activity timelines of 3-5 days, such as collecting 30 reports, data study and plotting graphs of weight vs torsional stiffness, Tube diameter-Material layout plan etc, compare data with your own design, brainstorm ideas and design your chassis.

Summary

The bottom line is smaller goals with timelines help you focus the task in hand, maintain discipline of what you want to achieve and commitment towards betterment of the project. Personally speaking, it has helped me in setting up modest goals to complete my hardest assignment. It has taught me how to schedule my work without overthinking and has helped avoid distractions. It has provided me with a sense of accountability to gain healthy habits by knowing my limits and capabilities. It is very important to make smarter choices in life; it’s me and only me who has control over my future and I do not want to stand in the way of making poor decisions. It takes time to develop but in the end it’s worth it and I pat myself on the back because of my small effort towards focus, discipline and commitment towards my written goals. Not only will the team improve but it will improve me as a person too. Maybe one day I can think of scaling the mighty Mount Everest after I rob a bank.


Author: Neelam Dihingia