Have you ever heard of Usain Bolt? Yes, of course, he’s the fastest runner in the world, from Jamaica, winner of eight Olympic gold medals, including a gold medal in the 4×100 m relay at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. But have you ever heard of Ryota Yamagata, Shota Iizuka, Yoshihide Kiryu and Asuka Cambridge?
They are members of the Japanese relay team that won a silver medal in Rio. The next places were taken by: Canada, China, Great Britain, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States (they came third, but were disqualified for passing the baton outside the takeover zone).
The Jamaican team won with a time of 37.27 seconds and was faster than the Japanese by 0.33 seconds. But let’s take a look at the personal bests of competitors running on each leg of the race:
- On the first leg, Asafa Powell (9.72) should be faster than Ryota Yamagata (10.00) by 0.28 seconds.
- On the second leg, Yohan Blake (9.69) should be faster than Shota Iizuki (10.08) by 0.39 seconds.
- On the third leg, Nickel Ashmeade (9.90) should be faster than Yoshihide Kiryu (9.98) by 0.08 seconds.
- On the fourth leg, Usain Bolt (9.58) should be faster than Asuka Cambridge (10.08) by exactly half a second.
In total, Jamaicans should be faster than the Japanese by 1.25 seconds, but their advantage was only 0.33 seconds. Where did they lose nearly one second over a distance of 400 meters?
Passing the baton!
It was the secret of the Japanese relay team’s success. They optimized the process of passing the baton between sprinters. Since the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton, they employed a less popular but more natural underhand (or up-sweep) exchange technique. And they became one of the most consistent teams in the world, regularly qualifying for the major events’ finals.
But that’s not all. In 2014, the Japanese analyzed biomechanical data and found that, contrary to popular belief, only the first exchange of the baton should take place at the very end of the takeover zone. The second and third are best done in the middle. And then they practiced, practiced, and practiced again, changing the order of the runners in the relay to make sure that any reshuffle won’t have a negative impact on the result.
Why am I telling you all this and why is it related to the Nozbe app?
Well, in many organizations it is not the speed of individual people that determines the pace of completing tasks. The efficiency and reliability of passing them between team members turns out to be the key factor. How many times does it happen that you prepare an urgent report and send it to a colleague, only to be yelled at a few days later, because the recipient haven’t noticed the email in his overflowing inbox? Even the fastest sprint is ruined when you drop the baton!
This common phenomenon is not a result of someone’s bad will but is usually caused by using a wrong tool for the job. Email is a terrible medium for passing tasks and related information. It’s a black hole where everything disappears! In comparison, Nozbe and other task management and delegation applications are the real „Japanese relay technology” implementations for the modern workplace.
However, to make the most of these tools, you must be consistent and determined. The entire company, without exceptions, must employ them, and the use of email for these purposes should be strictly prohibited. Why? Imagine that one of the sprinters in the Japanese relay team passes the baton differently. For example with his left hand, instead of the right one. Imagine it! Do you see it?
If you’re a boss or if you have an impact on how your organization works, do your best to completely replace email with an effective teamwork management system. You’ll gain more than Japanese sprinters – no matter if you work with world record holders or just runners who are good enough.
Good luck and may the Next Action be with you!