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Keeping it Off The Wall

What, me worry?
 by
Ed Donath 
September 26, 2000
 
"The right" new President/CEO would relish the opportunity to step in and clean up the mess. But you have to worry that even the most suitable candidate would be worn down and rendered ineffectual by the slow moving corporate structure of CART. 


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Sure I worry. I worry enough about CART to bang out at least a couple of columns a week on the subject of Champ Car racing and the company that runs it. There are other important issues I could be writing about; regional and national politics, socio-economics and spiritual concerns are some of the subjects I have scribbled about from time to time. But CART is where I live.

More and more, however, I find myself wishing that I didn't care quite as much about the FedEx Championship Series as I actually do. Watching the endless chain of mistakes that are made as a result of mismanagement becomes more painful every day.

Championship Auto Racing Teams, the Champ Car Corporation as it were, presently stands at a critical crossroads. It is one of those moments in a company's life when making several key decisions will likely enable - or conversely, could disable - the company's future success. In that sense, then, there might be some cause for the alarm that seems now to have gripped many followers of our beloved speed sport.

--Selection of "the right" President/CEO
--The TV package 
--Marketing strategies
--Long-term formula changes

These four high-priority issues must be addressed - and acted upon - before a wheel turns in Rio de Janeiro at the 2001 season opener. Interestingly, only one of the aforementioned elements is not an ongoing concern. Other than filling the President/CEO job opening, the rest of the list is about the same things that keep getting carried over from year to year ad nauseam.

"A new broom sweeps clean" is an old adage that is not automatically true. The installation of a new President/CEO in any organization should be a time when the new guy implements many of the ideas that helped earn him the appointment to the position. Enthusiasm and the need to please are usually the catalysts for exciting things happening when a new regime assumes the mantle of power. 

But in CART it is not unwise to worry that a new broom will merely be sweeping more dirt under the rug. Why? Because the two-board system of corporate management in use at Championship Auto Racing Teams seems to go far beyond its intended function - to provide a system of checks and balances for the protection of the corporation's stockholders. 

This overly cumbersome system has actually handcuffed those who are responsible for the day-to-day management of the Champ Car Corporation. It has never allowed for keen spontaneous thoughts to turn into successful operational strategy and policy. It stifles creative management.

There are two things that can be done immediately to initiate the turnaround that could make a dynamic organization out of CART:

Restructure the two-board system. Retain all of the Board members if absolutely necessary but get them all together as one single board - often - so that major decisions and policy can be made more quickly and efficiently.

Empower the new CEO to attack the carry-over issues I mentioned earlier. I'm talking carte blanche. If he doesn't take care of the whole mess once and for all in a year he's history. If he accomplishes his goals he earns himself a huge bonus.

"The right" new President/CEO would relish the opportunity to step in and clean up the mess. But you have to worry that even the most suitable candidate would be worn down and rendered ineffectual by the slow moving corporate structure of CART. 

It is sadly ironic that the company's slogan is "Feel the speed.".

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