Seven more years of F1. Learn from nearly forty years of DHL-F1!

This morning, Channel News Asia’s (CNA) “The Big Read: Singapore goes all in with F1 – will it pay off for a desperate tourism sector?” caught my eye. Risk assessments, boldness, and memories of the enjoyable times I had facilitating team building programs for DPDHL’s (Deutsche Post DHL) IT Services Cyberjaya under the auspices of Fish Camp Learning Sdn Bhd at Port Dickson in 2011 came to mind.

Risk Assessments

The CNA article discussed many aspects of risk-reward for different players in the tourism sector and how those aspects contributed to Singapore’s ongoing overall good reputation and future economic well-being. Chief amongst those aspects of risk-reward was of course the effects of the ongoing pandemic and how Singapore’s handling of it would determine the successful hosting of seven more F1 events. Looking at the various things people were quoted as saying in the article, I really wish more concrete examples of comparative data had been provided. That is to say, comparative data which is actually comparable, and not comparing the proverbial apples and oranges. Saying, for example, that “Since its debut in 2008, the F1 race in Singapore has generated more than S$1.5 billion in incremental tourism receipts” doesn’t help very much. What were the tourism receipts for each event, meaning each year, up till 2019, in the case of Singapore’s hosting of the F1? Was it simply S$1.5 billion divided by eleven? How were the receipts profitable after calculating the actual cost of hosting? What security measures were implemented to ensure ergonomically seamless logistics operations and pleasantly easy experiences for business and leisure travellers? Was political risk taken into account? How much more prepared for dealing with crises have we been every year since 2008 – have we taken to heart lessons from “near misses” and strengthened our response capabilities? Looking at the cancellations in 2020 and 2021, it doesn’t appear to me to have been the case. The data pointing to much more effective handling of COVID than was the case in much of the world was already available by the second half of 2020. Were our eyes open to it? Make no mistake, we need to work very hard and take all factors into account if our risk assessments are to be beneficial for us. We need to remember also the risks of NOT securing seven more years of hosting F1.


Boldness is not recklessness. It is being very conscious of all environmental factors and taking values-guided, data-focused action in the full faith that good outcomes will ensue in the long term, even if we do not see those good outcomes now. That being the case, conducting risk assessments continuously results in increasing boldness. I recall an episode of the old TV series “Baa Baa Black Sheep” where Boyington and his merry men were assigned to escort B-17 bombers on their missions. The B-17s happened to be headed by a man who believed that with the B-17s’ superior protective armour, guns and all, fighter escort had been rendered unnecessary. After all, were they not known as “Flying Fortresses”? In this episode, Boyington and the 214 found themselves caught in thick cloud and hence unable to fly safely because the Corsairs they were flying did not have radar, but the B-17s did. The theory was that the B-17s were supposed to guide the Corsairs through the thick clouds over radio communications. However, in wanting to shake off the fighter escort and so validate his own ideas that fighter escort was now unnecessary, the man leading the B-17s deliberately refused to give guidance to the Corsairs. Boyington was forced to fly his merry men out of the clouds and back to base as best he could, something that could well have ended in disaster for the 214. Eventually, the man leading the B-17s was killed – by a Japanese Zero fighter. Ironically, Boyington was also on board that same B-17, manning one of the machineguns designed to protect the bomber from enemy fighters. (He came aboard to try to show the man leading the B-17s how necessary it was to have fighter escort.) Since Boyington was a fighter ace himself, he was better able than most trained bomber crew members to shoot Zeros out of the sky since he very well knew how a Zero fighter would attack a bomber. Unfortunately, risk assessment evidently comprised very little of the culture of the B-17 force. Many paid for that with their lives. Yes, boldness is not recklessness. It is having the ability to understand that residual risk is acceptable, and why that is so. We need much more boldness in our society, and conducting thorough and regular risk assessments is a big part of it.

Drifting with the current? What current?

Memories of ITS Cyberjaya Teambuilding

This was one of the most enjoyable times I have had conducting team building programs. It was under the auspices of Fish Camp Learning Sdn Bhd. Besides the fact that Fish Camp had, together with ITS Cyberjaya, a supporting organization of DPDHL, produced and continuously refined a really excellent three-day-two-night program, the fact that ITS Cyberjaya leadership was intimately involved was evident in the way each batch was comprised of a “vertical slice” of personnel drawn from all levels. Every batch had someone from the Senior Leadership of ITS Cyberjaya personally involved in all activities as part of one of the teams formed during and for the program. Moreover, all participants enthusiastically took part and it was gratifying to see increased bonding and stronger relationships forming even during each three day program.

Why am I telling you about this? Well, it was during this series of team building programs that I discovered that DHL is the longest-standing logistics partner of Formula One. For almost forty years, DHL has been moving the race cars and associated paraphernalia from one event locality to another, sometimes over consecutive weekends! When you remember that the US Army takes six months to move a heavy brigade, you start to realize that this is no small feat. Of course, moving a heavy brigade to an area adjacent to a potential theatre of war is perhaps a little different from moving the entire apparatus for an F1 event to a host locality, but you get the point. Having had a little bit of experience facilitating team building programs for part of the DHL family tells me that perhaps we have something to pick up from them. Years ago, I have heard it said that the Ritz-Carlton chain actually arranged to send some of its housekeeping staff to observe how F1 pit crews changed the tyres and refuelled the cars as they came charging into the pits – having them roar off again in four seconds or so. Looking it up again just now, I see that I was mistaken about the four seconds – it is actually two to three! Well, perhaps we as a nation might like to pick up a thing or two from how DHL, and Formula One, run their operations. Might make the next seven years more fruitful!

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