Ayrton Senna, The Master of Change 20 years since his death on May 1st 1994.

It has been 20 years.

Imola 1994. Every fan of Formula 1 racing knows the day. The death of Ayrton Senna.

Through his life he was not only considered a fantastic talent behind the wheel of a race car, but an agent for change in his sport who fought desperately for safer tracks and safer cars.

He was able to handle changing track conditions from dry to wet with ease, and able to maneuver through a changing field of competitors throughout a long race. Let us celebrate his life, and his impact on Motorsports by comparing his influence over the sport with better change practices in business.

Change is the great leveler. You might be a quick driver or have a great business, but can you adapt to a changing environment? Can you change to meet new challenges and do so in an efficient and streamlined way? “Lotus F1 team (a team that Senna had driven for earlier in his career) worked with a Gartner analyst and made use of findings in the Gartner magic quadrant to evaluate 13 ERP manufacterers.” They needed a solution to manage all of their data and took the step to aquire the tools and migrate their information onto it. With great results as well.

Senna is considered to be one of the biggest legends to ever grace Formula One. His passion and drive and went to extremes that only the greatest drivers could go. He was described to “make the car dance” by John Watson, a former F1 driver. Watson explained that Senna did things with the car that no one ever think to do, he was always taking risks.

Not only was Senna a legend in Motorsports but also he was a change agent. A change agent is a person who acts as a catalyst for change. A change agent must have a clear vision, patient yet persistent, courageous, leads by example, and has strong relationships built on trust. In 1993, Senna underlined his mastery of the wet at Donigton Park. As his rivals began to slow down due to the weather, Senna was not stopped as he gambled to stay on slicks longer than his opponents. Because of this determination, he exemplified vision, courage and persistence speeding through hurtles he came across, he had one thing in mind and that was to win, which was what he did.

Gartner analyst Kimberly Collins reminds us to: “Take change management seriously. Gain board-level support and involve the full spectrum of department representatives to gather requirements.”

It wasn’t just his immense speed that separated him from the other competitors. Senna had a “win at all costs” attitude. Martin Brundle, a racing rival, mentioned that Senna would try to get into your head. He would do the unthinkable and soon other competitors in the races knew to stay away from that yellow helmet. This too demonstrates how Senna was a change agent. He didn’t let anything get in his way to fulfill his dream. He did what he wanted and it was up to others to follow suit or step away from interfering.

Senna’s input was so respected as an agent of change that Honda consulted with him when they were ready to release their NSX supercar. After Senna drove a few laps he made some suggestions that were immediately implemented.

From the start of his career, Senna knew what he wanted and did everything he could to get there. No matter the obstacles he came across, he overcame them with his vision and tenacity. Each race he went into knowing he was going to win and not let anyone come in his way of that. He embodies a change agent because even though when he would be in fourth or fifth place during a race, somehow his drive and momentum would push him against all odds and make it right back to first place winning the race. Senna will always be seen as an inspiring change agent, not letting anything get in his way of his dream.

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Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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