Lean enterprises win
May 17th, 2017
Lean enterprises win. A bit more than a century ago the Norwegians conquered the South Pole while well funded and well resourced British “competitors” in the race to Antarctica all died on the way back.
Lean enterprises win
The Norwegian expedition leader was Roald Amundsen. He trained with the Inuit in Canada during an epic prior expedition to the North West passage. Robert Scott led the British team and showed up at the South Pole 34 days later than Amundsen despite starting much earlier.
Amundsen Expedition at the South Pole (from left to right): Roald Amundsen, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel and Oscar Wisting
Date 17 December 1911 Source: Amundsen, Roald: The South Pole (Vol II), London, John Murray 1912
Despite the British team had more men and resources they were late and ended-up dying on the return journey. Lean enterprises win, large, heavier enterprises may die due to lack of innovation, lack of preparation in front of adversities, lack of savvy decision-making at a point in time.
This story reflects in many ways two different business models, we would also say two different risk management approaches. The leaner team triumphed and the well-financed team failed. Sounds familiar in today’s world, i.e. startups and new ventures where oftentimes lean enterprises win.
- Reportedly Scott made management mistakes and was finally responsible for multiple deaths.
- He reportedly took reckless chances like relying on man-sledges or leading his team through brutal Antarctic storms.
- Amundsen was more meticulous about not risking his expedition when he didn’t need to. He also knew when to turn back.
Coaching and mentoring, subject matter experts
An experienced coach mattered in those times and matters today. An experienced risk-coach offers immense support, helping avoiding blunders.
- The preventative mitigative actions Amundsen learned from the Inuit (dog sleds, igloo-building techniques and loose-fitting fur parkas), who coached and provided subject matter expertise, saved his life and expedition as they were:
- reasonable and
- well proven.
- Modern risk assessments used in support to decision making allow decision-makers to develop mitigative road-maps that are:
- reasonable and
- The Norwegian were fast, able to adapt and pivot, like a modern startup should be to maximize chances of success.
- The big military-style British expedition encompassed lots of men, lots of supplies and a careful, slow, deliberate route with little space for:
- tactical changes,
- strategic shifts.
- The resemblance with large corporations with complex management is astounding especially if one considers the difficulties these have in dealing with fast emerging risks, crises.
Clearly setting success criteria is paramount
The Norwegians had a very clear success criteria for their mission: get to the South Pole and plant the Norwegian flag.
The British had a fuzzier focus: get there while gathering scientific data of various kind.
Success and failure criteria are of paramount importance when developing risk assessments which will support your decision making toward success. Lean enterprises win, especially if they are properly coached, mentored and can use subject matter experts.
We can learn a lot from these expeditions of the past. It’s again a matter of “old risks simply renamed” when we look at modern corporations, startups.
Contact us to learn how we could make it happen: lean enterprises win!
Tagged with: efficient, failure criteria, Lean enterprises, pivots, Roald Amundsen, success criteria, sustainable, tactical changes
Category: Risk analysis, Risk management