On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, the story is fascinating as a source of lessons in risk management.
Most of our learning about leadership and management comes from personal experience, from the experiences of others, from texts and professional materials and from presentations and training. The content of these sources is specifically about leadership and management. This is what I call direct learning.
The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Risk Management for Leaders
But there are other ways to learn about leadership or management, ways I call indirect. One slightly surprising source is film. Many films aren't directly about leadership or management, and yet, indirectly, they have much to teach us. One of these is The Last Place on Earth. There are many more, of course.
I mention The Last Place on Earth because it's the story of the race to the South Pole, which occurred in the Antarctic summer of 1911-1912. The film is based on the book of the same title, by Roland Huntford. I recommend both.
In this program, we use the history of this event to explore important lessons about managing risk in organizational efforts of all kinds, including planned and unplanned change, complex projects, and mergers and acquisitions. We'll see why leaders are uniquely positioned to manage whatever risks can be anticipated, and many risks we can't anticipate.
The leaders of these two expeditions took very different approaches to risk management. By comparing their approaches, we can come to understand the differences in the outcomes of the two expeditions. We'll explore a leadership-based approach to risk analysis and planning that considers the interplay between three categories of risk sources: the individual, the organizational, and the environmental. This framework is especially well suited to large, complex, high-risk organizational efforts.
Attendees learn valuable lessons from history that they can apply immediately to managing current organizational efforts and planning new ones. The drama of the story of Amundsen and Scott makes these lessons more intriguing, easier to learn, and much, much more memorable.
Each of the lessons we examine is illustrated with background and stories from one or both of the two expeditions. The stories are memorable, and told with an emphasis on their value to leaders and managers of modern organizations.
Here is a description of the framework we use for analyzing the risks these expeditions faced:
This program is most suitable for keynote presentations and conference general sessions, or for large groups. Heavily illustrated with maps and original photographs, the stories bring the events of 1908 through 1912 — almost 100 years ago — to life. It's especially suitable for audiences that desire some relief from the sometimes-dry style of presentations that address similar subject matter. Audience interaction and table discussions about accompanying prepared discussion questions bring the lessons of the Race to the Pole into focus in contemporary experience.
We usually think of project management skills as rather technical — free of emotional content. We hold this belief even though we know that our most difficult situations can be highly charged. Despite our most sincere beliefs, taking a project organization to the next level of performance does require learning to apply knowledge management skills even in situations of high emotional content. That's why this workshop uses a learning model that differs from the one often used for technical content.
Our learning model is partly experiential, which makes the material accessible even during moments of stress. Using a mix of presentation, simulation, group discussion, and metaphorical team problems, we make available to participants the resources they need to make new, more constructive choices even in tense situations.
Project managers, program managers, managers, executives, and leaders at all levels. Participants should have experienced at least six months working with or as a member of a team.
Available formats range from 50 minutes to one full day. The longer formats allow for more coverage or more material, more experiential content and deeper understanding of issues specific to audience experience.
At this time, there are no public events scheduled for this program. But if you would like to observe the program, I might be able to arrange an opportunity with a current client. Contact Rick for details.