By Delaney Turner, Social Media Communications Manager, IBM Business Analytics
The Yukon Quest
kicked off last
Saturday and upon hearing the news I immediately thought of another important
kick off – namely, IBM Finance Forum 2011
, our annual event series for Finance professionals
that begins today in San Jose.
What? You don’t see the
Let me explain.
The Yukon Quest is
a 1,000-mile sled race between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon.
Physically and mentally grueling for driver and dog alike, the Quest traverses
some of the harshest, coldest and loneliest of terrains. Not for the faint of
heart, only the most serious mushers need apply.
"mushers" is the right word.
For 25 years, the Quest was a
fixture in the calendar of one Frank Turner (no relation). Turner raced in the
first Quest, won in 1995 and set a course record that stood for more than 12
years. Now retired from racing, Turner runs Muktuk Adventures, where from his
home off the grid he leads less taxing one-day excursions, conducts
team-building exercises and holds leadership seminars.
have three hours to spare on a Sunday afternoon outside of Whitehorse (as I did
last fall), Turner will gladly give you a tour of his facilities, where you can
meet more than 120 dogs and snack on home made brownies in his living room as he
recounts tales of endurance and lessons for success.
There’s been a transformation in sled
dog racing, Turner says. However fixed in the popular imagination, the crack of
the whip has given way to a more enlightened, more analytical team-building
approach. Now, he says, the best mushers build their teams over months of
rigorous training and careful evaluation to learn each dog’s disposition,
strengths and weaknesses. Some dogs excel in dry snow, some like the slush. Some
dogs love running into the wind, others prefer to draft.
days it’s not the best dogs that win, Turner says, but the best team. It’s not
how hard you can push your dogs, it’s how well you can manage them to keep them
motivated and happy. To that end, mushers must pay careful attention to each
dog’s physical condition and keep precise records of each dog’s injuries and
overall health throughout the race.
"Keenly and continually attuned" to
Further, Turner explains that the
best mushers are keenly and continually attuned to their race surroundings. One
of his anecdotes involves a previous Quest winner (a former Green Beret) who
rearranged his dogs in response to the sound of the snow coming off his sled
rails. Why? Different sound, different snow.
What does all
this have to do with Finance?
I see two connections. First,
the transformation story. As David Axson will recount at more than 20 events across North America (Speakers and event details for
European events are forthcoming) high-performing Finance departments are
pursuing their own transformation away from pure cost-cutting toward a more
agile, analytical and risk-aware mindset. Both transformations have been shown
to drive better outcomes for everyone involved.
Anticipate and shape
The second (and for me more interesting)
connection is the increasing need to anticipate and shape outcomes in your
favor. Much like the most successful mushers, top-performing Finance departments
don't explore analytics simply when there's a crisis. Instead, they make acting
on insight a daily discipline that keeps them continually attuned to changes in
their markets. Further, they build teams with the skills to anticipate and model
different scenarios. They predict changes, understand their consequences, and
act quickly to reallocate resources to maintain momentum, profitability and
competitive advantage. They’re what the most recent IBM CFO Study refers to as
Value Integrators and you’ll learn how to become one at IBM Finance Forum 2011.
Change your perspective
Neither sled dog racing nor Finance is for the faint
of heart. The Yukon Quest is the pinnacle of the former, attracting the most
experienced and most ambitious mushers. Whether you’re a CFO, or hoping to
become one, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by attending one of our events. You
may not yet be the lead dog on your team, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take
steps now to change the view. Mush!
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