Jim Collins of Good To Great fame jumps into the dump-on-Scott bandwagon with a really poor reading of history.

In his new book, Collins comes up with a new thesis as to why some companies do better than others:  because they’re like Roald Amundsen and they deliver consistent positive results at a given level, year in, year out, regardless of the business environment or other challenges.  And they restrain themselves from overdelivering in good years.

Because, you see, that’s why Amundsen beat Scott.  Because Scott and his team dashed ahead some days and stayed in their tents others, while the Norwegian and his crew made consistent mileage throughout.

Great theory.  Unfortunately, Collins’s entire notion rests on his assertion that the two teams faced the same weather:

Amundsen and Scott achieved dramatically different outcomes not because they faced dramatically different circumstances. In the first 34 days of their respective expeditions, according to Roland Huntford in his superb book The Last Place on Earth, Amundsen and Scott had exactly the same ratio, 56%, of good days to bad days of weather. If they faced the same environment in the same year with the same goal, the causes of their respective success and failure simply cannot be the environment. They had divergent outcomes principally because they displayed very different behaviors.

And what he says is true.  But what he doesn’t say is that Scott and his team were out there for 150 days before they perished.  Why focus on 34 days?  Because after that, they faced enormously different weather conditions.  Yes, Scott’s team stayed in their tents some days — because the weather was so unspeakably awful that to do otherwise would have been to die that much sooner.  Yes, they dashed ahead on others — they knew they were facing the race of their lives, after all.

It’s simply unacceptable that this celebrated author is so sloppy with his facts.  But he’s just one of many overfed, over-comfortable modern-day critics who deign to second-guess men whose courage he can’t even fathom.

This passage from The Climb, mountaineer Anatoli Boukreev’s story of the disaster on Mt. Everest in 1996, made me think of such foolishness around Scott’s story:

Some pundits have looked for an explanation for Fischer’s death in his personal history, mining his character as if a cause could be extracted from some flawed vein of his personality.  These explorations have done little more than denigrate a man whose life was no more complex than any of those of us who have chosen to write about the events of May 10, 1996.  The “revelations” have contributed little to an understanding of what happened.

In the end, Scott and his team certainly made decisions that contributed to their demise — departing too late for their journey with an impossibly long timetable, carrying rock samples right until the day they died, and on and on.  None of those decisions would have been second-guessed if they’d won.  They didn’t; they failed and died.  But they died seeking glory modern men can scarcely imagine.  Jim Collins isn’t nearly man enough to second-guess them, even if he had his story straight.

He doesn’t, though.  Horrid.