Horse racing’s Triple Crown – just like business analysts*


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The Kentucky Derby and Preakness horseraces, the first and second legs of the USA’s prestigious Triple Crown races, have been run. The winner of both races, I’ll Have Another, will be trying to win horseracing’s famous Triple Crown by winning the Belmont, but he will need to again outrun the final stretch Bodemeister, the favorite of the first two Triple Crown race legs.

It made me think that thoroughbred racehorses and business analytic and performance management project leaders have similarities depending on which type they are. (This metaphor is also applicable to professional careers.) There are three types of racehorses: starters, stalkers and deep closers. How are business analytics and enterprise performance management methodologies project managers similar?

Starter racehorses directly break to lead from the starting gate. This year’s Bodemeister is a good example. This type of horse does not normally win races because their early energy burst takes a toll. Similarly, some project managers, for example of a balanced scorecard project, try to move too fast for the organization. The obstacles that slow the adoption rate for business analytics and enterprise performance management methodologies are not technical – they are social. This type of project manager, often ambitious young ones, does not patiently earn buy-in from their organization. Consequently they are likely to come up short of a fully successful implementation of the fully integrated analytics-based enterprise performance management framework.

Stalker racehorses run a few lengths behind the starters until near the end of the race before turning up their speed to the finish line. This year’s I’ll Have Another is a good example. They often win as I’ll Have Another has now proven twice. Similarly, this type of project manager who paces them self are often successful. They carefully watch what lies ahead of them and how others are reacting to changing conditions. Which horse is changing lanes? Which manager is changing allegiances?

Deep closer racehorses run near the back. After about half way through the race they begin to advance forward weaving through the horses ahead with momentum to pass the somewhat surprised leaders just before the finish line. The 2009 long-shot Kentucky Derby winner, Mind That Bird, ran as a deep closer and just missed winning the 2009 Preakness, the second jewel of the horseracing’s famous Triple Crown. And Zenyatta, the famed filly that always began at the very back of the pack, won every race except for her very last one at the Breeders Cup – and would have one if the race was just a few more yards.

I personally like the deep closer project manager (and career person too). They do take a risk by lying low and being somewhat out of sight, but they understand the finish line is at the end of the race – not in the middle of it. These types of project managers know the virtue of patience. While ahead of them during the race there is much “jockeying” for position, their goal is ultimate success – the fulfillment of helping their organization complete the full vision of the combined business analytics and enterprise performance management framework that I passionately write about.

Each of these three types can win. I do not know which type of racehorse wins relatively more than the others. Personally I like deep closers. They are exciting to watch, and when they win you sense they had the perspective of how races and organizations work.

* This blog is an edited and revised version of my May, 2011 blog titled “Horse Racing’s Triple Crown – Just like Business Analysts.”

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Gary Cokins, CPIM
Gary Cokins (Cornell University BS IE/OR, 1971; Northwestern University Kellogg MBA 1974) is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and author in advanced cost management and enterprise performance and risk management (EPM/ERM) systems. He is the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC, an advisory firm located in Cary, North Carolina at Gary is the Executive in Residence of the Institute of Management Accountants (


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