• The leaders, the guides and the Sherpa assistants discovered the business opportunity in guiding clients to the summit. • Since Mt. Everest is the highest mountain in the world and is a symbol of overcoming difficulties to fulfill the dream, most of the clients wanted to conquer it, especially when some of them (mountain climbers) failed to push to the summit before. • Jon Krakauer, from Outside magazine, had a special agreement with Hall. He regarded the opportunity as a “free lunch”. • Sandy Pittman, also worked in the media industry, joined the expedition in order to give daily web reports to NBC. Gammelgaard wanted to become the first Scandinavian woman to reach the summit.
• Other clients like Adams and Madsen, chose it because they enjoyed the struggle of the upward of life and they believed that this was what life mean and what life was for. b. What type of person tries to ascend the world’s tallest mountain? • The type of person who tries to ascend Mt. Everest with extremely strong willingness to challenge themselves, good physical fitness, well-trained climbing skills and perseverance. c. What personal Qualities does it take to succeed? Strong willingness to reach the summit, perseverance, good team spirit, problem solving skills, positive attitude, and avoid making the same mistakes. d. Do you see any similarities between a high-altitude mountain climber and an MSB?
• Yes. The personal qualities listed above are also important for an MSB student if he/she wishes to achieve business success in the future. But strong willingness should be the willingness to help enterprises achieve sustainable growth and leverage business as a powerful tool to contribute to society. e. Based upon this analysis, can you draw any conclusion about the dangers that may lie ahead for you in pursuit of your career objective? • The dangers that may lie ahead include making wrong decisions again and again, encountering unexpected changes or crisis, failing to deal with conflicts, lacking team spirit, declining good advice. 2. Causes of the Tragedy a. What caused this tragedy? • Human errors, including recruiting clients without high-altitude experience, ordering insufficient oxygen supplements and taking antiquated radios, caused the tragedy.
Flawed characteristics in human nature caused this tragedy. Having many experiences in climbing Mt. Everest made Hall and Fischer unwilling to accept others’ advice. Each client thought and acted for his/her own. • Unexpected weather changes also caused this tragedy. b. What types of mistaken judgments and choices did the climbers make? • The leaders recruited climbers with no high-altitude experience. • The leaders and the clients were not well prepared for the expedition. Fischer did not order enough oxygen supplements and did not have a plan B for the logistics problem of his order.
Many clients did not get high-altitude climbing training before the experience. • The leaders did not provide opportunities for guides to participate in decision-making. Fischer preferred Hall’s suggestion instead of Boukreev’s. • Did not accept the advice from others. Topche ignored Fischer’s suggestion and insisted to climb. Fischer did not listen to the advice of Boukreev about the possible weather change on the way from Camp 2 to Camp 3. • Made the wrong decision again and again. Harris made a critical error in assuming that there was no supplemental oxygen remained at the South Summit. Bad time management skills. Hall and Fischer stressed the importance of turning back but neither settled on an exact turnaround time. • Some clients only thought about themselves.
Pittman should have turned around instead of placing an overwhelming burden on Jangbu. c. Consider your own business experiences for a moment. What causes people to ignore rules in organizations? Why do individuals find it so difficult to ignore sunk cost? • Not being aware of rules, lack of supervision, lack of appropriate punishment, insufficient education causes people to ignore rules in organizations. Because individuals already have spent time and money on a project. It is so difficult for people to ignore their efforts even though the efforts are invalid or the dream cannot come true. d. Did these teams function effectively? Why or why not? • No. • They didn’t work as a team. Each client acted for his/ her own goods. • Team leaders made repeating wrong decisions.
By Hall’s requirement, the guides waited over an hour for the clients before moving to the Balcony. That made them late for the timeline. • When the guide Harris made a critical error, no one paid attention to his physical condition and gave him help. Team leaders had bad time management skills and didn’t stick to the turn around time. e. What is your evaluation of Fischer and Hall as team leaders? • I would consider them as unsuccessful team leaders not because they failed to lead the team to reach the summit, but because they made several critical errors. A successful team leader should provide opportunity for others in decision-making, accept constructive advice, have good time management skills, good communication skills and be able to lead his team members.
• Despite this, Fischer and Hall both have high-altitude experience and are responsible for their clients and teammates. . Are we being a bit too hard on Hall and Fischer? Might tragedies such as this one simply be inevitable on the slopes of Everest? • Yes, I think we are being a bit too hard on Hall and Fischer. Multiple elements caused the tragedy, such as weather, human error and unexpected crisis. People cannot imagine what will happen during the summit bid. People can never be fully prepared for the unexpected changes. That is why climbing Mt. Everest is so dangerous. g. Having conducted all this analysis what would you conclude is the root cause of the catastrophe? • I think the root cause of the catastrophe was human error.
Although unexpected weather change was another key cause of the tragedy, team members, especially the leaders and the guides, should have been aware of the possible weather change and make the right decision. When they failed to follow the summit timeline, they should have turned around instead of continuing. h. Can we identify a root cause? Why or why not? • Yes. In any case, there must be some factors that have more influence on the result than other. So we can identify a root cause. i. Does the notion of system complexity apply in this case? In what ways did complex interactions and tight coupling characterize these expeditions? Yes, the notion of system complexity applies in this case. Each small mistake made by the leaders tended to relate with each other and finally came to a chain reaction that led to the tragedy. These are the complex interactions that happened in these expeditions. Both leaders set up a rigid timeline and did not provide opportunity for other experienced guides to participate in decision-making. When an unexpected crisis came, there were no flexible areas to change the plan in the timeline. These are the tight coupling characterize in these expeditions. 3. Constructive Dissent and Psychological Safety a.
What factors created a climate in which people felt uncomfortable expressing dissent and engaging in a candid exchange of ideas and opinions? • The leaders did not provide opportunity to others in decision making. • Other teammates did not have professional experience in high-altitude mountain climbing. • Lack of teamwork and trust between team members. b. Moving beyond Everest, what factors might inhibit constructive dissent in organizations? • The manager does not provide others an opportunity in participating in decision-making. • The manager treats people unfairly. • Bad teamwork and lack of trust between colleagues inhibit good advice. . Is dissent always appropriate? Under what conditions do leaders want to encourage dissent? When should they strive to discourage dissent? • No. The dissent is constructive and is raised to the managers at a proper time and place. • When the dissent has destructive effect on employees and company, the leaders should discourage it.
4. Lessons for Business Leaders a. What are the lessons for business leaders from our analysis of this tragedy? • Business leaders should avoid being bossy and inaccessible to employees. It is significant to encourage and accept constructive dissent from others. They should be aware that their words and actions might have great influence on the employees. • They should provide equal opportunities to employees. • They should avoid making the same mistakes again and again. b. Drawing on your own experiences, can you identify a situation in which some of the factors contributed to an organizational failure? How might you take corrective action to prevent that situation from occurring once again? • We failed to organize a graduation trip for the whole college. We did not do research in a large scale, prepare a practical plan or to provide several options. If given the second chance, I would take several steps to avoid the organizational failure. First, I would stress the importance of this trip to everyone, and find out an exact date that would work for everyone. Then I would do a survey on the place, the period and the price preferences of the students. After that, I would list several options for students. Lastly, I would try to find out the reason that a student declined the offer and improve the travelling plan. c. What qualities make Hall and Fischer great mountaineers? Are these the same attributes required to lead an effective team?
Does this same tension exist in business organizations? • Lots of practice, perseverance, good physical fitness, well-trained climbing skills and strong willingness make Hall and Fischer great mountaineers. • These are not the same attributes required to lead an effective team. In order to be a good team leader, a person should provide others with an opportunity in decision-making, be accessible to others, have good time management skills and communication skills. d. Can we train people to become better team leaders and more effective high-stakes decision-makers? If so, how? • Yes.
Introduce to people how those effective high-stakes decision-makers perform, so that people can pay attention to how their words and actions have an influence on others. Moreover, people will realize that it is important to build confidence and reduce the conflicts within the team. More importantly, they can understand and learn from the failures in the past. • Develop different exercises to train people, including group projects, case studies, brainstorm training and crisis respond practice etc. Practice makes perfect. After each practice, people should have a self-assessment on their performance and list aspects that need improvement.