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Mount Everest Case


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Executive Summary:

The Mount Everest case can be summed up as inefficient distribution of leadership, skills and resources in the face of imminent natural disaster. Teamwork consist of interdependency, mutual accountability and understanding common goals and working with respect to each other’s complementary skills.

Effective team’s consist of understanding perceptions of others and help motivate each other to continually work towards the common goal. Working towards a goal in a team usually does not run a straight course. In order to offset these issues that can come into play one may need to optimistically receive suggestions, abstain from narrow perceptions and outlook and trust on the team. Trust helps to create path for communication, collaboration, competence, commitment and ideas.

Problem Statement:

The goal was to reach the summit of Mount Everest and return safely. However the teams were unable to accomplish the task and this failure eventually led to human casualties.


In the case Mount Everest -1996, Roberto and Cardioggia, factors that contributed to failure would include

1. Ineffective leadership (overconfidence, ego, and personality issues)

2. Lack of planning,

3. Poor communication

4. Poor teamwork.

Precisely in this case, one of the main cause of catastrophe was that both Mountain Madness and Adventure Consultants proved to be a group but not a team. The members of the team did not share a good rapport as they had never met before and failed to know each other before this venture, this gave rise to a gap in communication. Members did not get along well with the leader as well. There was lack of trust due to this anonymity. In this case Kraukauer said “I felt so disconnected from the climbers around me…. We were a team in name only….we would leave camp as a group, we would ascend as individuals, linked to one another by neither rope not deep sense of loyalty. Each client was in it for himself or herself, pretty much.” (Roberto & Cardioggio, 2003, pp.8). This example surely validates that a group is different from a team. See exhibit 3

One can decipher from the Mount Everest case that Rob Hall demonstrated an INFP personality type while Scott Fishier demonstrated an ENFP personality type based on the MBTI personality type evaluator. Rob Hall was too strict and inflexible for an environment that was unpredictable. Though Hall was highly structurally in his approach, he himself failed to follow the rules that he set at the turnaround time and was incapable of handling his team member (Hansen). He has been too opinionated and dominative and this had hampered his ability to lead the team effectively. See exhibit 1

Scott Finisher was indecisive and he failed to design a clear structure. He failed to instill faith in his team members. Though he was highly compassionate in contract to Hall, too much of good proved to be bad. His sympathy for a few members of his team had jeopardized the potential of the team to attain the critical goal. See exhibit 2.

Hall and Fisher’s actions exemplify Bolman and Deal’s concept of lack of clarity versus lack of creativity. “If employees are unclear about what they are supposed to do, they often tailor their roles to fit personal preferences instead of shaping them to meet system-wide goals” (Bolman and Deal, pp.71). Both leaders were overconfident of their leadership potentials and trekking experiences. Overconfidence and lack of clearly defined goals were ultimately an underlying factor for a downfall.

The case evidences of overlap in the management during the ascent of Mountain Madness’s group. Overlap in roles creates conflict, wasted effort, and unintended redundancy. When climbers began to feel too sick to continue their trip up the mountain, they were lead down by either a Sherpa or a lower ranking guide. However when Dr. Dale Kruse began to feel too ill to continue, he was led down by group leader Scott Fischer. It was definitely not expected of a leader to take up chores of the lower ranked guide when his expertise is required for more crucial situations .Scott’s decision lead to resentment among his clients.


The right structure will enhance team performance. Firstly, if a team wants to improve the performance, it needs to develop the right mix of expertise. Its means each member should focus on his or her best ability area, which that makes the team to save time and improve efficiency. A high-performing teams develop a common commitment to working relationships” (Bolman and Deal, pp.108). Team members should clearly understand who will do what jobs, how to make decisions and the skills need to develop in the team. Also “High-performing teams translate common purpose into specific, measurable performance goals.” (Bolman and Deal, pp.107).Which means all team members should have a common goal, and analysis whether the goal is specific and measurable. A detailed goal is more powerful and useful for all team members.

Analysis of the scenario in this case suggests that lack of communication is fatal. Adopting an all channel network can prove to be useful to structure the groups. The group can accomplish their task with low fatality rate since there is a medium to communicate their whereabouts and inform one another about the concerns and issues they encounter and also involve in the process of decision making. Also the guide or the leader can keep a track of the status of each member especially in situations that are highly susceptible to unpredictability. See exhibit 4

Dual authority network would have also been effective in orientating the team members. This ensures that the decision making is not in monocracy. Also delegating powers to secondary level helps to relieve the leader from trivial issues. Thus the leader can focus better on addressing the dynamics of situations. See exhibit 5

The focal recommendation is that there must be a clear structure of hierarchy that escorts team members through a set of rules, chain of command, control systems and guidelines and overcome interruptions to path to mission. A well-defined team structure on the expedition could encourage team members to refrain from their embedded attitudes and build trust and invoke the spirit of team work and common goal.

Take away for a managers:

Planning and Re-planning

1. Invest adequate time to make realistic plans.

2. Have a plan B to deal with an unexpected situation.

3. Incorporate the plans, however there must be flexibility to address the dynamics of situations.

Responsibility and Accountability

1. Set clear goals and make sure each member is aware of it.

2. Account for all possible problems

3. Be prepared to address externalities that potent threat to the goal

4. Involve to make collective decisions

Inquiry and advocacy

1. Combine inquiry with advocacy

2. Consider understanding perspectives

3. Don’t be opinionated and dogmatic

4. Be a listener


1. Test assumptions before incorporating

2. Mutually zero down on assumptions

3. Make assumptions clear to all members

Exhibit 1: SWOT analysis of Rob Hall

| |Rob Hall |
|Strengths |Well respected by clients |
| |Successful guided 39 clients to summit |
| |Skills being a mountaineer |
| |Caring personality |
| |Successful Everest climb 4times |
| |Positive outlook and confidence |
|Weaknesses |Failure to follow his own guidelines |
| |Lack of leadership roles for guides |
| |Client dependency |
| |No specific turnaround time |
|Opportunities | ----------------------------- |
|Threats |Overconfidence |
| |Environment |
| |Stubbornness of team members |

Exhibit 2: SWOT analysis of Scott Ficsher

| |Scott Fischer |
|Strengths |Energetic |
| |Skills (climbed to summit with slim oxygen) |
| |Positive outlook and confidence |
|Weaknesses |Poor management |
| |No prior experience in guiding a team |
| |No clear hierarchal organization |
| |Poor judgment in client capabilities |
|Opportunities |---------------------------------------------------------- |
|Threats |Lack of confidence and trust in leader |

Exhibit 3: Group versus Team

|Group |Team |
|Individual accountability |Mutual accountability |
|Share perspectives and criticize |Discuss issues and involve in decision making processes and plan |
| |appropriately. |
|Individual goals |Team goals |
|Output is self-centered |Output is goal centered / team centered |
|Goal is set by one individual |A team of individuals set the goal |

Exhibit 4: all channel network:


Exhibit 5: Dual Authority Network



Bolman, L.G., & Deal, T.E.(1991). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey – Bass.

Livingston, J.S. (n.d.). Pygmalion in Management. Harvard Busi;ness Review.

Roberto,M.A., & Cardoggia, G.M.(2003). Mount Everest – 1996. Harvard Business Review.

Wetlaufer.S., (n.d.). The team that wasn’t . Harvard Business Review.

The secret to confident leadership:

6 Surprising Leadership Lessons From Climbing Mount Everest:

Useem. M, Leadership lessons from Mt Everest:

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