The Everest case study illustrates some key problems that need to be addressed to avert the recurrence of errors or omissions that may have occasioned the deaths of the climbers. The mountaineers encountered numerous hurdles and setbacks that led to their demise. The deaths resulted from both human errors and natural events that increased the climbers’ risks. The specific problems that need to be addressed include communication and teamwork issues, overconfidence bias, and inter-team rivalry (Tempest, Starkey, & Ennew, 2007).
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The team leaders had a tendency of exercising dictatorial leadership by ignoring the clients’ input, which would be important in decision-making. The team members lacked the confidence to raise their concerns owing to the organizational culture that promoted dictatorship.
Regarding the overconfidence bias issue, the team leaders were cocksure that they would lead their members to the summit without encountering any risks. This assumption was ill-informed since the reality was that risks were inevitable, and they would only be addressed by being open-minded. Lastly, the rivalry between the companies may have contributed to the deaths of the team members. The rival team leaders would make naive decisions as they strived to show their exceptional capabilities regarding tour guiding.
Analyzing the case data
Schein (2010) argues that communication amongst the team members is essential since it facilitates the introduction of new ideas into the group, thus, facilitating informed decision-making. Communication in the Everest case was hampered by insufficient radios and the mismanagement of the available ones. The available radios were only accessible to the team leaders, who in one instance used them to claim falsely that there was insufficient supplemental oxygen for the group. Besides, Hall, who was one of the most experienced climbers, was overconfident of his ability to lead any group successfully regardless of the members’ personal weaknesses.
Overconfidence often leads to poor decisions since it offers an incentive for dictatorship. Hall advertised “100% Success” ignoring the hurdles that were imminent in the climbing endeavors (Roberto & Carioggia, 2003). The overconfidence exuded by the leaders caused them to ignore the season supposedly perceived as safe for ascending to the summit hence causing the death of the team members. Competition between Hall and Fischer’s companies may also have contributed to the errors and the death of the team members. The rivalry contributed to the climbing of the mountain during the dangerous seasons as the two leaders sought to prove their capabilities.
To mitigate the recurrence of the identified issues, there should be effective strategies to reduce the risk of human errors. This section shall provide two sets of mutually exclusive alternatives. The two include:
Communication and teamwork
As noted previously in this paper, one of the challenges that contributed to the deaths of persons in the Everest tragedy was communication deficiencies occasioned by faulty devices and the reluctance by the leaders to accept team members’ inputs. Communication introduces new ideas that may be helpful in making informed decisions (Roberto, 2013). This move may be a sure way of reducing the recurrence of the deaths experienced in the past.
Shaping Perceptions and Beliefs
In any organization, there needs to be an organizational culture that promotes the respect of authority. The culture shapes the firm’s structure and the people’s perceptions regarding their roles, status, and relationships with other stakeholders. Most accidents in the Everest case occurred during summiting. The leaders need to be authoritative during summiting to prevent avoidable deaths.
Selecting decision criteria
The two alternatives identified above are mutually exclusive meaning that both cannot be implemented at the same time. Therefore, only one of the alternatives may be implemented at a time. While communication and team working require a democratic style of leadership, shaping perceptions and beliefs necessitate a dictatorship style of headship. However, inasmuch as the choices are mutually exclusive, the alternatives may be effective tools for mitigating the climbers’ deaths in the future. In selecting the best alternative from the two, the following criteria will be used:
- The alternative shall be one that minimizes the overall risks associated with climbing the mountain
- The alternative must reduce the number of deaths during summiting
- Promotes the evaluation of different causes of action when making a decision
- The alternative shall be acceptable to all the stakeholders
Communication and teamwork
Communication in this context refers to the interaction between the team leaders and the group members during the climbing endeavors. Communication between the team leader and the subordinates is important since it allows each stakeholder to contribute to the decision-making processes. In a situation where every member of the team is involved in the decision-making process, the stakeholders tend to abide by the course of action agreed by the team.
In this case, communication would require the increment and the appropriate use of radios so that false propaganda is mitigated. As noted previously in this paper, communication in the concerned Everest companies was limited to the leaders, and thus, other team members were not involved (Tempest et al., 2007). The companies should procure more radios so that each team member can access one. The team leaders should use the radios to counter propaganda and only give the right information to the clients.
Shaping Perceptions and Beliefs
Shaping perceptions and beliefs involve the team leaders organizing the members and encouraging them to shun some of the negative beliefs. To achieve this objective, the leaders need to be authoritative so that they command the team members on what to do during the summiting periods. As noted from the Everest case, most accidents happened during summiting, and they would thus be avoided through strong guidance from the leaders in such critical situations. The leaders should use their experience to determine the best time for summiting, and they should not bow to calls by the subordinates to continue with the climbing when there is evidence to support an imminent risk.
Wrong timing often led to the deaths of the climbers despite Hall and other leaders having knowledge about the inherent risks during certain times of the year. Pressure from the followers coupled with the rivalry between the companies contributed to the wrongful climbing of the mountain during the risky seasons. Authoritative leadership could be a sure way of avoiding the risks of ascending during such periods.
Selecting the preferred alternative
Based on the analysis of the two alternatives and their assessment against the selection criteria, the first option, viz. communication and team working, is the preferred choice. The mentioned strategy meets all the selection criteria previously identified in this paper. Firstly, the communication shall minimize the deaths of the climbers by ensuring that the entire group is involved in the decision-making process. Involving all the stakeholders in formulating key decisions and strategies shall avert resistance from the team members hence ensuring that the climbers work in teams to accomplish their mission. Besides, it will facilitate the consideration of different courses of action when faced with a certain situation.
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Secondly, communication between the stakeholders will facilitate the adoption of common ground on the various issues affecting the group. Therefore, the strategy shall be acceptable to all the stakeholders involved.
Developing an action/implementation plan
The implementation plan should be based on new technology and the Internet at large. The traditional radios used at the time were inefficient since they were based on analog technology. The companies should hire a team of Information Technology (IT) experts to assess the applicability of the Internet-based communication technology to avert the communication barriers. The communication strategies adopted by the companies should be devised in such a way that they promote both horizontal and vertical communication.
Balancing competing forces
The Everest case demonstrates an example of competing forces that occasionally lead to the loss of lives. Overconfidence was one of the leading causes of errors and the subsequent demise of the team members. To deal with the problem of impudence, the team leaders need to evaluate different courses of action when faced with a given challenge. The leaders should not be biased when choosing the right course of action in such situations and only the decision that maximizes the welfare of the group should be selected.
Learning from failure
One of the factors that may contribute greatly to the success of a firm is the ability to learn from mistakes (Roberto, 2013). This view is grounded on the assumption that failures are attributable to human error. In the Everest case, human errors were among the leading causes of death. The companies should analyze the past failures to come up with a strong strategy aimed at mitigating the recurrence of the problems in the future.
Roberto, M. A. (2013). Why great leaders don’t take yes for an answer: Managing for conflict and consensus. Upper Saddle River, NJ: FT Press.
Roberto, M. A., & Carioggia, G. M. (2003). Mount Everest, 1996. Harvard Business Review, 3(8), 1-22.
Schein, E. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. New York, NY: Wiley & Sons.
Tempest, S., Starkey, K., & Ennew, C. (2007). In the death zone: A study of limits in the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. Human Relations, 60(7), 1039-1064.