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Mountaineering demands active engagement from participants as it involves activities such as rope-work, scrambling, travelling among glaciers, use of crampons and ice axes, acclimatization and navigation and thus all these experiences have triggered different emotional states during participation as these recreational adventures potentially experience flow, combining exhilaration and enjoyment. Peak exposure also triggers emotions leading to intense happiness.
In the case of the Everest, there are several management inconsistencies that could be blamed for the increasing number of accidents for climbers. Among the imbalances in the decision making strategies include limited response preparation, participant preparation, and improper planning. This paper reviews the Mount Everest case study from a managerial perspective in order to create adequate response strategies that might limits the number of accidents for climbers and the professional climbers.
Reviewing the Mount Everest Case Study
Mountaineering at Everest embodies the soft and hard mountain based activities. In particular, hard adventures would like to take one activity in per trip. Mountaineering is associated with emotional experience. Mountaineering focuses on the motives and personalities of experienced mountaineers.
Mountaineering at Everest also provides the mountaineers with many benefits. For example, when participants reach the summit of a mountain, they experience a sense of well-being. Besides, they feel fulfilled by developing their technical skills because of the mental and physical skills engaged in mountain climbing.
Several factors motivate different people to participate in Everest mountain climbing expedition. The motivations include challenge and risk, catharsis, recognition, physical setting, locus of control as well as creativity. Risks are connected to competence principle. It can influence mountaineers take part in mountaineering activities.
For example, if such individuals participate in the mountaineering practice, and are insufficiently competent to handle actual risks, they might suffer from negative experiences as is the current case at Everest as indicated in the case study. The motivational dimension of catharsis means mountaineers desire to relax and have a leisure time.
The recognition dimension is easy to understand. It means those mountaineers want to be recognized as a mountaineer. Mountaineers’ activities concerned with the locus of control dimension are often relative to the “decision-making, developing one’s abilities, gaining control, and forming friendships” (Pomfret 2012, p. 147). The physical setting dimension means mountaineers take part in mountaineering to view and enjoy the nature mountain environment.
Another factor that motivates an individual to participate in mountaineering is goal completion. Goal completion influences individuals to participate in hard mountaineering practice to finish self-established goals. Goal completion obligation becomes strong in some cases that some individual mountaineers put themselves in actual dangerous situation, suffering serious consequences. For instance, Doug Hansen died on Mt. Everest after getting a summit of 2h following a pre-arranged return time.
Doug had earlier tried Mt. Everest, but failed to achieve goal after 300 vertical feet from the Mountain peak as indicated in the case study. Therefore, he just wanted to achieve his goal, but did not consider the result. Mastery combines the challenge and risk, and locus of control motives features.
It encourages people go mountaineering because they believe that they are good at it (Carole, Christine, & Tim 2011). Reflectively, majority of those who died while climbing or descending Mount Everest believed that they had mastered the art and needed not to take high precaution.
According to Parrott as cited in Pomfret (2012) “emotions are often highly important during people’s involvement in adventurous activities, described as ‘biological, cognitive and behavioral subjective responses to important life events which manifest themselves as feelings of contentment and discontentment” (p.145).
Any adventure is challenging and often leads to different and conflicting emotions from fear, risk, elation, and satisfaction among others. Every adventure starts at planning, then during the stay at the destination and continues long after its completion in reflection and recollections (Faullant, Matzler, & Moordian, 2011). Mountaineering as one-type forms of adventure tourism will generate variety emotional experience for its participants.
As mention above, the challenge and rick motivation dimension will evoke intense positive and negative emotion in the form of fear and joy. They think, “Joy and fact may be core benefit sought in a product/experience” (Carole, Christine, & Tim 2011, p. 76). The inability to manage these emotions might result in a disaster while climbing or descending the Mount Everest as captured in the case study.
Some studies utilize that the flow experience and peak experience to describe the level of mountaineers’ involvement and enjoyment during their climbs. Flow experience means an “optimal psychological state” (Jackson & Marsh, 2006, p.18). Flow is experienced when mountaineers feel full involvement and enjoyment in the adventure activities as well as their competences match the challenges they face during they take part in the mountaineering (Avolio, 2011).
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Peak experience is another emotional state that is relative with adventure participation. It means the ‘‘moments of highest happiness and fulfillment’’ (Ismail, Mohamed, Sulaiman, Mohamad, & Yusuf, 2011, p. 99). Experienced adventurers can be easier to gain the flow experience or even the peak experience, while compare with the non-experience adventurers.
It would be unethical to send many inexperienced climbers in company of just one or two experienced climbers (Faullant, Matzler, & Moordian, 2011). In case of a disaster, the experienced climbers would not be in a position to address the crisis in time as is the case in the Everest case study.
Away from the mountaineering ritual and practice, climbers experience a sense of liveliness. When mountaineers involve themselves in the mountaineering practice and vulnerable position to discover things for themselves, they may experience a sense of power and energy after the climbing practice (Faullant, Matzler, & Moordian, 2011).
Mountain climbing is associated with feeling in touch with oneself. By mountaineering, individuals experience oneself in an honest and wholehearted manner in a way that he/she expects others to do the same.
Some mountaineers argue that climbing gives them an impression of what they were looking for and what they have achieved equals a release from the self (Ivey & Kline, 2010). In addition, escape from self-awareness as a self-regulation strategy can help mountaineers to decrease their anxiety by involvement in mountaineering.
The psychological pursuits by climbers are assertion and conquest of the self. In assertion of the self, the mountaineers experience a sense of force expressing itself against other forces. Mountaineers will undergo many unbelievable difficulties and dangers during the mountaineering, and when they achieve their goals, they will have a strong sense of identity (Faullant, Matzler, & Moordian, 2011).
On the other hand, conquest of the self focuses on self-control and discipline. Climbing providing an opportunity to test and develop these two human values. The main aim is to develop a sense of personal conquering (Northouse, 2012).
Apparently, there are several inconsistencies in decision making for all the accident cases reported in the case study. These inconsistencies have resulted in injuries and more than 40 deaths over a period of ten years. Although accidents are unpredictable, proper training and general preparedness might be ideal in minimizing their effect.
Basically, those entrusted with making decisions in the Mount Everest case study do not employee quality decision making skills. For instance, in one of the expeditions, more than thirty climbers are sent up the mount with support of only two professional climbers (Faullant, Matzler, & Moordian, 2011).
This means that in an event of accident, the two climbing guides would not be in a position to respond adequately. Besides, those planning for the expeditions tend to rely on groupthink perception (Northouse, 2012). Groupthink refers to a psychological phenomenon happening within a cluster of persons under which the aspiration for conventionality within this cluster results in a biased outcome in the decisions made.
The main underlying assumption towards belonging to this cluster is the need to minimize conflict through blind conformity. Thus, an individual caught up in a groupthink phenomenon is blindly loyal to a set of thoughts or actions for fear of being controversial as a result of exercising independent thinking (Weick & Quinn, 2009).
For instance, one of the professional climbers expressed his fear about the big number and poor timing from the ascending point. Actually, the groupthink psychology made this climber to believe in universality of his decisions as right without accommodating the negative outcome, which is often underrated (Weick & Quinn, 2009). In the worst case, groupthink orientation in the decision making process may generate actions that might result in the tragedy as is the case in the Mount Everest case study.
There is an urgent need for the planners of the Everest expeditions to engage high decision making skills to minimize the assumptions identified above. The process of high-quality decision making is dependent on heuristic since it provides assumptions, integration of options, and rational control.
Decision environment often experience dynamics and swings which create short and long term effect on chances of survival for two alternatives to solve a problem (Northouse, 2012). When faced with a decision problem that requires critical assessments, high-quality decision making process resorts to analytical tools that ensure competitive positioning advantage and rationality.
Each option is assigned to a quadrant with predetermined response strategies and ‘follow-ups’ upon each decision made (Avolio, 2011). For instance, those responsible for organizing the expeditions should review all the security risks from past tragedies to identify weak points that should be sealed before letting more people to participate in climbing Mount Everest (Weick & Quinn, 2009).
There is need to incorporate the team leadership aspect in planning and managing the Everest expeditions. In team leadership, individuals are assigned roles that suit their attributes and which they are comfortable performing. However, it is the team leader who projects the vision of the team for the others to act on.
Team leadership is based on transformational leadership theory and post-transformational leadership approaches which emphasize participation and teamwork (Ivey & Kline, 2010). In the case of Mount Everest expeditions, it is important to introduce all round training to the professional climbers to ensure that their decisions and actions are in the best interest of climbers. This will ensure that they remain alert even in case of accidents to minimize loses that might arise (Weick & Quinn, 2009).
Through proactive management, the entities organizing expeditions will be in a position to roll out organized process within the expedition that involved setting, planning, managing customer demands, and deploying assets to achieve specific goals and objectives such as offering security and convenience to customers interested in climbing Mount Everest (Weick & Quinn, 2009).
Since management is about reproducing an action plan and implementing the same, the expedition leadership should develop solutions that addressed the concerns of diverse customers with different preferences (Senge, 2006). Specifically, development of transformational leaders is achievable through mentorship, stretch assignments, multi-year training programs, and coaching (Ivey & Kline, 2010).
These aspects are complimentary to each other and are active in modeling a broad vision management that incorporate all the expected challenges and address them before the actual expeditions.
There is an urgent need to change planning and management strategies for teams visiting Mount Everest as climbers. The current challenges in management are poor planning, imbalance coach-climber ratio, improper training of the climbers and lack of motivation to remain focused and observant of security challenges.
As a result, many fun expeditions are turning tragic. Therefore, those responsible for planning the expeditions should develop high-quality decision making skills, roll out proper event planning and management skills, and develop the team leadership spirit to ensure that the parties involved remain proactive, active, and focused on the climbing. These actions will minimize the number of death being reported while climbing or descending Mount Everest.
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