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MBA 506 Leadership and Organisational Effectiveness Unit Coordinator: Mr Brendan Ho

Assignment 1

Due: 19th December 2009

Lesson Learnt from May 1996 Everest Tragedy

Student ID: Mr YEW ENG TEIK (10166320)

TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction Analysis of the Mount Everest 1996 Case study Hall and Fishers decision making during ascent of Everest Strategies by leaders to avoid catastrophic crisis Robertos Multiple Theoretical Perspective Models Evaluation on leadership Hall and Fisher and their impact on team process and outcomes My own decision-making styles, my strengths and weaknesses Conclusion References 3 3 4 6 7 9 10 13 14

Lesson Learnt from May 1996 Everest Tragedy


Introduction To quote Bernard Shaw: The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. In this age of constant rapid change, business leaders must develop the wisdom of learning from past tragedies so as not to succumb to bad and sometimes destructive outcomes when making hasty and wrong decisions for their team or organization. Once in a while, each of us will have to face our own Everest with a situation and obstacles that seems so insurmountable. However as leader we should not retreat when face with such obstacles. Rather, we can take a higher road and become an over comer and in that process discover our very own self. Thus the journey of any leader to the top is a process of discovering our very own self. Analysis of Mount Everest 1996 Case Study

Mount Everest with height of 8848m is the highest summit and considered the roof of the world has been the greatest challenge to the ambitions of so many men and women who seek to conquer it since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay successfully ascended its summit in 29th May 1953. As much as we human like to ascend to the summit of Everest it also come at a very heavy price in term of possibility of failure, serious injury and death. On May 11, 1996 a major tragedy happened on Everest with the lost of 5 lives, among them the two top expedition leader. The first was New Zealander, Rob Hall the team leader of Adventure Consultant and the second Scott Fisher from Colorado, team leader of Mountain Madness with 3 other of their climbers Doug Hansen, Yasuko Namba and Andy Harris a guide. Both the leaders Hall and Fisher are very skillful highaltitude climbers yet perished during the ascent from summit of Everest. That incident was also the deadliest days in Everest history. Hall and Fishers decision making during ascent to the summit of Everest Personally, my own analyses of Halls decision making found out that Hall failed to adhered to the decision on the 1pm turn-around time, this is vital since some of his other climbers like Huthison, Taske, Kasischke and 2 other sherpas decided to follow strictly the rule and made the u-turn despite so close to the summit and they all survived the expedition. Secondly, on Halls decision to go ahead to accompany climber Doug Hansen towards the summit has caused Hall to lost the focus on his priority for all his others members and put all the others lives in danger when a storm turned into a hurricane and the group consisting of Fox, Namba, Pittman, Weathers, Tim Madsen were all caught in that storm for hours and could not find their way back to tent. This is a bad call from Hall since he placed his self-interest to assist a single member up the summit while losing sight of the safety of all other team members. Thirdly, with Hall leadership style of not tolerating any dissent had resulted in nobody questioning his wrong actions and no one saying a words when things starting to go wrong. On this note, the communications between the team members has broken down resulting in more errors after that. Also, Hall had allowed his Russian guide Boukreev to climb the summit dangerously without oxygen tank and later Boukreev had to descend fast and was not there to guide the other climbers to descend from the summit. To

improve the quality of leaders decisions making process, the leader must communicate clearly and effectively the objective to all his subordinates and ensure that they fully understood the pros and cons of that shared objectives. Failing to communicate concisely the objective will result in team member becoming restless and disoriented as the task becoming more complex and when they faced more obstacles. In decision making, leaders must consider alternatives and seek the view and feedback of their team members since the outcomes take into effect much of the involvement and participation of all the team members. As for Scott Fisher, he was obviously competing with Hall to get to the summit of Everest for bragging rights and disregarded many safety aspects and failed to do his duty as the expedition leader to focus on his team members. In fact, Fisher ordered his head sherpa guide Lobsang to short-rope a client Pittman all the way up the summit. Lobsang was climbing without supplement oxygen and was supposed to be the lead guide and be front of the group. It placed the lives of the lead Sherpa guide at risk and he failed to do his rightful role of guiding the team. Another case was that Fishers other Sherpa Ang Dorje seeing that the lead Sherpa is way behind and not leading the group, then refused to put up ropes as Ang had worked 6 long weeks and was too tired to take any further orders. Another possible bad decision from Fisher was that he was climbing the summit without supplemental oxygen resulting in his deteriorating physical condition and ultimately resulting in his own death during descent from the summit. Finally, I conclude that while Hall and Fisher are both accomplished climbers they failed to build a dynamic team that support one another resulting in an open race and competition by individuals members to put own self interest and totally lacking in supporting one another in the failed expedition. In the context of managing team because the goal needs any leader to build his/her team around people from diverse background and different skill sets. If the team members had in the first place worked together and understand each other better, it would have resulted in a far more successful expedition with a chance for more survivors when hit with a storm.

Strategies by leaders to avoid catastrophic crisis In adopting strategies to avoid catastrophic crisis, the leaders need to know that there are hidden traps in major decision making. They are 6 hidden traps listed below: i. The confirming evidence trap, ii. The sunk cost trap, iii. The status quo trap, iv. The anchoring trap, v. The overconfidence trap, and vi. Framing traps. Here the lesson learnt from both Rob Hall and Scott Fisher is they got trapped by some of the hidden traps in their decision making. Firstly, the sunk cost factor with their commitment to get their client to the summit and disregard the safety and the lives of themselves and their clients. Secondly, overconfidence trap, due to Halls past records having ascended the summit 4 times and he bragged about his ability to get anyone up the summit. Thirdly, the anchoring trap with the human minds giving disproportionate weight to the first information receive is also regarded a hidden trap. Halls guide Harris who had suffered illness radioed Hall that there is no oxygen tank at South Summit when in fact there are. And finally, confirming evidence trap when we tend to look for reasons to support what we like to happen, like Hall thinking he can still make descend on time with client Doug Hansen as he has the technical skills and the past climbing experience. As leader if we are aware about all the hidden traps we can anticipate the threats and as such able to proactively plan ahead and prepare for any potential pitfalls especially in complex situation. For that leader must be supported by good people that can speak-up instantaneously and offer solution when things go wrong. This is very relevant to current corporate world where crisis happen because no one speak up against a leader who are does something unethical or broke the law. One such notable case is the fall of Enron and the recent financial scandal of Satyam an Indian IT giant. The strategies here for leader is simply to be aware about potential pitfalls in each situation and anticipate the risk and develop ways to mitigate them with the help of team participation.

Robertos Multiple Theoretical Perspective Models In taking Robertos Multiple Theoretical Perspective Models, it primarily deals with the triple factors of team, people and organization. Below is the breakdown of the organization of Team Adventure Consultant headed by Hall

Rob Hall ( Leader )

Mike Groom ( Guide )

Andy Harris ( Guide )

Ang Dorje ( Lead Sherpa )

Hansen ( client)

Weathers (client)

Fischbeck (client)

Kasischke (client )

Taske (client)

Namba (client)

Krakauer (client)

Hutchison (client)

6 Sherpas

And Team Mountain Madness headed by Fisher

Scott Fisher ( Leader )

Boukreev ( Guide )

Beidleman ( Guide )

Lopsang ( Lead Sherpa )

Pittman ( client)

Fox (client)

Madsen (client)

Schoening (client )

Gammelga d (client)

Adams (client)

Kruse (client)

7 Sherpas

Firstly, on the factor of team, we read that although both the team are lead by qualified leaders, guide and assisted by climbing sherpas the individual clients does not have much team dynamics and is merely a loosely form structure with a very individual objective of reaching the summit of Everest by themselves. As such, we can see the clients did not develop that personal relationship, trust and comradeship between them. In this situation, the leaders and his guides are at fault for not creating a synergy and team effort among their client and his team of guides and sherpas. The lesson for us to takeaway is that the survival and success of any organization today relied heavily on teamwork and a trust developed among all co-workers contributing to an organization success. When a leader has a strong team they can reveal to him his blind spots and the collective experiences of a diverse team can in fact provide many other information and knowledge that can minimize error in a complex situation. In organization of today no single person can master all the knowledge in the company thus the reason why there is IT system like knowledge management that contained all the essentials data and intelligence gathered from all departments that can be utilized to make good accurate decisions. My own work experience has shown time and time again that so many huge mistakes are done by leader because they failed to listen to the valuable input from the team members resulting in great financial loss. Also by having highly effective team, the process of preparing the project bid or getting a project deliver on time is likely to achieve a good result because of the commitment of the team members and their support of one another to make the project a success. Secondly, on the factor of people, here we read that one of Halls guide Andy Harris had poor medical condition resulting in him being disoriented and giving a wrong information to Hall that the non availability of oxygen tank at South Summit. In an organization if we hired someone ill-equipped in knowledge and poor in communication it can be a disastrous outcome for the company. Besides that, Fisher himself a leader of team Mountain Madness has practiced unfairness and non equality when paying his guides. His experienced guide Boukreev pocketed $25k while another guide Beidleman pocketing only $10k creating an ill feeling and a gap in the pecking order. So, in organization of today when a leader earns huge salary and bonuses they should be vary that their subordinates and co-workers might not be too happy and could result in incidents of staff turnover and unhappiness work environment. In the case of human capital development and talent management, the organizations human resources must get its act right by recruit, select and hiring the best people in order to achieve the organizations objective of continuous growth and profitability. Furthermore, in today globalised economy the best and brightest talent are very difficult to retain their service due to stiff competition from big companies. Especially now that we are in a highly competitive business world where there is constant change, we need people who are able to learn, unlearn and relearn new things to cope with a changing terrain. We now see knowledge worker as an essential factor that contribute to organizations competitive advantage. With good people that shared common value with the organization they are in they will be able to develop that trust and the buy-in into the organization mission and objectives. Thirdly, the factor of leader which we read that both the leaders Hall and Fisher are in fact very much thinking about their own business and reputation. They overlooked the

safety and lives of all climbers when they themselves bent the strict rule of the 1 pm turn-around time resulting in fatality to themselves and their people. To add to that Fisher was disregarding his own safety when climbing the summit without supplemental oxygen causing him to suffer serious illness. Personally, I can attest to the maxim by John C Maxwell that everything rise and fall on a leader. So, when a leader failed to walk his talk he lost the credibility and trust of his followers. In corporate world, we always listen, observe and follow an authentic leader who walked his talk. In my own personal work experience I make sure that I support my subordinates when they need to close all important sales and also ensure that I support my customer by building a long lasting customer relationship.

Evaluation on leadership Hall and Fisher and its impact on team process and outcomes The Everest 1996 case suggests that both Hall and Fisher as the team leaders need to engage in a delicate balancing act with regard to nurturing confidence, managing dissent, and ensuring full commitment within their group. Firstly, in complex interactions means that different elements of the system can interact in ways that were unexpected. They are difficult to perceive or comprehend in advance. This led to a series of small yet interconnected, breakdowns and ultimately failures that became part of a dangerous "domino effect" like the case of Everest 1996 tragedy. Secondly, there is also the issue of tight coupling meaning that there was a fairly rigid sequence of time-dependent activities. Here, one dominant path to achieve the goal at all cost had caused the slack in the system. These characteristics made it easier for a problem in one area to quickly trigger failures in other aspects of the climb. Ultimately the Everest tragedy was the failure of personal integrity in the leadership style of Hall and Fisher. Rob Hall, team leader of Adventure Consultant and Fisher from team Mountain Madness, for instance, forbade their clients to climb beyond 1 p.m., yet both were still out there attempting to race each other to the summit. The outcome of it is both perished when descending from the summit. In organizational life, there is decreasing tolerance for leaders who do not walk their talk. We say all the popular things about corporate culture and valuing our employees as our best asset, yet it does not show in how they actually treat its people. We talk a lot about our approach to employees being better, but we have actually lost ground. Many

employees would have agreed that most CEOs did not provide effective role models, nor did their actions match their words. Like being a manager in our own organization we had to develop a vision and objective of the enterprise and then communicate that clearly to our fellow colleague and get their buy-in. Only then, can we get the support of the entire team members to support us in achieving the shared objectives. In modern times, with so much external factors that are not within our control only team centric approach can achieve organizational success.

My own decision-making styles, my strengths and weaknesses In my own journey of self awareness, I am cognizant of the fact that I am more of a task oriented manager and the weakness being less of a people manager. Thus, my personal goal is to build my people skills so that I am able to combine the approach of people and task to ensure that I adopt a team management style. The team centric style will allow the people in the team to become empower to accomplish work with the common purpose to work together for the success of the organization. Personally, in my own career advancement journey I have faced many obstacles just like all the climbers attempting the Everest summit. I started my career in a technical role with an engineering company in 1997 at the height of the Asian financial crisis. I saw with my own eyes so many companies going under and many big corporations suffer huge losses in the business due to the currency fluctuation and the Malaysia Ringgit devaluation. I was fortunate, with most of our major client like Petronas still able to sustain their businesses and are good paymaster. Almost 3 years in the job I moved on to a sales role believing that my interest and passion is in selling solution and maintaining good customer relationship. I enhanced my skills in management by furthering my academic with Malaysian Institute of Management. I am aware that to perform well in corporate world I need to develop conceptual thoughts and learning skills through proper training programs. The other skills I worked on tirelessly is personal communications skills which I attended the Toastmasters International program to honed my public speaking abilities. With the newfound confidence I went on to start my own small business in audio-visual system with 2 other friends. However, it was a major setback as the business lasted only 2 years with the failure caused by financial problems and the inability of the partners to work together for a common objective. Thus, I back to

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the employment world where I have now worked for almost 7 years mainly in the solution selling in technology related business covering international region. I have developed the essential skills in managing customer well, working with people from diverse background, different culture, building my own self-confidence in my decision-making and many others. In this constant journey to discover and explore my own strengths and weaknesses it had taken me through a painstaking process and each time I had to start all over again after failing. However, i now began to discover this are all lessons in life to prepare me for something better in time to come. Turning from bachelorhood to parenthood is another phase of change in my personal walk that set my priority on putting the interest of my family ahead of my personal priority. Having had a chance to be aware more about my own self and being totally honest with myself, I am grateful and thankful to God for the opportunity that lives presented to me and will promise myself to improve to be a good leader and a role model parent to my child. With new found confidence and the right tools I picked up from this program, I believe the only way for me is to march forward with resolute and purposeful in bettering myself and to serve with a greater commitment together with my team. It served also as part of my journey to become a true Level 5 leader. With situation like the Everest, an effective leaders decision making has often literally meant the difference between life and death. Personally, if I had not had the proper training and self-awareness I can very well suffer the same tragic mistakes of Hall and Fisher if I were to lead a team to the Everest. In normal circumstances, I would be putting my self-interest above all other important matter in my decision making and the outcomes could be as disastrous as the failed Everest 1996 expedition. In most of my decision making, I would firstly weigh the pros and cons and arrive at an outcome which sometimes is not the best choice when I look back. An analogy will be when I was offered share options by my former employer during the Initial Public Offering. I did not consider the aspect of current business environment and the professional advice from my analyst friends. The outcome is that I suffered huge financial lost. Another example is when I over stretched my financial limitation when I bought a brand new luxury car once I was offered a country manager role with an American trading company during the height of the financial meltdown in 2008. To make matter worse, I was retrenched by the company with 6 months period of unemployment. Here are just a few actual situations of poor decision making on my part. The lesson

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learnt from this earlier mistakes is I had to analytically access each situation taking in the view and suggestion of others before I hastily make a decision, it is no point to jump into making a grave decision when situation are not access properly. From it I learn that I had to mitigate the risk by considering all factors and be willing to listen the views of others and not make decision on what I think is right. However, I am glad that I so far I have not compromise my personal value of living with integrity and earning an honest living. Clearly here my weaknesses are that sometimes I tend to be overconfident in my own self just like both Hall and Fisher. My second weakness is that I do not have sufficient competency in financial knowledge and skills in managing money well enough. My third weakness was not seeking the advice and counsel of good people and friend who can give me another perspective when I make important decision like investing in stocks and shares. Finally, I believe my other weakness is not willing to admit my own shortcomings and mistakes like insisting I am right and the other party must be to blame like making the decision to work for the American trading company thinking that the salary package is good and not consider other aspect like the longer term prospect of the career and the work culture there. On the part of my own personal strength, I like to believe that all individuals are all born with inner greatness and talent. My individual strength would be my optimism in life, due to my keen interest in wide reading and my love for travel. In my pursuit for happiness and my journey to be a better person, it had taken me to diverse countries like Mexico, Venezuela, USA, India, Thailand, South Korea and Spain. I learnt that I can foster good ties with friends and business partners despite our differences and culture. Secondly, my other strength is that I am very responsible person and will attempt to finish what I started on despite all resistances. Here, I have had the experience in helming two leadership role in the NGOs, working very hard to improve the people and the team. I have had my fair share of luck of meeting and learning firsthand from great teacher like the late Anita Roddick, President Bill Clinton, Edward de Bono, President Hugo Chavez, Tun Mahatir Mohammed and my own senior pastor of SIBKL church Dr Chew. I am convinced that I must always take a higher road and do the right thing which is sometimes less traveled and that in our life there is a higher calling and greater purpose which I must find out for my own. As the saying goes like any medication that which does not kill me, will make me stronger. So despite some setback in my early years I

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must learn to thrive and be back on my feet again to take another attempt towards my own summit. Once I can overcome my limitation I can choose to be the real me, and being the authentic person I am. Thirdly, my other strength is that I have the courage to say No and to speak out when I see a wrong or unethical things happen. An example here is I resigned from a former employer which I worked for 3 years, after discovering their unethical approach in falsifying the company audited account. Fourthly, my strength is I am keen to improve myself and develop my innate talent to become a better individual and a leader. After knowing myself better from the self-awareness, it has given me the hope that I can better myself when I choose to be a leader who served his team and his organization first. And that in life we can go far as long as we are willing to give other their credits first. Here, I would choose to forgo my personal ego and to remain a humble person. I will constantly commit myself to remain open to learning new knowledge and build better people relationship. This is on of the hallmark of Level 5 leadership mentioned by Jim Collins in his book From Good to Great. Finally, I would conclude that in this current time the lesson of leadership that I learn is to build on the right traits that include integrity, being inspiring, competence, having the courage, creativity and forward looking. Conclusions To quote the words from Miley Cyrus hit song The Climb There is always gonna be another mountain I am always gonna wanna make it move. Always gonna be an uphill battle sometimes I am gonna have to lose. Aint about how fast i get there, aint about whats waiting on the other side. Its the climb. Yes its the climb and the journey that matters in our pursuit for excellence and being a better leader. When we are able to combine our passion and interest into what we love doing the outcomes would be great. The lesson from this MBA program has taught me that in order to lead better I need to put the interest of the company and my colleague before me and to win their heart and mind to contribute towards realizing the set objective of working as a team. And, as we faced setbacks and obstacles we as leader

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must have the courage and the resilience to motivate others to give it another shot and finish strongly. Although scaling up the summit of Everest is very challenging and tempting, we as leader need to know what the risks are and the price to pay for this dream. The risks are probably serious injury, lost of our loved ones and even our personal lives. One day each of us will face our own mighty Everest and it is at this moment that our courage, resilience, people skills, technical abilities, physical and personal integrity will be put to the test. When you are at the crossroad of a major decision it will ultimately test your courage to take the higher road which are less traveled but your experience in dealing with crisis, your intuition and your personal values would ensure you made a right decision. And like any great leader, continue to find your north compass that will take you to your own destination and also realize your true calling in life. Then you find your happiness and fulfillment in knowing that you have live you life to the fullest of what our Almighty made you to be. Rosalynn Carter said this "A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go but ought to be."

REFERENCES

1. Krakauer, Into Thin Air, NY Anchor Books, 1998 2. Burns, Everest Takes Worst Toll , Outside Magazine, May 14 1996 3. Roberto, High-Stakes Decision Making: The Lesson of Mount Everest, Aug
26 2002

4. Storm over Everest, PBS Frontline video


5. Boukreev, The Climb : The Tragic Ambitions on Everest, NY St Martin, 1999 6. Roberto, Lessons from Everest : The Interaction of Cognitive Bias, Psychology System Safety & System Complexity, California Management Review, 2002 7. Useem, Upward Bound, Wharton School University Pennsylvania, 2008 8. Roberto, How Great Leader Prevent Problems, Wharton, Feb 2009 9. Bentley, Lesson from Everest Disaster, Panoramic, 2008

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10. Breashears, Everest for IMAX, 1996 11. Useem, The Leadership Lesson of Mount Everest, Harvard Business Review, Oct 2001

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