Mt. Everest case study
At the time of the 1996 attempt to summit Mount Everest, Adventure Consultants was a four-year old company that had enjoyed financial success in spite of the death of one of its’ cofounders, Gary Ball. Mountain Madness, founded by Scott Fischer in 1984 was an older, but somewhat less successful, company. In retrospect, the adverse weather conditions, combined with logistical and other issues during the time preceding the ascent, combined to form a very challenging external environment for both teams.
Each group possessed strengths and weaknesses and had both opportunities and threats present, but the greatest threat faced by each team member was the possibility of death. Corporate and business level strategies for each company included using strategic spacing of guides during the ascent, the use of technology to aid in the mission, and a defined turnaround time to lessen the chances of being trapped on the mountain after dark. The structure and control systems of each company were focused on their leaders, Hall and Fischer.
Mt. Everest case study Essay Example
Due to some poor decisions made during the summit attempt and a lack of delegation by either leader, these systems ultimately failed, leaving the team members in danger. One major recommendation that may have saved lives would be to have adhered to an agreed-upon turnaround time in order to avoid descending from the summit at night. History, Development, and Growth of Companies Over Time At the time of the 1996 attempt to summit Mount Everest, Adventure Consultants was a four-year old company that had enjoyed financial success in spite of the death of one of its’ cofounders, Gary Ball.
Mountain Madness, founded by Scott Fischer in 1984 was an older, but somewhat less successful, company. Each of the two groups in the case study had at least some team members who had high-altitude mountain climbing experience and had a good reputation in climbing. However, more and more climbers with little or no experience in climbing began to aspire to reach the summit of Mount Everest. The main reason why people wanted to conquer Mount Everest was that this mountain is very famous because it stands at 8,850 meters above sea level and it is one of the most challenging mountains in the world to climb.
Based on this high level of challenge, climbers know that, once they reach the peak, they will have cemented their reputation because not many people have successfully summited Everest. The two companies, Mountain Madness and Adventure Consultants, described in the case study, were started because some expert mountaineers decided to become guides to lead people to reach the top of Everest. This provided the founders of these companies with not only a good opportunity to earn money, but also the chance to help people who want to conquer Everest make their dreams come true.
Each of these two companies had a professional leader, assistants, and auxiliary personnel. The company leaders were full of experience and they felt comfortable that they were familiar with the extreme and challenging environment on Mount Everest. However, for a number of different reasons and also due to the leadership styles employed by Hall and Fischer, the captains of each of the two groups, the 1996 expeditions resulted in very unfortunate consequences (Roberto & Carioggia, 2003). Identification of the Strengths and Weaknesses of Each Company Adventure Consultants
Adventure Consultants was founded in 1992 by Rob Hall and Gary Ball. After Ball’s death, Hall continued to lead the company, including leading expeditions to climb Everest. One of the main strengths of the Adventure Consultants group was the professional mountaineering experience of Rob Hall. However, one of the primary weaknesses of this team was that Hall’s clients were less experienced or not experienced in climbing high-altitude mountains. Another potential weakness of the Adventure Consultants team was that Hall also charged the highest fee to guide his clients on their summit bid to Everest (Roberto & Carioggia, 2003).
This may have increased the pressure to succeed on Hall, one weakness that could have led to him ignoring the turnaround time rule that he put into place. On the other hand, some clients might have considered this a strength, as it indicated that Hall had more confidence to lead people who didn’t have any experience to successfully reach the peak of Everest. Another potential weakness of the Adventure Consultants team was the somewhat dictatorial managerial style used by Hall, which led to his inability to successfully delegate tasks, another weakness exposed on the summit attempt. Mountain Madness
Scott Fischer founded Mountain Madness in 1984. In terms of experience, Fischer climbed up to the peak in Everest in 1994 without supplemental oxygen. This is the primary reason (and strength) why Fischer had confidence that he could handle the extreme environment on Everest. Scott Fischer was known as an ambitious and charismatic personality; that is to say Fischer was emotional in his leadership. While this is a potential strength, his desire for recognition from his peers, especially in retrospective analysis of the outcome of the 1996 expeditions, was a weakness that may have led to his poor decision making during the summit attempt.
Another strength of the Mountain Madness team was that several of the clients and guides had at least some experience in high-altitude mountain climbing . In addition, Fischer also hired eight Sherpas to assist the whole team. Even though Fischer was very confident of his ability and that of his customers, this confidence alone did not guarantee the success of the Mountain Madness team in this challenge. Fischer’s overconfidence in his abilities is another example of a weakness. Nature of the External Environment Surrounding the Company
Any analysis of the nature of the external environment surrounding the companies involving in attempting to summit Mount Everest in the spring of 1996 must, of necessity, include the actual environmental, or weather, conditions that confronted these climbers. The climate of the upper reaches of Mount Everest is extreme enough that it prevents sustained human occupation (Ludecke & Kuhle, 1991). In other words, members of both the Mountain Madness and Adventure Consultants teams, in spite of their previous experiences, were intentionally putting themselves into one of the most severe and challenging weather environments on Earth.
As noted by Anatoli Boukreev, one of the guides on the Mountain Madness team, good weather is one of the critical requirements needed for a successful summit of Mount Everest (Boukreev & DeWalt, 1999). The two expeditions targeted the early days of May for their summit attempts due to the fact that this time frame seemed to provide the best possibility for mild weather conditions at the higher altitudes of the mountain. Leaders of both teams recognized that there existed only a brief window of opportunity poised between the strong winds that typically occurred each April and the rainy season that would come later in the spring.
The decision to select this timing was, in large part, based on the past several years of collective experience on the upper altitudes of the mountain. During the early 1990s, those attempting to ascend Mount Everest had enjoyed relatively calm weather conditions during each climbing season. However, this had not always been the case. As noted by David Breashears, who successfully summited Everest previously, there were times in the more distant past in which harsh weather conditions on the mountain prevented climbing attempts for entire seasons (Coburn, 1997).
While there is no single factor that can be blamed for the tragic outcome that occurred in 1996, there is no doubt that adverse weather conditions played a key role. Other environmental factors also played a role in the catastrophic failure of these two climbing teams, as well. These factors include the polluted air and unsanitary conditions in the villages in which members of the teams stayed on their way up the mountain. Exposure to these conditions led to multiple team members becoming ill, which had a negative impact on team performance.
Another major issue had to do with the logistics of the supplies for the Fischer team (Mountain Madness). Shipping delays, weather-related issues, and other problems slowed the delivery of critical supplies and diverted Fischer’s energy and attention at the beginning of the expedition, a critical time during which the team leader should have been involved in preparing and acclimating his team. These diversions prevented Fischer from focusing his full attention and energy on the successful preparation of his team, another factor that, in retrospect, proved to have a very deleterious effect on the success of the mission. SWOT analysis
Strengths The primary strengths, or distinctive competencies (Griffin, 2011), of each of the two teams were focused in the high-altitude climbing skills and expertise of their leaders and guides, although this was offset somewhat by the lack of experience of some of the clients who were part of each group. Another notable strength of the teams was their attitude regarding the summit attempt and confidence that they would be successful in their efforts. This is demonstrated in both Hall’s offering of a 100% guarantee policy and by Fischer’s response to a journalist prior to his departure: I believe 100 percent that I’m coming back.
My wife believes 100 percent that I’m coming back. She isn’t concerned about me at all when I’m guiding because I’m [going to] make all the right choices. When accidents happen, I think it’s always human error. So that’s what I want to eliminate. (Krakauer, 1998) Weaknesses The primary weaknesses of the two teams centered on the overconfidence of the team leaders in their ability to successfully lead groups of inexperienced, physically unfit, ill-prepared climbers to the summit of Mount Everest and safely back again.
Another key weakness exposed during this ordeal was that the performance of each team was ultimately only as good as the performance of the “weakest link” of each team, a critical factor when so many team members lacked experience in high-altitude climbing. Another weakness was the lack of the efficient use of technology during the climb. Having a greater number of phones available for group members might have facilitated communication during the descent and the presence of lighter, more current, phones would have lightened the loads that were being carried.
Finally, one critical weakness outlined in the case study was the lack of clarity regarding the turnaround time rule. Given the lack of adherence to this rule exhibited by both teams, perhaps simply being clearer may not have made a difference in the tragic outcome. However, given the nature of the potential dangers, both Hall and Fischer should have drawn a clear line for the turnaround time, ensured that each team member understood the critical importance of this deadline, and then rigidly enforced to this cutoff time for the sake of the safety of each group.
Opportunities The primary opportunities present for each group involved the chance for the less-experienced team members to work with and learn from some of the best high-altitude climbers in the world. Another key opportunity was the involvement of the Sherpas, many of whom demonstrated heroic efforts to assist the teams in their attempt to reach the summit and return safely. For example, the case study notes that Lopsang Jangbu personally towed client Pittman for six hours after leaving Camp IV.
Other Sherpas, upon learning that both teams were in danger during the descent, left Camp IV in extremely poor weather conditions in attempts to find and rescue members of both teams. Threats The adverse weather conditions, as noted earlier, served as a primary threat to the success of the mission of each team. Another threat present, but perhaps not emphasized, was the pressure that each team leader felt to succeed. In part, this pressure arose from the pride and egos involved.
However, it also involved the amount of time and financial resources expended in making a summit attempt, as well as the competition between the two teams and their leaders. Finally, the threat that ultimately claimed the lives of five of the members of the two teams was an existential one: death. Corporate Level Strategy Adventure Consultants Founded in 1992 by Rob Hall and his partner Gary Bell, Adventure Consultants was in the business of guiding individuals to the top of the highest summits in the world.
Both men were successful until Bell passed away in 1993, after which Hall continued to run the business by himself. After successfully guiding many to the summit of Everest, he decided to issue a 100% guarantee to Everest peak in 1995 (Roberto & Carioggia, 2003). Giving out a 100% guarantee by any company relays one of two things: justified confidence in their product or service, or overconfidence by the company in its product or service. In the case of Adventure Consultants, in dealing with one of the most deadly and unpredictable mountains in the world, overconfidence was backing their 100% guarantee.
After failing to satisfy that claim in 1995, Hall set out to prove himself again in 1996. Hall recruited eight climbers: three doctors, two climbers who had previously failed to summit Everest, a journalist, and two climbers who had only Everest left to climb to complete climbing the seven summits. The majority of the group lacked any experience with high-altitude climbing (Roberto & Carioggia, 2003). Adventure Consultants believed that they could get anyone to the top of the mountain despite their background, or lack thereof, in climbing.
The final summit climb would be led by one guide in the front, a second in the middle and finally Hall at the back to assist climbers as needed. Each guide would carry a radio. Perhaps the most important practice was turning around by one o’clock or two o’clock no matter how close to the summit the climbers were. Hall knew this to be a very important and needed rule, as noted by the fact that he relayed to his team that they should be, “abiding by it no matter how close we were to the top” (Roberto & Carioggia, 2003). Mountain Madness
Scott Fischer founded Mountain Madness in 1984. Fischer summited Everest without supplemental oxygen in 1994 after failing three previous times, and organized his first guided expedition to the summit of Everest in 1996 (Roberto & Carioggia, 2003). Fischer, like Hall, recruited climbers who also lacked the high altitude climbing experience demanded by Everest. A journalist, a sixty-eight year old mountaineer, and his nephew (a downhill skier), a Wall Street trader, a ski patroller, and two others who had previous climbing experience rounded out Fischer’s team of clients.
Although Fischer recognized the inexperience of his team, he did not foresee a problem arising from the group’s lack of experience, but instead he focused on the attitude of the group to try to successfully get them to the top of the world and then back down again. Fischer decide to imitate Hall’s climbing plan for the guides to climb spaced out between the clients, as well as specifying a turnaround time at either one or two o’clock (Roberto & Carioggia, 2003). Nature of Business Level Strategy Commercializing Everest
Despite, or perhaps because of, the vast climbing experience that both leaders had amassed throughout the years, they began to become overconfident in their guiding and climbing abilities. One key fact was that the client base had also changed dramatically. Instead of experienced climbers seeking to finish off the seven summits, these two groups instead included several somewhat narcissistic and entitled customers who wanted to pay for the chance at fame and accomplishment (Elmes & Barry, 1999).
It became apparent that, for Hall and Fischer, summiting Everest was no longer just about the achievement, but had rather shifted to the acquisition of wealth and increased stature in the mountaineering community. Although this stature could still be achieved through guiding experienced climbers, by offering these services to the public, these companies were more likely to be more profitable as this shift gave them access to a wealthier clientele. Climbing Without Oxygen
Climbing at high altitudes without supplemental oxygen puts a huge strain on the already exhausted human body. Two of Fischer’s guides, lead Sherpa Lopsang and guide Boukreev, were climbing without supplemental oxygen, (Elmes & Barry, 1999). According to a study done in the Wilderness and Environmental Medicine Journal: The use of supplemental oxygen was found to be strongly correlated with success in summiting Mt Everest. It has been common practice since the first ascent of Mt Everest to use supplemental oxygen because of the extreme altitude of the mountain.
Although using supplemental oxygen involves carrying a heavier weight, its benefits include an increase in physical strength and stamina, as well as mental clarity, better decision-making, and a more positive attitude. (Wiseman, Freer, & Hung, 2006) One of the primary responsibilities of a guide for an Everest expedition is to be accountable for making decisions for a group of people. Thus, having the physical and mental capacity to make decisions accurately is crucial. It only makes sense that guides and leaders should always use supplemental oxygen as well as being strongly recommended for use by clients, as well.
Adhering to the Turnaround Time Despite both leaders discussing the importance of the turnaround time agreed upon before summit day, neither team leader actually enforced this rule. By one o’clock only three of the climbers had reached the summit and by two o’clock only three more climbers had joined them. Seven other climbers joined the group at two thirty. (Roberto & Carioggia, 2003). This rule was in place to prevent climbers from being on the mountain after nightfall, yet because it was not observed, climbers found themselves stuck on the mountain through the night.
Adhering to this rule alone could have possibly saved the entire group from the tragedy that ensued. Structure and Control Systems of Each Company and Analysis of Fit to Strategy Structure of Adventure Consultants The Adventure Consultants team consisted of the owner (Rob Hall) along with several managers (or guides) and assistants (Sherpas). As the owner and co-founder, Rob Hall was in charge of almost everything for this group. First of all, he employed Mike Groom and Andy Harris as guides and also employed seven Sherpas as assistants. Secondly, he recruited eight clients for the 1996 summit attempt.
Thirdly, he also served as a team guide along with Harris and the Sherpas. Finally, he designed the climbing route and schedule and was in charge of the safety protocols and training for his team. Structure of Mountain Madness The Mountain Madness team had a structure very similar to that of the Adventure Consultants group. Scott Fischer had two guides, eight assistants, and several clients. It is notable that Adventure Consultants seemed to have rear servers (other than Hall), which can inferred by the final contact to base camp by Hall; in the other group, Scott Fischer worked as a rear server for the Mountain Madness team alone.
Analysis of Fit to Strategy As noted above, the structure of the two teams described in the case study was very straightforward. Rob Hall and Scott Fischer not only led each respective team but also recruited clients to join each of the teams. Client recruitment occurred regardless of a person’s climbing experience or physical conditioning. In fact, Hall’s death was directly related to his recruitment of ill-prepared clients. If Hansen had not been a part of the group, Hall would probably have not stayed on the summit and perished as a result.
As mentioned previously, Fischer was exhausted at the beginning of the summit bid because he had to deal with lots of unexpected problems that would normally not be things that a guide would have to deal with. In other words, Fischer should have made a strategic decision to delegate some responsibilities so that he could focus on his responsibilities as a guide. Along the same lines, neither team had technical support. This left them badly prepared for the change in the weather, limited in their communication, and facing a shortage of bottles of oxygen.
Based on the structure of each team, they used the following strategies: First of all, after they arrived at Base Camp, the two teams shared their schedule and the planned route to the summit of Everest. Thus, the leaders of these companies had begun to cooperate with each other. However, this cooperation alone did not guarantee good decisions. For example, on the summit day, when Krakauer and Ang Dorje found that there were 500 meters long ropes that needed to be deployed in order to get to the top of the mountain, they made a wrong decision that led to spend over an extra hour in climbing.
Second, Fischer and Hall set up instructions that they required others to strictly obey. The most important rule was that the rule about turnaround time which had been emphasized many times by both Fischer and Hall. Another was the rule that the three guides would be located in the front, at the middle, and in the end of each group, respectively. Even though the time (1 pm or 2 pm) at which the climbers should turn around and begin to descend was specifically emphasized, it turned out that most of them, including Fischer and Hall, did not follow this very rule.
Another evidence of not following the agreed-upon rules was that Jangbu, a Sherpa, instead of Boukreev or Beidleman, had the radio. Third, the vital decision that directly impacted the two whole teams’ survival was a result of the vote among Hall, Fischer, Boukreev and Kasischke. Kasischke recalled: It was a roaring storm out there at high camp, and I remember in our tent we were arguing . . . and it was three to one that we ought to be waiting. We were concerned that we really hadn’t had a full day of good weather, and we just . . . thought it would be smart to wait a day.
I mean, if it were this way 24 hours later, we were going to have a problem trying to get down. (Roberto & Carioggia, 2003, p. 10) It is unclear why the other three guides did not participate in this vote or why Kasischke, as a client, had the right to vote. Overall, some of their strategies did not effectively fit the teams’ structures. For example, the group leaders, Hall and Fischer, were not clear about responsibilities and limits of power for each position and they did not set up highly effective ways of communicating among the leaders, guides and assistants.
This lack of communication had a negative impact on the success of each team. Recommendations Our team recommends the following changes that should positively impact the future performance of these two groups: 1. Increase the use of delegation by the leaders of each team 2. Employ a technical support staff to assist with weather notification, logistical details, and the use of the most current technologies 3. Clear communication of the importance of and strict adherence to the turnaround time and other safety protocols 4. Use of a baseline cutoff for client physical conditioning, health, and experience