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Mount Everest 1996 Case Solution

Solution Id Length Case Author Case Publisher
1697 2231 Words (8 Pages) Michael A. Roberto, Gina M. Carioggia Harvard Business School : 303061
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Despite the failure, there were strengths of these teams; both leaders were very empathetic towards their team members. Their passion was also comprehendible though it became bind passion after some time, in the beginning, it increased the morale of the team. One other excellent strategy of Hall was his call for decision making though it never happened, it was a good strategy in the sense that in times where time is of critical importance you cannot let team members make their own choices. But in the beginning, before heading to the summit, the floor should have been open to discussion.

Following questions are answered in this case study solution

  1. Problem Identification

  2. Problem Analysis

  3. Developing and Implementing an Action Plan

  4. Action Plan

  5. Supportive factors and constraints

  6. Risks and Contingency Planning

  7. The realism of Action Plan

Case Analysis for Mount Everest 1996 Case Solution

1. Problem Identification

The case tells the story of two passionate mountaineers guiding their expeditions to Everest. But due to several factors, five people including both leaders dies on May 10, 1996. An analysis of strengths and weaknesses of both leaders is as follows:

 

Robb Hall

Scott Fischer

Strengths

  • Experience of climbing Everest

  • Skills

  • Confident

  • Optimistic

  • Detail-orientation

  • Empathetic

  • Good reputation

  • Efficient Operator

  • Experience of climbing Everest with minimum supplement oxygen

  • Influential and charismatic personality

  • Confidence

  • Believes in self-reliance- gave more freedom to clients during acclimatization.

 

Weaknesses

  • The vague Time line for Turnaround time and inability to follow it.

  • Failed to realize the fitness issues of clients

  • Very Dictatorial leadership style.

  • Failure to make a group into a team.

  • Over-Confidence.

  • First experience of guiding the team.

  • Inability to plan the operational needs of the group.

  • Wage difference in employees.

  • Failure to make a group into a team.

  • Over Confidence

These qualities of the leaders made the team members more distanced from each other, they were afraid to voice their opinions, and this caused blind spots in leadership.

There is no one reason that caused this tragedy; instead, there is a chain of mistakes, one after another that lead to the death of five people. The ground rules were not established properly before heading towards the summit and the rules that were already present were not followed strictly. Decision making was centralized, and it lacked autonomy, no contingency plan was discussed. They were relying solely on team work in the absence of team spirit. On top of that, communication wasn’t the biggest suit of these two groups. Nature wasn’t their biggest ally either that day. So, centralized leadership, lack of planning and team spirit, the absence of ground rules, weak communication and bad weather were some of the reasons that caused the misfortunate event in 1996.

2. Problem Analysis

i. Lack of Planning

Both teams were schedules to the summit at them same day, though the weather was alarming both leaders went with their intuition that weather is going to be better. Both leaders they wanted this mission to be accomplished to make it a headline and to attract more business. Hall wanted to prove that his last summit's failure was not his fault. This caused them to overlook many warning signs like deteriorating health of some team members and Fischer. The recency effect is a cognitive bias due to which decision makes prefer to rely on most recent data available and that what happened with Hall and Ficsher they thought the weather was fine they didn't consider the possibility of bad weather. Constructive dissent is important in a team to make decisions and increase accountability and engagement. There was almost no debate about any plans or procedures in the team due to which critical evaluation of ideas never happened. Due to which flawed ideas were accepted, and no one offered alternatives.

They did not plan their communication needs as well. They only brought limited radios although it was not difficult to bring radios for individual members. Both leaders had over-confidence bias as they were high achievers from the beginning they thought this summit was not different from others. If a framework were developed for this problem, it would start with a vision of Hall and Ficsher to make money from the mountaineering experience. Then they assembled a group of people with a mission to reach the summit of the highest peak in the world. Then they started to make strategies to accomplish their mission. Some strategies were flawed while others were good, after planning and making strategies they started the quest to implement the strategies into a plan of action. 

ii. Logistics Problems    

There were many logistics problems, although both teams faced the problems, Fischer's team was facing them from the very beginning. Solving the operational problems and helping the sick team members made Fischer tired and physically unwell to proceed with the summit but he did it anyways. On the summit day, both teams expected the ropes to be fixed by another team that climbed the mountain before them. But they didn't try to verify the facts, and at the summit day, they realized that ropes were not there after half way. Hence two guides were sent to fix the ropes, 2 hours early. Now, the issue here was the tight deadline and no contingency planning. There was no slack left for emergencies and sending only two guides was risky. In addition to that, the safety rules required Krauker to wait for Hall and not proceed any further which caused the delay in fixing ropes. Clients were unskilled, and hence they were putting their weight on Sherpas and guides which made the guides exhausted, and they weren't ready to lead. Fisher was lagging, one of the Sherpas fell ill and had to return to the base camp.

iii. Time limit Issue

The fatal decision was about the turning point. Both climbers were experienced to know that the time to return is 1 pm. But the timeline was vague as they instructed the groups to be back by 1 or 2 PM, so no one knew when they were supposed to head back.

The team also never considered the option that some climbers might lag while others reach the summit. They never discussed what happens then. The emphasis was on team work when there was no team they were a bunch of people who were together to do one of the most difficult tasks of the world.
Despite knowing all this, climbers from both teams didn’t turn back after 2. The sunk-cost effect was prominent there as everyone had invested so much time, effort and money in this that no one wanted to return without accomplishing it. Fisher’s team reached the summit by 2:05 while Hall's team came by 2:35. Both leaders were behind; Hall's was helping Doug. He risked the lives of all the other team members to save the life of one.

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