Getting a group of individuals to buy into an audacious plan requires commitment. You can have all the skill and talent in the world, but if people’s hearts are not in it, the chances of success fall away. Just as important is agreeing the best course to follow to reach the goal.
Climbing mountains is no different. From the very outset pouring over photographs back home, right through to standing on the glacier with your pack and rope, it’s about commitment, as individuals and as a team, to both the goal and the proposed route of ascent.
Getting all parties to buy in can be difficult as we will all have slightly different versions of the ‘ideal plan’. Our own experiences, desires and egos mean we all have biases and blind spots. We need to find an effective, more nuanced ‘best plan’ for the team. On a mountain resources are limited and weather windows not indefinite – you need to get on with it. The world of business is no different.
The most difficult type of mountain climb is where nobody has done it before. There is no book showing the best route to the summit and you don’t know if it is even possible. A team might agree on the mountain objective, but not to the route.
What has been agreed from the outset and perhaps again at basecamp may be need to be renegotiated when you see the mountain close up in the context of the terrain, the weather and avalanche conditions and how people are performing physically and mentally. Is it safe? Are we moving fast enough?
Standing beneath Mt Kennedy’s 1,800 metre north face in Alaska, contemplating the first alpine-style ascent, Mick Fowler and I disagreed about the exact route to take. The route agreed earlier was now threatened by avalanche danger.
At each stage of the journey, the key is to have open conversations, where people feel safe to ask any questions and raise fears without fear of recrimination. Mick and I engaged in a healthy debate on the glacier before agreeing a new, safer route up Kennedy’s north face. Then we committed.
In my experience, both on a mountain and in a board meeting, this approach is critical. The hope is that a truly committed team will add up to more than the sum of its parts and achieve great things. You can’t ask for anything more than that.