Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Summiting Mt Kilimanjaro - A project administration Case Study

Reaching almost twenty thousand feet high, Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest point in Africa. In Swahili, Kilimanjaro is translated as the "Mountain of Greatness." In 2000, my brother and I decided to climb this great mountain. We spent months establishment together with comprehension what we would need to summit, designing our approach, getting the right equipment and training for endurance. We then spent one week executing the plan up the mountain. Since these are the same steps required in managing any project, I decided to write a case study on task administration best practices in the context of planning and executing our journey up the mountain.

Like most big projects, we had an almost unattainable vision; to summit the tallest mountain in Africa. We had fixed resources (our own money) and a fixed timeline. Historically, 80% of citizen who try to summit this mountain fail for one conjecture or another. Interestingly, this is the same division that experts attribute to the success of any It project. We had to plan for this correctly so that our goal could be achieved.


Be Informed
Our first step was to fetch as much information as possible. We wanted to understand the history of other attempts, the related risks, and whatever else that might influence our project.

Some of our discoveries include:

* Hape (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) is a potentially fatal condition where fluid fills the lungs of a climber if they ascend to quickly
* There are several ways to get to the top
* They have a wet rainy season and a cold winter season
* The terrain is uneven with parts that are very slick because of scree (small rocks which slide under your feet as you try to climb up)
* Since the summit is the highest point on the continent, there is nothing to block the winds which can get to forty below zero

We would need to use this information to prepare ourselves for the journey. This relates directly to the initiation of a task where it is important to give the team comprehension into the history and inherent risks from which a plan can be made.

Hire the Experts
Neither my brother nor I had ever hiked a mountain of this magnitude before so we sought the guidance of citizen who had a proven record. We collected our short list of tour associates (vendors). Based on our seller diagnosis (cost, track record, services offered, etc.) we came up with a partner. We superior a firm that had a proven track article of success and who could construct and execute the details for us.

The other selection would have been to fly to Tanzania and outline it out ourselves which would have had an very low probability of success. This sounds like an easy decision, but too often associates exertion to jump into projects without specialist guidance and then make the mistakes that an specialist would have already experienced ("those who do not learn from history..."). For example, our tour firm provided us with a "bathroom tent." This was nothing more than a tent containing a plastic seat with a hole and plastic bag in it. We didn't see any other hikers on the mountain with one of these and it made the divergence between something civilized and trying to equilibrium behind a rock.

Create a Plan
We researched the activities that needed to take place. We needed equipment, logistics (flights, hotels, etc.), and a plan to condition ourselves. Working with our partner, we laid these out into a plan that we could manage to ensure that all things was in place.

We also mapped out a plan for the mountain. Based on our risks, we had decided to ascend to thirteen thousand feet and stay there for three days while we acclimatized (to avoid Hape). The plan also accounted for the timing of the climb by scheduling it after the rainy season out and before the winter season. We would ascend at night and reach the summit by daybreak.

On projects, creating the plan is one of the most valuable activities. Once the task starts, it will cost more time and resources to turn direction, so it is important to think things thought about up front. Half way up the mountain, we would not have been able to take a separate beginning route.

Define acceptable Roles
A best convention is to source work to citizen who are best suited to do the work. On our trip, the victualer that we superior had agreed to provide us with citizen who would carry our tents and prepare the food (I felt like a rap star with my "posse" of citizen following me around). These were not things that we wanted to concern ourselves with but that were valuable to our success. We could not climb without eating and staying warm and carrying these ourselves would have left us exhausted for our summit attempt.

Projects must have the same approach. associates do not have the resources to specialize in every technical field. They need to think sourcing definite technologies to organizations that can manage the work and stay informed of the changes to the technology.

Use of Technology
Another best convention is to use technology as an enabler of success. We learned that there would be a lot of hiking over unstable terrain and that the summit was forty below zero with winds. We turned to technology to help us overcome these obstacles. We purchased special hiking poles for stabilization and special boots that would keep our feet warm at the summit.

There is a trade-off between technology and cost, though, as we could have used a helicopter to meet our goal of getting to the top, but that was not financially feasible (not to mention it would have been cheating). Projects should think the use of technology to enable their success, but also look at the costs of doing so (cost, maintenance of technology, obsolescence, etc.).

Use of Prototypes
Our plan was to hike other mountains that were similar to Kilimanjaro. We wanted to prototype the feel and gauge the success of our training. Living in the United States, the best we could get was in Colorado (8,000 feet lower than Kili). We learned that our technology worked and that we could tolerate altitudes above ten thousand feet. We did not want to risk testing these out for the first time when we were in Africa. Dream our success rate if we had just tried on our new boots for the first time when we arrived in Africa. A woman in our "expedition" had to descend the mountain in the middle of the climb because she could not deal with altitudes everywhere near the 19,500 foot goal.

Lessons Learned
* Get as much information as inherent to recognize risks and opportunities
* Have a thought about thought-out plan
* Use experts and historical information to plan and assessment out a project
* Partner with providers who have the expertise and outsource that work which is not a core competency
* Use technology to enable success, where appropriate
* Use prototypes to test approaches and technologies


There comes a point where the planning stops and the task starts moving. Along the way there are always unplanned obstacles and challenges that come up. This task was no different.

Day 1 - Kickoff
We arrived in Africa in hope of our new project. On the first day we got to meet the team which was made up of tribal guides. Each man in our team had one guide and some porters/cooks. We took a three-hour bus ride with everyone to The Mountain. The entire way no one said a word except for an occasional conversation in Swahili and some looks at us (my guess is they were betting on either we would ensue or not). There were clearly cultural and language differences that we would need to get past if we were to work together as a team. The beginning of a task is always difficult because citizen are new to each other and are trying to outline out the relationships.

After arriving at the mountain, we unloaded our equipment and started the hike. We had planned our trip to come after the rainy season. The good news was that there wasn't much rain while we were there. The bad news was that we would have to hike straight through six inches of mud. Our technology retain (hiking poles) helped us stay upright for the most part. This day was spent hiking straight through the thick rainforest. The trail was covered in mud and all we could see in every direction (including up) was green vegetation.

Since we were hiking together, we could only move as fast as our slowest person. We had a team member who moved very slowly. This resulted in us hiking into the night time on the first day. We had to use our headlamps to see at night, which we were planning on using on the summit night. We would have to outline something out for light when we summitted.

We finally arrived at our camp, had some dinner, and then went to bed. We nothing else but couldn't sleep because of the excitement of the trip and the new experience.

Lessons Learned
* Do team-building activities to build the one team, one goal concept
* Learn how to say "slow American" in Swahili
* Help the team members who are struggling, as their carrying out affects the entire team
* Be flexible with your approach as the reality becomes separate than the plan

Day 2 - Immersion
We woke up very early this next day and started to climb again. We prolonged straight through the rainforest for some time. We prolonged to hike very moderately and my legs began to hurt. This implicated me since it was only the second day. My shoulders had also started hurting from the weight of my backpack.

After a few more hours of hiking, we finally came above the tree level. This was valuable because, after about fourteen hours of hiking, we could finally see our goal. This is so important to a task because we are often so focused on the steps we are taking that we rarely look up to see the goal that we are trying to achieve.

We were now at colse to twelve thousand feet and it was very cold. We had the acceptable equipment but nothing could prepare us for the spider-mosquitoes (we don't know what they were, but they looked like a cross between spiders and mosquitoes). At the camp we noticed these critters all over the ground. As it got dark out, they disappeared because it got very cold. We learned later that they all must have gone into our tent and sleeping bags. We spent the rest of the night trying to get them out of our tent, bags, clothes, and psyche.

Lessons Learned
* task work is painful at times, but you need to work straight through it
* Envision the goal and see the bigger picture
* Take care of bugs when you notice them and before they get out of control

Day 3 - Roller Coaster
We prolonged hiking for another eight hours up and down the mountain. There were many valleys and hills on the path. Since we were trying to move higher, we knew that every time there was a valley that we went down, that we could have more ground to make up to come higher. On projects, there are always obstacles that take you away from your extreme goal and they have to be worked straight through to get you back on track.

We camped out at the base of a wall that we would be scaling the next day. That night, our companion was coughing and could not breathe at the altitude. It was 15,000 feet and she was a smoker. We would decide to send her down the mountain the next day since there was minute opportunity of her manufacture the wall and her condition was deteriorating.

Lessons Learned
* Sometimes the work takes you away from your goal and you have to make up the ground
* Sometimes it's okay to turn resources if they are not the acceptable fit and risk the end goal

Day 4 - The Wall
We had a scope change. With our companion leaving the envoy, we had to send her down with a guide, some porters, and one of the two stoves used for cooking. Often during projects, a valuable dependency gets impacted and teams have to rejoinder accordingly.

The wall was very scary as it required a lot of climbing and hand-over-hand scaling up rocks. My brother and I are not fans of heights and there was not much of an area between us and the ledge. We couldn't turn back, but going send meant more anxiety and pain. We prolonged on to the next camp.

Lessons Learned
* Even though you have a plan, you have to be flexible to changes in scope.
* Projects often hit a wall in the middle where the team needs to push through.

Day 5 - almost There
On this day we would go up to colse to 16,000 feet. This meant a very steep hike for the day. Upon getting to the camp, we met a team of South Africans who were not able to summit because they all had dysentery. I realized at this point that 80% of citizen who fail do not just fail on the last summit day but as a function of their journey straight through the process. This holds true for task managers that may make mistakes along the way, preventing them from attaining their goal.

We laid out our special summiting gear and tried to get some sleep before the last push. Because of our steady pace we were able to have sufficient power to try the summit. Oftentimes, citizen may rush too much at the lowest and then not have the durableness to finish. This is very relevant to projects that get behind and then push the team hard for too long and the citizen cannot perfect their mission.

Lessons Learned
* Completing the goal is a ensue of the journey along the way and not just the last push
* Need to pace out the work. citizen get burnt out if they run for too long.

Day 6 - The Summit
We started our final push at midnight. We "deployed" our technology (head lamp, boots, hiking polls) and started the trek. The "scree" (a grouping of small rocks) was everywhere and it felt like we slid down one step for every two that we took uphill. Because of our slow start on day 1, our head lamps ran out very quickly. Luckily we had a clear night and a full moon which reflected off of the glaciers. My legs hurt so badly, but I focused on one step at a time and after six hours, we finally made it to the top to see the sun rise.

At the top, I felt very nauseous and "lost" all of the food that I had eaten before. At that altitude, your body only focuses on breathing and all things else shuts down. We took our pictures and then started back down again.

It took us another three hours to get back down. The scree was less forgiving when you go downhill and combining that with my lack of energy, I must have slipped and fallen about ten times. The decent was difficult mentally as well because we had already reached our goal (to summit) and had no motivation to continue pushing straight through pain.

Lessons Learned
* There is nothing like the feeling of meeting your goals
* Once the goal is completed, there is still work that needs to get focus and attention

Day 7 - task Closure
We prolonged down the mountain for another four hours. Since we were near the base, we had to go back straight through the mud again. We finally finished and went back to the camp where we preeminent our success with the team. This included songs in Swahili and a lot of beer.

Lessons Learned
* Celebrate successes with the team

Most projects have goals as aggressive as summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro. In order to be successful, the task boss must fetch as much information as inherent and make a realistic plan. This plan has to be flexible to the sure changes that will occur. To growth the probability of success, the Pm should look to source non-competency skills and use technology. I would also recommend setting up a bathroom tent for the team, just in case.

Summiting Mt Kilimanjaro - A project administration Case Study


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