Mount Everest–1996 Harvard Case Solution & Analysis

Question # 1: Why did this tragedy occur? What is the root cause of this disaster?

There were so many causes that led to the occurrence of disaster, but some prominent cases included were the leadership issues. Analyzing both the leaders Fischer and Hall, it became evident that both of them were quite over-confident about the expedition and didn't put much concern to the factors that were supposed to be analyzed every time rather than depending on the past experiences. Hall, particularly who guided 39 people in his last four expeditions to Everest recently is solely due to his skill set and capability to manage clients in the expedition to climb Mount Everest. History revealed that the cause of failure is the over-confidence showed by the leaders or anyone else in the team. On the other hand, Fischer was of the view that if Hall can guide people to the Everest and earn a handsome amount of money and enjoy success, he is also good enough to do because he has nothing less than Hall. This sense of envy and competition led him towards over-confidence which also reflected in his words when in an interview he shared that he and his family are 100% sure of guiding and managing the people successfully in the expedition and were 100% sure of his return thus eliminating all the risks involved although he never guided a team before. On the contrary, Fischer was of the belief that the cause of accidents is mostly due to human error and that need to be eliminated. Overconfidence is also the cause towards poor decision making and prohibits leaders to analyze the situation more clearly and avoid planning rather depending heavily on their skills, abilities, confidence and luck before taking any decision.

The second cause that led to the disaster was the inability and lack of experience of the clients that were selected for an expedition by both the teams. For many clients, this was their first experience to the Everest and some were even lacking the experience of climbing high altitudes thus lacking in skill required for climbing the Everest. A team lacking in prior experience can always lead towards failure without proper guidance. Both teams have members or clients for whom this expedition was their first experience towards high altitudes, which means that the responsibility on the leaders become more vital. Guiding people with no prior experience with lack of skills required in such expeditions was a difficult task as teaching the techniques and rules was a difficult task. Besides that allowing people of the expedition without analyzing their health, was a big flaw towards the failure and disaster. One of the clients in Fischer’s team fell ill during the acclimation exercises and was guided by Fischer back to the base camp.

The third and very important reason leading towards disaster was the lack of teamwork and coordination among the team members. The name team was associated only for the sake of having it otherwise the teams were lacking badly in coordination as explained by the members of the Hall’s team. The team members in both the teams were unfamiliar to each other that is why a sense of confidence should have been developed between them to build trust among team members which was necessary for such expeditions. But this fact was completely neglected and was not given much importance by the leaders and people showed less confidence and started doubting their team mates. This factor was related to the inability of the leadership in both the teams.

Question # 2: Are tragedies such as this simply inevitable in a place like Everest?

History and facts have proven that climbing Mount Everest is a difficult yet achievable task. The year 1996 was an exception as 96 people tried to climb Everest and out of which 15 people died. The number was the highest till then. But reviewing the history tells that there have been many successful expeditions made by people, and the success ratio remained very high. There are factors that lead towards such tragedies that occur at Everest and as explained in the above answer as well, but not every tragedy is unavoidable. People make mistakes, but to repeat not those mistakes is what the prime important criteria that can happen only through learning from past mistakes. There are certain things that are unavoidable or inevitable, but only those that happens by the act of God as humans are weak and can't do anything about it. These things include bad weather, sudden changes in the climate, strong breeze, etc. as we cannot completely predict the weather conditions, especially in high altitudes where a sudden change can cause a big damage.

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Describes the events that occurred during the May 1996 Everest tragedy. Analyzes the shortcomings of solutions that climbing team before and during the climb. "Hide
by Michael A. Roberto, Gina M. Carioggia Source: HBS Premier Case Collection 22 pages. Publication Date: November 12, 2002. Prod. #: 303061-PDF-ENG

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