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Reaching New Heights in Project Management

By Alan Mallory

Successful projects are a lot like mountaineering expeditions. To navigate the volatile and increasingly turbulent environments we operate in, project managers need to be diligent in continuously assessing project conditions, and able to adjust course when needed.

Summiting the world’s highest peak was a monumental project. In addition to the physical and mental preparation, our expedition to the summit of Mount Everest required two years of planning and two months of climbing through some of the most exciting yet harrowing conditions imaginable.

Because of the extreme altitude (29,032 feet at the summit), in order to be able to survive we have to make incremental pushes to higher camps and then retreat to allow our bodies to acclimatize. Failing to properly acclimatize in this manner results in development of acute mountain sickness (AMS) which progresses to pulmonary or cerebral edema, both of which can be fatal.

Like many of the projects we manage, we are continuously having to respond and adjust to changing conditions and requirements. Many of the teams that were unsuccessful the year we were on the mountain, were teams that were too rigid in their mindsets and approaches. They would reach a point where it would seem like there was no way to continue forward – the environmental, individual and interpersonal challenges were simply too great to surpass. I can relate to that feeling of despair, but there is always a way forward if you are committed and resilient enough to discover it.

Like mountaineering, project management can seem like an uphill battle and you may even be faced with seemingly impassible obstacles or situations to navigate. We can mitigate such challenges, however, by carefully and proactively making adjustments, before it is too late to do so.

Agility in project management is becoming less of a choice and more of a necessity in many of the fast-paced industries we work. If you find it difficult to deviate from a predetermined path, it may be time to sharpen your skills in adaptability or you risk wandering into a crevasse that you may not easily be able to get out of.

Alan Mallory

Alan Mallory, PMP, PE
Speaker | Author | Performance Coach

Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.

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