On October 03, 2011, our team of five embarked on a virtual journey to climb Mount Everest. The team included a leader, an environmentalist, a physician, a marathoner, and me, a photographer. The final result of our team’s simulation exercise was a dismal 61% overall success. The marathoner and the environmentalist did not reach the summit. Neither the physician nor the environmentalist was able to stay an extra day at Camp 3 or 4 to fulfill their personal goals. Interestingly, I accomplished my personal goal (staying an extra day at Camp 2 to take pictures), and summited Everest with the other team members.
The purpose of this essay is to discuss in short - What happened? There were key elements in the team’s dynamics and decision making that not only revealed my management style but also my strengths and weaknesses in managing people.
Management Takeaway #1- Gather Information
Gathering information was a critical element in the exercise. Each group member was given different pieces of information about weather, health, geography, etc., that needed to be consolidated in order to make informed decisions; the decisions on which our lives depended on. In fact, during the simulation, it was not until Camp 3 when one of our group members yelled out “Oh my god, we have different information”. Prior to Camp 3, we were making our decisions based on the shared information. We had fallen victim to the common information effect where unshared information is not considered and often the unshared information is brought up too late during the discussion to have impact.
Once we started collecting and organizing all available information, there was less confusion and more certainty in our decision making. The marathoner was able to better predict the weather and the physician was able to administer the correct medical supply. However, even after we began sharing the provided information, we did not have enough discussion to foresee the implications – we jumped right in without considering each other’s perspective. Personally, I feel this is a weakness of mine, where I am too eager to jump right into solving the problem at hand and come to conclusions. An important stage in the simulation where we failed to gather information coherently and failed to understand its implications was at Camp 3. While at Camp 3, the team was required to calculate the total number of oxygen canisters needed for the journey from Camp 4 to the summit. Two team members did not make it to the top - both suffered altitude sickness and the primary cause was incorrect assignment of oxygen canisters to the team members. The information was present, but we failed to comprehend the importance of the information provided. We failed to accurately calculate the requisite canister distribution that our lives depended on. When gathering information, I should have encouraged my team to consider all material equally. A better leader would have recognized the importance and set aside significant time to discuss all of the information and its implications on team members.
I would like to draw on another class exercise here, because I feel that this takeaway of gathering all available information and understanding its implications by taking different perspectives is so vital in managing people. I went through the same pitfall in PB technology exercise, where we did not discuss unshared information and I made decision from the information available to me about Nancy. I have an assertive and aggressive personality that allows me to influence others. I began to support Nancy and consistent with the consistency principal, was committed to supporting her. Going forward, when managing a team, I will gather all available information (shared and unshared) and take group members perspectives (concept of perspective taking) before forming an opinion or formulating a decision. As Professor Coté cited in our...