Social Change; Walking up a Mountain and Down a Hill.

Posted by:

In the later half of 2011,I had the pleasure of taking four diverse teams in the mountains for the purpose of communication/networking/team building etc.
The walks are organised in such a way, that the goal is to reach the top of the mountain and get to the end point by a certain time, the last element is important as on all of the walks we had to catch a boat or a train back to the start. If we had missed these boats or trains we had a long walk back  in the dark, compounded by the fact that we were in the winter season and the transport in question was limited and the last scheduled run of a given day.

Reflecting on the events over the Christmas break, I eventually came to the conclusion that 3 different areas were indeed at work, and these areas are as much relevant to business change/operations and sales as they are to walking in the mountains.

The first area was the Social Aspect, are we communicating as a group in the right way to achieve the goal of the walk in a certain time. Communication or the social aspect is very important even in the planning stage, simply because if any of the communication is a bit “wishy/washy” or unclear it is treated negatively and that will have a direct impact on team performance. Being Social is critical to the success of the event.

The second area is alignment around the key success factors of the walk, and how you integrate these together with people/leadership style etc;
The Mountain Alignment (1)  is described in the figure below and this again is just as relevant to business, each individual sub section of the Mountain Alignment has a owner and action plan and thus the accountability for making that sub section happen.

Click image to view in full size

The final area is called insight; this is how you track the performance of the alignment and take relevant actions to deal with any issues/concerns and deviations. This area is often overlooked and is so critical to a successful event. We plan all events with maps manually, and also on computer where estimates are calculated based on conditions of the team, the weather and the route. On the walk the team guides are in constant communication by radio to make sure that we adhering to the alignment, route and everyone is enjoying the event.

It appears to me that these three areas integrated together to become the guiding principals of not just teaching change in the mountains but also guiding teams in business.

Jon Ryley is the CEO of the CapableCore and Founder of the Trail Walking Club and has ran over 50 events teaching change in the mountains of the United Kingdom, Ireland and Europe.
Find Jon on LinkedIn and

(1) Tushman; Michael L., and Charles A. O’Reilly. Winning through Innovation: A Practical Guide to Leading Organizational Change and Renewal. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.