Aug 12, 2012

Pre-exped Preparations... and breathe...

Benjamin Franklin, one of America's Founding Fathers, once uttered that all too well known phrase, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail."

One thing that my hobby of persuing this um... 'glamorous' life of adventure-seeking / career balancing has taught me is the delicate art of multi-tasking, deep breathing and smiling bravely through those situations when you realise that there are only 24 hours in a day and you've planned for a day of 30. Those are the days when you find yourself lycra-clad in the gym, gasping for breath on a treadmill, reading emails with blackberry in hand, on a conference call finishing off final details of a project plan and deciding what you will have for dinner once you've finished off your 4th can of Red Bull for the day. It's all about multitasking... If there were Olympic gold-medals awarded for the creation of 'to do lists' then I would certainly be in contention for a gold - or at least a silver medal. 

I sometimes find that one of the most challenging phases of an expedition can be the run-up to the expedition itself. Managing work commitments and responsibilities, striking the balance between arriving early and staying late with training, fundraising, sponsorship, organising kit, managing 'stakeholders', personal commitments and taking time out for yourself - it's easy to become overwhelmed. Over the past few weeks I must admit that I've had to stop and force myself to take a few deep breaths, revisit the checklist, (re)define key dates, (re)prioritise and let my body catch up with my brain. These are the times what I really need to focus on my 'vision' and be very disciplined in what items on my 'to do' list relate directly to my 'vision' and which are just "nice to have's".

I've gone through this pre-expedition routine more a few times now so am starting to appreciate that my mini-panic attacks are part of the process and that my careful planning in this 'preparation' phase will certainly pay off in the longer-term during the 'execution' of the project - that is, the actual climb of the mountain itself. When there are that many 'moving parts' involved it's important to be disciplined and rigorous in your approach so that you don't find yourself on a mountain without a sleeping bag... or returning from an expedition without a job!

Today I was mulling over a client proposal with some colleagues - the  request for proposal indicated budget (eg. team) for a 'lite' 'Design Phase' and a 'heavy' delivery or 'Implementation Phase' (to use some classic 'consultant speak!). We spent a long time discussing the way that the proposal had been written and tried to understand the reasoning behind the clients approach in terms of both time and money.

I couldn't help but reflect on my own 'mountaineering' experiences - if I calculated the number of hours spent simply PREPARING for the climb (eg. months of training, investment in the training, conducting PR, managing stakeholders etc.) then it would certainly surpass the number of days spent on the climb itself... Needless to say, the money spent on executing the actual climb would far surpass the money spent on the training and preparation - however without the training and preparation there would simply not be any point in even setting foot on the mountain..!

I've summarised below some additional parallels to help draw out this metaphor... 

I must apologise to my colleagues and my esteemed employers (and clients!) for the 'draft nature' of these ideas - my brain is struggling to cope with trying to be intellectual and function at 5200m at the moment!!!


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