It’s a Wednesday afternoon in the Methodos offices. I look around and smile.
Groups of people fill the room, standing over trail maps, compasses in hand. From the back, a camera on a tripod captures the scene so that those who couldn’t be here this time could also access the lesson (and probably the laughs, too).
It’s happening during working hours, but the words I hear are unusual given the context… Words like “azimuth” and “level lines”.
This is one of the meetings with the Milano CAI volunteers in preparation for our Mont Blanc expedition (and all the others that we’ll face before we get there).
We find ourselves in one of the big open-space rooms of the office - looking at slides on mountain theory and practice – preparing ourselves for what we’ll face on this endeavour.
It’s a fundamental part of the change process that the M4810 participants will undergo.
It’s a critical element that will pose its own challenge. One thing is hiking in the mountains accompanied by a guide, enjoying the trek and the views, and going back home unchanged. Another thing is being able to recognise weather changes, possible risks; being able to navigate and find the path even in dense fog; understand the hidden dangers of the terrain and what to do when you need to do a roped walk across a glacier - returning home truly changed.
In order to do it, though, we need to be aware of the hidden risks and possible critical aspects.
The CAI volunteer talking to us about managing risk in the mountains keeps a serious tone to his presentation, but a smile betrays his passion. He shows us photos of cracks and exposed paths.
They’re not images of far away, remote places. They’re real testimonies of what we’ll find on the Goûter Route of the Mont Blanc. The small group of consultants observing the photos look concerned.
“In adventure sports, eliminating risks means taking away the nature of the experience itself, taking away its attractiveness. And it wouldn’t even be possible. We can’t talk about zero risk in the mountains. But we can talk about reducing it.”
And how do we reduce it? By being aware.
He shows us a photo that we first have to put in focus. Then we understand.
It shows a family of hikers. Their red t-shirts and short socks stand out on the background of white snow that surrounds them. One of them is turned towards the back, extending his arm to help another person get over a long, narrow hole in the terrain.
When our teacher points out that it’s actually an ice bridge over a crevasse – a hole into the heart of the ice that can be hundreds of metres deep – we finally understand.
Awareness is everything. Without it, risk multiplies infinitely.
We have to be aware of what we’re doing. We don’t want this to be a simple journey - we want to change.
We want to find, within ourselves, the power to face difficulties. We want to find trust in our team, the ability to follow our leaders, and to actively contribute to reaching our goals.
The power of an idea and the determination to reach a result, even if it seems impossible.
The Mont Blanc is the perfect representation of all this - which they usually face at work. This time, they’ll face it between ice, boulders, and crevasses.
In the change management process, this would be the phase of improving change readiness. We’ve monitored feelings, individual and group predisposition, and motivation. We know where we’re leaving from, and where we want to arrive. In between, we find not just physical training, which may actually be the easiest part of the journey. There’s also mental preparation – the real playing field.
After the first phase of change, the one characterised by doubt, there came a rise to face the challenge. We took off running and discovered that we really want it – that it comes from the heart. We started training our legs, at the gym and in the mountains, as well as the stomach with a complementary diet.
Now it’s time to train our mind, though: it’s the key to reaching the top. And the mind is sceptical by nature. It’s afraid of change, of the unknown, of what it can’t control. It pulls back, it wants to stay in its comfort zone, where there are neither crevasses nor risks.
But that’s not how mountains are conquered. And it’s not how companies manage to remain leaders in management consulting.
Risk is defined by CAI as the simultaneous existence of an objective danger and of a risky choice, a subjective danger. It’s like this in business, too, where the line between success and bankruptcy is a choice basked in uncertainty.
And the compass that should guide us, in the mountains and in life, is awareness. The preparation.
We can’t allow ourselves to follow the crowd. We’re all responsible for making balanced and accurate choices based on our knowledge and competences.
In dealing with clients in everyday work as in front of a crevasse of the Mont Blanc.