Beware the False Summit

One of the most mentally challenging things about backcountry travel is the false summit. This is the summit you can see ahead of you but it is hiding the real summit just out of your vision. The trouble with false summits is that you can wind up doling out your energy expenditure, your time on the mountain and even your food consumption based on when you expect to hit the false summit, only to discover that the real summit is further off and might even require you to go down into a valley and back up again before you get there. This is why as a seasoned backcountry traveller, you don’t just rely on your eyes, but also on your map and your advance planning.


The same is true in any organizational change or transformation initiative. There will be false summits and you have to plan for them just as carefully as you plan for them in the outdoors. Sometimes the false summit appears as an early consensus on how to approach a tricky project; as you dig into the details or look for commitments, you discover that your consensus was weak and you need to backtrack and anchor it more firmly. Maybe the false summit shows up as a “quick win” on a savings or new revenue only to find that stabilizing that win is much more difficult than you planned for.

As you do in outdoor travel, in these situations you need to keep going back to the map or the plan and focussing on the long range goal. While it can be frustrating or demoralizing to discover you are on a false summit, the reality is that you are still on some high ground from which you have a new vantage point to take stock, take rest and move forward.