Raising the level of your leadership




Trivial Pursuits


The Nepalese government is organizing an expedition to place a GPS device on the top of Mount Everest to resolve the “raging” international debate on the exact height of the mountain. Oh, you didn’t know there was a raging debate? Here are the current “estimates” of the height of Mount Everest:
  ►  Nepal     29,028 feet
  ►  China     29,017 feet
  ►  U.S. Nat’l Geographic Society     29,035 feet

Now, all these measurements are the height above sea level. However, a lot depends on where and when you measure sea level. The U.S. uses the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada, as the baseline. The U.K. uses a location in southwest England. Actually, due to tides, rotation, gravity, ice pack melt, etc., sea level is ever changing, though there is something called a geoid which is supposed to account for all of these. Further, the Himalayas are actually rising every year, so whatever is accurate today will not be a year from now.

What is at stake in all this? Nothing. Mount Everest is about 750 feet higher than the second highest mountain, so its reign is not threatened whatever the outcome of new measurements or estimates. This is a clear “much ado about nothing,” a trivial pursuit that will absorb time, energy, and money with no meaningful outcome. I sure hope the Government of Nepal is not paying for this with deficit spending as the good ol’ …. (oops, no politics on this blog).

I don’t want to be too hard on the Nepalese government. Most organizations have a few trivial pursuits that use up human and capital resources with little meaningful impact on the health or future of the organization. Doing with excellence what doesn’t need to be done at all is common in businesses, churches, non-profits, and so on. If you are a leader trying to focus your organization on what is important, getting rid of trivial pursuits is a good way to start. There are a lot of ways to go about this, but my favorite is simply asking, “What bad will happen if we don’t do this any more?” I wonder if someone in Nepal is going to ask that question?

[The catalyst for this post was a WSJ article by Carl Bialik, July 30-31, 2011.)

© Copyright 2011 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

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