Getting work done, Himalayan style

We’re were in Kathmandu last year, trekking for our third time in the highest mountains on Earth. That’s not hyperbole…Nepal is the most vertical place you can find. It has to be seen to be appreciated. We’ve trekked through rice paddies and bananas trees as well as in deep snow and amongst Tibetan nomads…sometimes all within the span of a day. There is nowhere in the world like it.

Execution excellence

Even more remarkable is the extreme attention to business that we enjoyed over our two weeks. In a place where there aren’t really any of the conveniences (or safety nets) we take for granted, the ability to execute work is far more valued than in our Western world of constant connectivity, 24×7 shopping, and dependable basic utilities like water and electricity. They spend more time on the details and in doing the right things every time than most of us could hope for. The end result of this focus is a trekking team of four customers and twenty staff of porters, cooks, and guides that performs like clockwork.


We were never awakened more than two or three minutes from the appointed time. We never missed our tea and morning “washing water” even when at 4700 m (14,570 feet, the same rough altitude as Mt Whitney). Everything just worked out no matter the obstacles. It was a completely reassuring experience in a country where anything can go wrong. Where labor is so cheap ($10/day covers a porter up to 40 kilos/88 pounds), you’d think that the focus would be less on efficiency, but even low labor cost is no excuse for sloppiness.

I’d even say they are far more efficient and cost-conscious than our best, most modern workplaces. Remarkable.

The reason it all worked was simple…there was a well-communicated and managed way for everything to be done. From tent setup, assignment of loads to carry to delivery of purified water, the same procedures were followed each and every time and by the same individual. This eliminated waste and confusion and made the staff easily able to focus on serving the customer. They were liberated from the everyday nonsense of confusion or frustration and available to be truly excellent at going above and beyond.

Yes, there is workplace excellence in some of the most remote places on earth. If they can have it, we certainly can, too.

Hats off to Buddiraj Rai for his excellent leadership of a great trek. If you have interest in taking a trek, let us know and we’d be happy to introduce you to the best trekking company in Nepal, Adventure Geo Treks.


Categories: Featured, Process Management, Workplace Reality

Author:Jeanne Roué-Taylor

I'm fascinated by disruptive technology and its impact on our world. I manage sales operations for an excellent startup with a unique team of highly experienced data scientists.

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2 Comments on “Getting work done, Himalayan style”

  1. April 11, 2012 at 5:10 am #

    Did you happen to ask any of the Sherpas (or is that the Tibetan term) how many generations their families have been doing the same thing? This is another advantage other cultures have. Parents teach children the family business. It allows them to be enculturated to their profession at an early age and learn from the best role model they’ll ever have.

    Further, because their processes are relatively low tech, they have been subjected to centuries of improvement and refinement without requiring adaptation to a rapidly changing marketplace. The static nature of their processes is a huge advantage few of us in the western world enjoy.

    On the former point, we could learn a thing or two. I’ve often thought that it was a great loss to get rid of apprenticeship programs in this country. Germany still makes great use of them to their great advantage.

  2. April 11, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    Great comments, Tom. I agree completely with the apprenticeship idea.

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