Dexteyra Consulting Group Inc.

Leadership objectives of hiking canister inspiration for IT project managers


Mandeep S. Oberoi*

July 20, 2015




While climbing the Mont Megantic summit at the Eastern Quebec townships in Canada during this past winter, I was thinking about similarities in the leadership objectives, be it with a hiking group or a complex information technology (IT) project management.  For example, when athletes and the work teams trek forward, the project manager, like a lead midway into the trail points out to the summit and looks backwards to let the team know that they are accomplishing their goals. His focus is often on the last finishing athletes while the spectators and the steering committees in the boardrooms cheer for the winners.

Considering the dynamics of weather, trail, supplies, maps, length, duration, pace, and sunset; the hiking lead tries to achieve the key team objectives. 

It becomes more challenging while snowshoeing at negative 30 degrees in Canada where mistakes can be fatal. Though once you get started, it can get really hard to hold yourself at home while your buddies break the snow trails.

The leader tries to keep the team together, encourages the key achievers, and more importantly; pays attention and support while looking back and forth at the summit and the sweeper dynamically at the same time. A sweeper in the hiking jargon refers to the last trekker who makes sure that nobody gets lost on the trails. Usually most experienced hikers take turns to break the trails and sweep. The act of breaking the trail essentially means looking for the signs posted on trees, boulders etc., and the trail maps to identify the track under the snow. 

To manage and report on a single version of truth is a challenge


Like the weather forecast in the Northern hemisphere that keeps changing, it is challenging to analyze, manage, and report on a single version of truth consistently over multiple issues and across the board on an IT project. The project manager reports to the project sponsor, steering committee, and business stake holders upstream and to the project team members inclusive of subject matter experts (SMEs) downstream. It can get more complicated on fixed bid consulting projects because there could be one steering committee each from the customer and the consulting firm. The steering committees want to know about the impacts on the budget and timeline, while the business stake holders want to know about the impact to their standard operating procedures (SOPs), and the project team wants to know about the impact on each one of their work areas. The project managers analyse and consolidate on a single version of truth that is shared across the board.


The project manager’s key responsibilities include managing scope, tasks, work breakdown structure (WBS), templates, recovery plans, budget, resources, conflicts, quality, efficiency, capacity, protocols, regulations, information dashboards, baseline plan, and timeline, among others. He also prevents bushwhacking. In the hiking jargon, bushwhacking refers to going off the marked trails and creating new unplanned paths that can confuse the following hikers.  When things go wrong, a project manager is the first person to be summoned, often into the white collar boardrooms. The project status can often change like the traffic lights during the course of a project that keeps the excitement going. It can get more challenging in certain corporate boardrooms because sometimes multiple stake-holders do not communicate with each other and that can slow down the process.


A changing paradigm for the IT consulting projects


Most businesses have implemented software based applications during the last two decades for most part and they have in-house IT analysts who understand their templates very well. It poses a challenge for the consulting fraternity when the client’s know more than the consulting partners. The key differentiator is that consulting partners could have seen more templates over the years. When the template changes, it can become difficult for many IT analysts which creates a trade-off.


A project manager in need is the one indeed


The development of software or the deployment of complicated packaged applications usually involve large teams and a key Jazz anchor called the project manager who binds the teams together, and steers the course directionally. At times, multiple project managers administer diverse facets of a project choreographed for applications to work together. In real life, the IT teams are often located in assorted geographies that can be night and day apart. These teams may have barriers of time, culture, business ethics, knowledge, skill-set, integrity, security, and may be more. All of these come to the project manager’s portfolio to address and make the teams work together like a symphony. He keeps track of the current plan, baseline plan, and the actuals for budget control and tasks accomplished.


A historic purview of the information technology (IT) industry


The IT industry has grown from a nascent, embryonic stage in the mid nineties into adolescence, and now almost into early adulthood over a period of two decades. Increasingly, we tend to meet less people in our normal lives here in North America who would say that they know nothing about computers. E-commerce and enterprise computing, among other applications have found widespread acceptability and factually; computer systems are now the system of choice among their users. Adaptation to computers has been quite widespread, though mobile computing is now picking up the mainstream traction.


Tactically, the change has remained the only constant over the years on the IT time axis. The rate of change has been quite intense too. New applications are continuing to be introduced very frequently while the existing applications get updated very often. Every new software version update comes with more functionality. The complexity and scalability of software applications has come to a point now where the corporate users have to hire experts to figure out what is relevant to their business among the plethora of applications that are packaged with the software licences.




Newer IT applications, changes in business processes, newer requirements from customers, regulatory requirements, acquisitions, sell-offs, stock market fluctuations, growth, recessions, much needed simplification of IT based procedures,  and software upgrades, among other reasons would continue to drive investments into IT based projects over the next decade. Good project management, governance, and subject matter expertise will add clarity and direction to manage those complex applications.  As you gain altitude on the hiking trails, you find very beautiful sights of uncharted wilderness and trails covered with grass or snow depending on the season. Looking at the sight from the summit and the journey itself makes wonderful memoirs and long lasting relationships with people and the nature, be it during the course of an IT project or a hiking excursion.



*Mandeep S. Oberoi works as Director & Principal Consultant with Dexteyra Consulting Group Inc. He has also worked with large consulting firms such as Hewlett-Packard Canada’s Business Consulting Group and Capgemini US LLC, among others. Some of his key past clients include Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), Bank of Canada, MolsonCoors Brewing Company UK, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Ministry of Works - Government of Trinidad & Tobago, and Bacardi Rum, among others. He specializes in designing SAP Best Practices based banking, finance, public sector management, and supply chain solutions. Mr. Oberoi has worked on projects across North America, Caribbean, Europe, and Asia Pacific. He was awarded a Medallion by the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) in 2001.


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