The Summit is Always in Sight!

“If you want to scale a mountain, you must begin at the summit “


The earlier zen aphorism immediately invites us to enter into the realms of a counterintuitive logic. It is not surprising that this type of logic still causes a certain mistrust in the actors of organizations in the Western world.


We are always resilient, despite the scientific evidence that such logics are an integral part of the psychological “mechanisms” of any human being and of all their levels of interaction.




The question is whether it is more advantageous not to give much importance to this aspect, as has traditionally been done, or to learn how to use these resources to favor the effectiveness and efficiency of our organizations.


It is never convenient to place ourselves in a dichotomous position, although we can always find a good deal of comfort and wisdom in what Heinz von Foerster called his ethical imperative: “Always act in a way that increases the number of possibilities.”


Returning to the example of the initial aphorism, we know that it is not possible, physically speaking, to start climbing a mountain from the summit. However, the technique used in mountaineering is well known, as Paul Watzlawick has already mentioned in his book “Münchhausen’s Pigtail”.


This analogy to a problem-solving context might well apply to any area of ​​Project Management: “The problem-solver is like a climber looking from the valley to the top and trying to set the route of the climb. The novice tends to consider which direction he should go. On the other hand, the experienced mountaineer wonders at what point immediately below the summit must be, in order to climb up from there the last meters to the summit.”


The sequence of this logic, as the author explains, is that the next step is to define where the climber must be before reaching the point immediately below the summit, and so on, to the point of departure.


It is an exercise to mentally retrace the reverse path, from the summit to the bottom, before beginning a hard climb and risking the discovery that, after many hours of effort, one can not continue in that direction. If the path is previously set in reverse, with the ridge always in view, this is much less likely to happen.


The logical process of starting to climb mentally at the top to keep the peak always visible contradicts common sense and requires the use of a technique that is not always easy for those who are not properly trained.


However, this logical process, from starting to design an end-to-end project, has shown such high levels of efficiency and effectiveness that it came to merit references in NASA’s Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) Handbook (2010), and in the publications of Eliyahu M. Goldratt, author of “A Meta”, among other authors.


In the context of innovation, project management, change management or complex problem solving, knowing how to use tools that contemplate the counterintuitive or paraconsistent logic (Newton da Costa), without excluding traditional logic, can be a great help to avoid obstacles and blocking situations.


Certainly we will not be the only ones to consider that traditional logics and schools of thought have been incomplete in terms of managing the actions, behaviors and outcomes of unpredictable human interaction.


In the book Trabajo en Alta Performance (still only available in Spanish) and in several articles available on this methodology, we explain the results of more than a decade of study, research, development and practical application of this work model.


Without wishing to sin for false modesty, we must recognize a great intellectual “inheritance” to the researchers of the Palo Alto School – California (Watzlawick et al.) Who allowed us, paraphrasing Newton: “To climb the shoulders of giants to see further”.