Deciding to climb Mount Kilimanjaro this past January was part of my life list of goals. It was an experience of a lifetime and has made me view life from an entirely different dimension. And that’s what this kind of experience should do.In planning, executing, reaching the summit and reflecting back on the adventure I realized the parallels with running a business, and in particular, strategic project management.
First, set goals
Setting goals in life and business are critical as they give us energy, a sense of direction, confidence and a sense of meaning. Simply thinking about them or verbalizing them is not enough. When we write them down they become real. For me, committing the goal to paper and then starting to talk with others about my decision made the situation very real.
Plan with goal in mind
Whether it be business or personal (especially when we think about projects) time spent on up front planning is crucial. In our case, we booked the trip in May 2004 with a departure date of Jan. 15, 2005. This gave us plenty of time to plan, prepare, budget and ensure all of the right components were in place for ultimate success.
Execute and Manage
Finally the day to leave arrived and we were officially into full execution. It took two days just to get there and a day of acclimatizing before we began the trek. Nervous, anxious (someone had died on Kilimanjaro the day we arrived, and about 15 people die annually) and with apprehension we headed off to the trail and into the rainforest.
Crossing the finish line
Reaching the summit was beyond description. It was quite spiritual being above the clouds and looking out. We had our moment to reflect on the achievement, celebrate (with a tiny amount of champagne), take mad pictures and finally realize the extent of what is possible. Contrary to what most would think, reaching the summit, while amazing, was not the end of the journey. The true completion was the descent. For business this is also the case. Often initiatives are celebrated upon delivery whereas proof of success happens when systems are put into practice.
Time for looking back
Celebration is essential as we achieve our goals. Capturing the lessons we have learned along the way is equally important. The time to reflect needs to be done intentionally and with the future in mind. What worked; what do we do differently and how does it apply to our next goal?
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Will I? Not on Kilimanjaro. There are too many other ‘mountains’ to climb. My life list of goals is rich, long and challenging. For now I am thrilled with the result, the experience and the opportunities to apply learnings to both my business and personal life.

Catherine Daw is president of SPM Group and has 25 years experience in project management.

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