The mountain – the ideal metaphor for a goal

When you avoid abstract goals, like a better quality, an increased productivity and an acceleration of processes, the probability of tangible goals goes up. The effective goal lives on the SMART description as well as on conceptions that the target group derive from it:

  • Lower the failure of mechanical parts from ten per thousand to three per thousand;
  • 5% reduction of costs per 1000 € revenue;
  • Feedback after customer contact in less than 24 hours.

Additionally, the common understanding of a goal helps during the target pursuit. The mountain is hereby the ideal metaphor for the goal.


If we consider a high mountain, then we can transfer to goals similar attributes and feature that we encounter.

  • Interim goals
    The higher the mountain, the more interim goals, i.e. milestones, are required, in order to reach the actual target. Edmund Hillary started 1953 in the base camp, used eight camps on the way to the summit on 8848 m. The milestones in large projects are also important interim steps on the way to the actual goal.
  • Stages
    In the case of Hillary the stages varied according to the respective degree of difficulty. The individual phases should be planned in such a way that they can be achieved with normal forces. Too large stages wear out the involved ones and endanger the result. Activities that will take more than a year are particularly challenging, since the basic conditions will change in the meantime.
  • Effort
    Hillary conquered 3,500 m in altitude within six weeks. Further difficulties evolved with increasing height, like e.g. less and less oxygen. The necessary efforts went beyond normal reserves. Patience and perseverance also have to be ensured with business goals. Extensive objectives, which lead to large changes, need special competencies, in order to meet the requirements of a megaproject.
  • Risk
    On the Mount Everest one reaches life-threatening realms. For this reason the mountain climbers prepare for it. In case of noble goals that have large effects on many people, often this consciousness of danger does not exist. Such projects are just as naive started as the walk on German low mountain ranges. Therefore the responsible persons of a project should always have special attention to the risks that can occur during the realization of particularly long projects.
  • Gigantic view
    There is no better panorama than from the highest mountain on earth. Despite the dangerous environment, you should take the time to enjoy and/or celebrate the view. The same applies accordingly to project success. As soon as the targets of the project are reached, it needs appropriate celebrations and publications, which commemorate the results and create pride for the participants.
  • Concrete endpoint
    The summit of the Mt. Everest is the highest point on earth. As soon as you exceed it, the way goes downhill. Interestingly enough the involved ones of a project seldom know, when this point is reached and/or is exceeded. As a consequence projects only find an end with difficulties. The best smartification possible is the only chance to recognize the goal. The orderly conclusion is just as important as the descent from a mountain.
  • After the summit attempt the next mountain
    Even if Edmund Hillary defeated the highest mountain, he found further goals in the Himalaya and in addition, at the South Pole, where he arrived as only the third, after Amundsen and Scott. After the project is before the project. As soon as a project is finished, no matter how large or small it was, there is immediately the question about the next challenge. The routine of many projects makes a project manager better.

Bottom line: The mountain as metaphor offers an abundance of analogies to the project members that help coping the obstacles. I am sure that you find several additional examples. And as always: the highest mountain is only a mountain.