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Low's Gully in Borneo, Malaysia

Autor:   •  February 15, 2012  •  Essay  •  1,216 Words (5 Pages)  •  815 Views

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This case is about British Army adventurous training exercise to Low's Gully in Borneo, Malaysia. The exercise was intended to build leadership skills and character in 10 volunteer soldiers. The task was to scale down a dangerous and untraversed gully, a 10 mile long chasm that served as drain for rainwater, using abseiling technique and then follow the river out of the jungle. This team was led by two British officers who recruited five soldiers from units in Great Britain and three Chinese soldiers stationed in the British Army's Hong Kong Military Service Corps. The eight soldiers knew little or nothing about each other. In the face of adversity during the exercise, the participants separated into sub teams despite being individually trained by the army to work well with other soldiers and to follow the ‘golden rule for such expeditions - never split up." (Connaughton 1996).Participants easily could have lost their lives when the planned ten day exercise ended up lasting up to five weeks. Half of the group members actually accomplished the initial objective and the other half had to be rescued by a helicopter. All of them were in ill health and famished and some badly injured. The catastrophic failure also left them mentally scarred and two of them actually quit the army disillusioned or disgraced.

Even though attempting to traverse an uncharted and hostile territory is bound to test any team dynamics, it was the leadership failures of Lt. Col Neil and Major Foster that amplified the adversity that faced the team. There were several misjudgments on the part of these two individuals that eroded the trust between the team members. Neil miscalculated the amount of rope required for abseils and was the major reason why the team split, leaving no avenue to regroup in case of adversity. Secondly, he purchased no walkie talkies in an effort to minimize the budget that resulted in lack of communication between the two split parties. Primary tools of communication such as maps, star charts and radio beacons to broadcast locations were also ignored. Another misjudgment on Neil's part was to go ahead with the mission in the rainy season despite being warned by locals of the unpredictable weather and increased difficulty of scaling down the gully. Each misjudgment reflected the leader's overconfidence in his judgment – ‘a cognitive bias' called in literary circles that distorts managerial decision. Neil admits of being overambitious in his diary while he lay in the cave helpless awaiting rescue. As Mann, one of the soldiers put it, "these are two officers on their last great hurrah".

As these mistakes became evident on the course of the mission, the soldiers trust grew into mistrust of the leader's abilities and judgments and finally led to a permanent group fracture. This erosion of trust was however gradual. There was a definite initial trust in the team due to communal common grounds.


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