I’ve just spent a wonderful two weeks in the Highlands of Scotland in the real Wester Ross mountains. Winter most certainly had gone! During our time in the mountains, I had plenty of time to reflect and consider the previous 12 months work and look at some of the parallels between walking the hills and walking the corridors of clients’ organisations during the course of a digital transformation project, and there were parallels aplenty.

  • Meticulous planning
  • Communication across the team all the time
  • Consideration for the team at every stage
  • Moving at the slowest team members pace
  • Knowing our starting point
  • Knowing our endpoint
  • Agreeing on pit-stops and check-ins on progress
  • Regularly checking the route to ensure we were on track
  • Using multiple platforms to sense check progress (an OS map, an OS App and also google maps)
  • Celebrating success along the way (especially on the peaks and at river crossings)
  • Recording the journey, understanding that the journey itself was as much of the adventure as reaching the end
  • Sharing the pitfalls (or indeed the rock slides, rabbit holes and sheep tracks!)
  • Never giving up, even if it meant taking a wee rest to recharge the batteries (i.e. trail snackage and water), after all, if you’re six miles into a 12-mile round trip then it’s as quick to keep going as it is to go back.
  • Having a plan for every eventuality, and in the Highlands, you can easily get four seasons in an hour let alone a day. So we always had:
    • multiple layers of clothing,
    • emergency food,
    • ways to cleanse water if we ran out,
    • navigation tools that weren’t power dependent,
    • a shared understanding of what we could do if the worst happened and the roles everyone needed to take should that be the case,
    • someone back at base who knew where we were going and an expected arrival time
    • first aid kits
    • a plan B (and often a plan C)

Above all else, it was about enjoying the shared experience and connecting with the team as we walked, talked, laughed and “oohed” and “aahed” at the landscapes around us.

What struck me at the end of each day was just how alike my holiday days were to my working days. How similar the recommendations I make for our clients are to the actions we took every day as a team in the hills.

On reflection, I decided we often make the change process more daunting than it needs to be. Indeed, the process of moving from one place to another is ingrained in our evolutionary selves. Humans started out as nomadic people’s after all, moving across landscapes to ensure survival, moving as a tribe, a family unit or as a small group of adventurers keen to see what’s over the other side of the horizon.

The light bulb moment for me last week was that the fluid, communal leadership, way that journeys take place is a great model for how our 21st Century selves need to operate. It’s not rocket science, it just requires us all to embrace the changing landscape, celebrate the journey itself and, perhaps, get some murals of mountains and plains up on the walls to inspire the nomad us in us all.


Finally, it’s just a great excuse for some amazing photos of The Scottish Highlands and the breathtaking An’Teallach range.