Project Management, Denial, and the Death Zone: Lessons from Everest and Antarctica


pmwj40-Nov2015-Watson-BOOKBook Title: Project Management, Denial, and the Death Zone: Lessons from Everest and Antarctica
Author: Grant Avery
Publisher: J. Ross Publishing
List Price:   $44.95
Format: Hardcover, 264 pages
Publication Date:   October 2015 
ISBN: 978-1-60427-119-5
Reviewer:     Jan Watson, MBA, PMP
Review Date: 10/2015


Good planning, good experience, and good judgment are always valuable but they are critical if the project is extremely complex and hopelessly ambitious. The book looks at lessons learned from Everest and Antartica successes and struggles and applies the lessons to business today to improve project success rates.

Using the CORA triangle, the book looks at capabilities of delivering, outcomes maximizing, and managing risk appetite to help us deal with risks and improve results.

Overview of Book’s Structure

The book is composed of 13 Chapters and the 14th chapter is the Epilogue. Real life stories (from mountain climbers to organizational projects) are shared to make the lessons easier to understand, interesting, and memorable.

Read the Introduction to understand the background why the book was written and get a sense of what inspired the book. Experts contributed epigraphs in each of the chapters. Key literature references are added to learn more on key topics. WAV web added value is available for multi-factor tables to test for high risk propensity. Examples from Everest and Antartica to ICT-EB projects examine how risk appetite, leadership, and complexity impact success or failure.


The book looks at risks and constancy of failure due to climbing higher not safer. Everest climbers’ failure and death remain constant even with better tools due to higher risk taking to maximizing outcomes at the cost of sacrificing personal comfort. Risk homeostasis occurs when we become comfortable to the amount of risk we are exposed to, then we increase actions that result in higher risks. Risk homeostasis also occurs when we become uncomfortable to the amount of risk we are exposed to so that we decrease actions that result in higher risks. Normal narcissism and Shadow of the Leader principles are drivers of risk appetite and affect decision making.


To read entire Book Review (click here)



About the Reviewer

pmwj40-Nov2015-Watson-PHOTOJan Watson, MBA, PMP

Texas, USA




Jan Watson is a strategically-minded difference maker who improves business results through people, technology, proven LEAN Six Sigma DMAIC process (Design, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) and full project life cycle management utilizing Project Management Institute – PMBOK, Scrum, and Agile methods. She is a passionate senior project manager who blends solid planning, communication, leadership, and organization skills with proven consulting skills to achieve throughput objectives. Jan is a successful researcher and strategist focused on leveraging new processes and innovative thinking to champion oversight and monitoring of projects; leverage positive work relationships to foster high performing teams and unite senior management on objectives; and identify areas of opportunity and streamline processes to provide the highest level of service to customers at 100% client satisfaction. She is a strong Change Agent, using Kotter and other methods with adoption and realization.

Email: [email protected]


Editor’s note: This book review was the result of a partnership between the publisher, PM World and the PMI Dallas Chapter. Authors and publishers provide the books to PM World; books are delivered to the PMI Dallas Chapter, where they are offered free to PMI members to review; book reviews are published in the PM World Journal and PM World Library. PMI Dallas Chapter members can keep the books as well as claim PDUs for PMP recertification when their reviews are published. Chapter members are generally mid-career professionals, the audience for most project management books.

If you are an author or publisher of a project management-related book, and would like the book reviewed through this program, contact [email protected].