What Atlantis said to the humans

shuttle nasa

I can’t help but think you people have missed the point.

My project was not about American leadership in the world. America is not the big picture.

Consider these consequences:

1. You met the objectives. And they were very big objectives. The Space Station may be the most important laboratory ever built.
2. You ran over-budget. This proves only that the initial budgeting was wrong. Cost overruns should not have been a surprise. It’s not like you’ve done this before and flexibility comes at a price.
3. You learned how to properly manage incredibly complicated technical projects involving thousands of people.

But none of the above is the main thing.

The shuttle program was a shining example of international cooperation. There is in that the hint of the end of nationalism.

But just as important: if you watched my last mission you saw how lit up NASA people were by what they were doing; how proud and cooperative and committed they were.

That is the take-out. That is the main thing. You showed how to work together. You showed what makes a team and how to generate trust within an organisation. That’s what you need to take from my project and spread around.

Here are some of the factors:

• A clear vision and clear objectives
• Everyone thought the objectives were important.
• Respect for individual capabilities and judgements. Anyone on my project could stop the launch by saying ‘I don’t think so’.
• Management knew their stuff and had the respect of subordinates.
• Salaries were moderate. Very senior technicians were as well paid as managers. 

The lessons are obvious. Start re-structuring your institutions.


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