Building and Leading Teams Through Conation and the Kolbe Model

“Conation is the executive function of brain, where you manage your actions and allocate your mental energy. Take charge!”
–Kathy Kolbe

As most of you know, I’m a student and practitioner of leading high-performance teams at NASA.  Any time I get the opportunity to add a new tool to my leadership repertoire, I take advantage of it.  Not long ago I encountered a new perspective on how individuals and teams get things done, culminating in an insightful experience.  Here, I’m talking about conation, the Kolbe model, and insights provided by Kathy Kolbe and Joan Koerber-Walker on building and leading high-performance teams.

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Smart Action

“A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.”
– Kahlil Gibran

Over the last week I’ve continued to follow the ever-developing debate on the future of human spaceflight.  Most of the material I’ve encountered has been arguing over positions either in favor of the policies implied by the President’s budget, or about the ramifications of the cancellation of the Constellation Program.  Frankly, it’s a lot of talk with little to add to moving the situation forward.

So today I’m going to share a snippet from my world concerning the project I’ve been leading for the last month.  Like many projects associated with human spaceflight, it is certainly not immune from the impacts of the President’s budget.  Yet unlike the people arguing over positions, I’m blessed to be in a position to do something even in the environment of uncertainty we’re facing.  I’d like to point out this is something more than marching forward with the Program of Record until the funding is exhausted, and different from doing “busy work.”  The project has meaning and is tied to an element of the future of human spaceflight.  The fundamental question is this: how are we able to make meaningful progress in an environment of ambiguity and uncertainty?

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Darkest Before Dawn

“It is always darkest just before the Day dawns.” –Thomas Fuller

Another week has passed since I wrote about my perspectives on the fundamental  issues concerning the vision for NASA’s human spaceflight and the Obama Administration’s FY11 budget for NASA.  More information is slowly coming to light, and the NASA leadership at all levels has continued to press ahead.  I’d like to share a few more observations and opinions, both good and bad, before I put this subject to rest.

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It’s a Matter of Vision

If you’re not sure where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else. –Anonymous

Two days have passed since the President’s budget for 2011 was released to the public.  Two days to allow the messages to transmit, be received, and to be processed.  Two days of listening to press conferences, reading articles, and hallway conversations with colleagues.

Two days to realize that we have some fundamental problems with the future of human spaceflight that left unaddressed will set us back severely, perhaps permanently.

This is not to imply that the future of human spaceflight is 100% and completely doomed.  With proper measures, we can continue to excel in leadership in human spaceflight and realize the vision to provide a sustainable presence in space.  It starts with vision and how it aligns with the goals and objectives of NASA.

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