Realigning US Human Spaceflight, Part 2: Strategy

“Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there.”
–John Kotter

As I wrote last time, the US human spaceflight endeavor has all the earmarks of a realignment situation, as described by the STaRS model in “The First 90 Days” by Michael Watkins.  I described why the diagnosis is as such, and hinted at what needs to be done to transition from realignment to sustaining success.  In all recovery situations, and clearly it is the case for NASA’s human spaceflight organizations, there are pockets of strength, and a strong desire for seeking success from the NASA workforce.  These can form the precipitating points around which the recovery cycle can be initiated.  To craft the strategy requires building upon these precipitation points as well as identification and understanding of the challenges that underlie a realignment situation.  Simply put, the challenges to be addressed are denial, organizational cultural norms, and focus.

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Realigning US Human Spaceflight, Part 1: Diagnosis

“To recognize opportunity is the difference between success and failure”
–Unknown

In looking at the change facing US human spaceflight, we need to address the type of change and the level of commitment and resources needed to make the change successful.  As I wrote previously, the three types of change – transactional, transitional, and transformational change – need increasingly higher levels of investment as one moves up the change ladder.  I still see now, as I saw in December, that the situation we’re in with human spaceflight is a transitional change.  The government will transition from providing routine access to low earth orbit itself, and handing over the routine part to commercial entities.  This will allow the government to focus on developing the technologies necessary to extend the human presence beyond low earth orbit. Issues of mission, organizational culture and structure, policies and procedures, and a host of other concerns are raised, of course. The question is how do we create a path forward?

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Dream It. Plan It. Do It.


“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”
–Henry David Thoreau

“Daddy, what does your shirt say?”

This was a question from my 5-year-old daughter the other night as I was carrying her upstairs to bed.  That evening I happened to be wearing one of my Texas Longhorn football T-shirts, of course.  “Carleigh, it says ‘Dream it. Plan it. Do it.’”  I pointed to the words with my free hand.

“Daddy, I like that.” And she snuggled her head against my neck. “I like it too, Carleigh.”

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