The Five Stages of the Lifecycle


“The phoenix hope, can wing her way through the desert skies, and still defying fortune’s spite; revive from ashes and rise.”
-Miguel de Cervantes

As news begins circulating this week in the human spaceflight community about impending layoffs in the Constellation Program, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the life-changing impacts that many of my friends and colleagues are facing.  “Will I be laid off?”  “What future is there for me in human spaceflight?”  “How will I provide for my family?”  My heart aches as the uncertainty and ambiguity in the situation in human spaceflight continues with each passing day, and the resulting impacts to those who have dedicated their careers to it.  What solace can we seek in this environment where we await some kind of resolution from a political environment that borders on toxic at times?

I’ve contemplated a lot about an older post in which I touched upon “The Lifecycle” of projects – in the case of that earlier post, I wrote about the Hubble Space Telescope and the shuttle.  Here, I wish to revisit the topic and treat the lifecycle in its entirety, and in doing so offer some of my thoughts about where we are currently in human spaceflight in terms of the lifecycle.  First, here are the five stages of the lifecycle:

  • The first stage is birth.  It is driven by creativity and innovation.  The conceptualization and formulation of ideas occurs here.
  • The second stage is rapid growth.  It is characterized by energy and passion.  Building upon new ideas and realizing initial results occurs here.
  • The third stage is maturity.  It is described by stability and permanence.  Dependability, routine, and sustaining success occurs here.
  • The fourth state is dénouement. It reaps the harvest and successes.  Reaping rewards and final success occurs here.
  • The fifth state is ending. It captures communication and learning. Celebration, lessons learned, cleansing, and preparing for renewal and rebirth occurs here.

Everything has a lifecycle, whether it is teams, projects, organizations, companies, even ourselves.  The natural flow of a lifecycle is in one direction, from birth, to rapid growth, maturity, dénouement, and ending.  Because it is a cycle, it repeats itself – each ending leads to a rebirth, to new growth, and so on.

As I look at the situation in human spaceflight, I make a connection between the perception of the situation and the desires I have for the situation (by “situation” in this context, I mean project, team, or organization).  For instance, suppose that I seek stability and permanence, yet what I see is dénouement or even ending.  I likely will experience great internal strife as a result, because my desires and perceptions are out-of-whack with the natural flow of a lifecycle.  On the other hand, if my desire is ending (so that I can get on with the next new thing), and I perceive a situation of dénouement, then I’m more likely to be in harmony, because my expectation is that the natural flow of the lifecycle will come next to ending then to rebirth.

My perception is that the implementation of human spaceflight under the Constellation Program is currently in the dénouement stage. Your perception may be the same, or could be different.  Personally, I’m excited at the new opportunities to be afforded by a human spaceflight program designed around a drive for affordability and sustainability, and I’m raring at the bit to get going.  In terms of the lifecycle, I’m in harmony.  Furthermore, I can see how a person driven for a status quo as defined by the Constellation Program will be struggling.  Perhaps there is solace to be found by realizing that human spaceflight is not in a dénouement or ending just because Constellation is perceived to be there; instead, human spaceflight will be reborn in a different form, will achieve rapid growth and development, then will arrive in a state of stability and permanence that, if done right, will be affordable and sustainable.  That is the future I’m working for.

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The Five Stages of the Lifecycle

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