Running the Gauntlet

“Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.”
–General George S. Patton





What a week.

This week the team survived three challenging reviews of our strategic plan.  It wasn’t easy.

First, I got stuck by bad weather on Sunday as I was attempting to fly home from vacation in eastern Tennessee.  I didn’t make it home in time for the first review.  Because I’m blessed with super teammates, one stepped forward and covered for me at the first review Monday morning.

Second, at each review with successively higher managers, we kept getting asked questions that I wish we would have been asked earlier.  My team shares high expectations of ourselves, in part because the team reflects the values of its leader.  To get the kinds of questions we did in these reviews brought out frustrations on the team as to why we weren’t asked these before by our support organizations, and as to why did we not anticipate these particular questions arising.

The team was feeling down in the dumps especially after the second review.  One of my teammates remarked, “We did A+ work, we deserved an A+, yet we didn’t get an A+ today.”  We talked as a team about the experience and sought the positives from it.  It helped, some.  After that session, I contacted my leadership and asked for some help. After our third meeting the director told the team that there will be days when questions will come from left field.  We should be proud of what we’ve accomplished, and that in their eyes we’re doing a good job.  That helped even more.

So, stepping back for a minute, here is the big picture.  Despite the hiccup on Monday, and the questions seemingly from left field, we survived.  We ran the gauntlet of three reviews, and except for minor editorial changes to our strategic plan and for the need to provide some additional substantiating materials, we are still on course for our final briefing to executives at NASA Headquarters.  Any one of those reviews this past week could have sent us back for rework, leading to delays.  None did.  And by my measure, that is the ultimate success – the best possible outcome from this week of reviews.  When the team reflected on that, we looked back on the week as a positive learning experience from which we will emerge stronger for it.

And our strategic plan will be better for it, too.

Running the Gauntlet