A New Challenge

“The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution”
–Bertrand Russell

About this time last year I was kicking off a team to begin a strategic planning effort for future contracts needed by mission operations in Houston.  The changes in human spaceflight policy, first unveiled publically with the President’s budget on February 1, re-vectored that activity into a very short-term tactical planning effort.  As 2010 draws to a close, the tactical planning effort has served its intended purpose, and once again the time has come to examine the case for a longer-range strategic plan to move mission operations towards the future.  In other words, I’m seeking a way to state the problem in a way that will allow a solution.

I’m sure that many of you reading Leading Space have faced uncertainty and ambiguity in your own areas, yet you’ve decided ahead of time, or realized after the fact, that neither is a valid basis for choosing not to move ahead.  Likewise, we’ve bought some time while the new human spaceflight policy runs through its process involving the White House and Congress, with the only remaining piece left is to attain passage of appropriations in line with the NASA Authorization Act of 2010.  Even with that key remaining piece left to do, and despite the threat of a full-year continuing resolution hanging in the air, I find myself in a position to influence an important decision: how can we move forward?

In recent days I’ve read two different blog posts that have reinforced my resolve to state the problem in a way that will allow the team to take action, to move ahead.  The first, “How Much Trouble is the Economy Really In?” by Joan Koerber-Walker, makes a very strong case that, even in the current uncertain climate, one can still manage risk and opportunity based on research, realignment, response, revisiting, and repeating the cycle.  The second, “How to Drive Change with a Leadership Point of View” by Scott Eblin, mentions that a reality-based leadership point-of-view grounded in observable facts and trends that can be projected into the future is of better utility than a vague, fuzzy idea of the future.

I’m still digesting these.  I see the beginnings of the road to a solution based upon research, creating new ideas (i.e., realigning) based upon projecting trends, and towards the end bounding the risk based upon known unknowns and educated guesses about the unknown unknowns.  I still have the luxury of time with the coming holidays, and certainly welcome any ideas you may have.

What would you do to move ahead?

A New Challenge