The Bus is Departing the Station

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
–Henry Ford

It’s a new year, and time to form a new team.  A few months ago, I wrote about my plans for an approach on getting “the right people on the bus“.  Well, as the title of this piece says, the bus is departing the station…how did I do?

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who shared ideas with me on the basis of that earlier piece.  I was able to refine the approach slightly into what I’m going to share shortly. I hope that this approach will be helpful to others needing to form high-performance teams.

The basic three tenets are the same; how I approached them is what changed slightly.  As a reminder, my goal is to get the right people on the bus at the outset.  That consists of three parts:

  1. The Right Skills.  In my case, we will be planning strategically on how we see accomplishing the work within NASA’s mission operations during the next 2-7 years.  Therefore, I seek members who understand the work.  I want diversity in expertise to cover most (say, 80%) of the technical content.
  2. The Right Aptitude.  I’m looking for people who have “skin in the game”; that is, a vested interest in the outcome.  They believe in where the organization is headed, and want to have a hand in making it happen.  They work well with others and are not afraid to share their opinions, even if contrary.  They are key leaders within the organization.
  3. The Right Instincts.  I’m looking for diversity in problem-solving and decision-making so as to expand the possible solutions that the team will consider as we chart a course through uncertain waters.  I want to take advantage of the natural talents that people bring to the table.

Nothing above is fundamentally different than what I outlined previously.  What is different is the approach I took to identify members.  Here is what I did.

First, I outlined the above with the key decision-makers and leaders within the organization, and made a case that taking all three into consideration will increase the likelihood of success of the team.  Once I got their buy-in on that point, we sat down with a larger list and narrowed it down to the final candidates.

For the skills piece, I sought diversity of technical expertise.   In the past, we would have pulled representation from each of the attendant offices and divisions and build a team that way.  In this case, we didn’t; we sought diversity but didn’t require representation from each and every office or division.

For the aptitude piece, we validated the criteria by asking the following question: who can we NOT afford to assign to this task? It’s the “why’s” that result from that question that lead to the best criteria.  Once we validated the criteria, we filtered down to those who provided the best fit to the criteria.

For the instincts piece, we screened on the basis of the Kolbe Wisdom™, created by Kathy Kolbe.  In summary, our natural talents are manifested into four areas:

  • Fact Finder, how we gather and share information;
  • Follow Thru, how we arrange and design;
  • Quick Start, how we deal with unknowns, risk, and uncertainty; and
  • Implementor, how we handle tangibles, mechanics, and space

Each area contains three zones:

  • resist or prevent problems;
  • accommodate solutions; and
  • insistence or initiate problem-solving.

The screening provides an initial guess that I will validate later by having each of the members complete a Kolbe A™ index; from there, I will ask for membership adjustments if I see my guesses were way off, and will identify intervention techniques to mitigate problems that arise.  (I’ll have more to say about these later, once I get the results and get the team underway.)  To learn more, I highly encourage you check out

After the above process, we narrowed down to a set of final candidates. I further validated our selections by paying a visit to each of the candidates and asked a series of questions, geared towards validating where that individual stood on the direction of the organization, the enthusiasm of the individual for the task at hand, the role the people would play later during the implementation phase, and how that person naturally solves problems and makes decisions.

I’m blown away by the results.

The five members of the team are key thought leaders and recognized technical experts who play key leadership roles in the organization today, and who are tabbed to play key roles later during the implementation phase.  I’m looking forward to collecting the Kolbe A™ index results for this team to validate their collective instincts and begin work.

The bus is departing the station on Monday – and I couldn’t be happier with who is on board.


Text © Joe Williams 2011.
Photo courtesy


The Bus is Departing the Station