Space Can Be Unforgiving


After a string of successes, SpaceX encountered a setback with the failure of SpaceX CRS-7 mission yesterday. For cargo services to the International Space Station, it has been a somewhat unlucky string of missions. First, the Orbital Sciences Corporation Orb-3 cargo mission failed in October 2014, followed by the Russian Progress M-27M in April 2015. This makes three in the last year.

Regarding the SpaceX CRS-7 mission, here are a few links that cover the failure:

  • Marcia Smith of the excellent provides a write-up on the preliminary cause of the CRS-7 failure.
  • Here is NPR ‘s coverage of the failure.
  • Lastly, here is’s detailed write-up on the failure.
Space Can Be Unforgiving

Target Out of Canada


There is a reason why Canada had long been a popular first step in international expansion of American companies, and for Target it was no different. Numerous restaurant chains, such as Baskin Robbins, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Little Caesars, McDonalds, Popeyes, Quiznos and Wendy’s have been active in Canada for years, some since the 1960s. Retailers were also drawn to Canada: Sears arrived in 1953 through a joint venture, and Costco, Home Depot and Walmart arrived through acquisitions in 1986, 1992, and 1994, respectively.  In 2010, more than ten percent of Canadians had shopped Target stores in the United States, and 70 percent of the population was familiar with the Target brand. Therefore, it made sense that Target would be drawn to Canada for its first foray into international expansion.

Target followed the acquisition model established in Canada by Cosco, Home Depot, and Walmart. It purchased the Canadian discount chain Zellers in 2011, and organized Target Canada with headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario. It planned to convert over a hundred of the former Zellers locations into new Target stores. After two years of planning, Target opened its first three stores in Ontario on March 5, 2013. Target rapidly opened stores across Canada over the next 21 months, eventually growing to 133 stores. Yet on January 15, 2015, Target Canada filed for bankruptcy, citing huge losses of over two billion dollars and its inability to meet payroll.

What happened to Target in Canada?

Some news accounts – especially from Canadian sources – blamed differences between the Canadian consumer and the American consumer for Target’s failure. Others blamed Target’s rapid expansion across Canada coupled with its historical shortcomings in supply chain management, along with marketing problems. The problem is that from a strategy standpoint, these are radically different challenges that require completely different strategic treatments. Was Target’s strategy failure in Canada really more of a cultural problem, or an operations management and marketing failure?

To examine the possibility of the former, I’ll broaden the scope beyond cultural concerns and examine the entire CAGE framework, defined by the distance in cultural, administrative, geographic, and economic factors between two countries. A CAGE analysis will tell us whether Target failed to take into account the differences between Canada and the United States in devising its Canadian strategy.

From a geographic standpoint, Canada and the United States share the largest international border in the world, with a length (excluding the Alaskan border) of nearly 4,000 miles. About 75 percent of Canada’s population lives within 100 miles of the border with the United States. The population distribution across Canada somewhat resembles the United States in an east-west sense, with greater densities on the coasts and more scattered population centers in the middle. Therefore, geographic distance between Canada and the United States in the CAGE framework is about as small as it can get; the challenge is one of managing a supply chain that either must address the east-west population distribution within Canada, or manage customs in crossing the border between Canada and the United States. Neither is an unfamiliar strategic problem for any company with supply chain experience.

From an economic standpoint, the cost of labor is generally higher in Canada than in the United States. Minimum wages are higher in Canadian provinces, and the taxation burden is higher. Previous to Target’s entry, the Canadian dollar was weak relative to the US dollar; however, a stronger Canadian dollar and a robust economy following the financial crisis of 2008-09 made the Canadian market very attractive for entry. Supply of real estate is more limited in Canada versus the United States; the number of lenders for retail development is fewer, so access to capital is harder. (This is a reason why many retailers choose to enter through acquisitions–the path chosen by Target in Canada.) Canada’s economy is comprised of regional commercial centers that are far apart, and to some extent, independent of one another. Yet in 2011 sales per square foot in Canadian malls were nearly 50 percent greater than sales per square foot in American malls. Therefore, despite the higher cost of labor and limited real estate market, other economic conditions such as exchange rates and sales per square foot made an entry into Canada very attractive in the early 2010s. (Foreshadowing hint: how Target managed expectations around price differences relative to the different cost structure is a point I’ll discuss later.)

From an administrative standpoint, there are some differences between Canada and the United States in language, labeling and other regulatory requirements. All mandatory labeling information must be in English and French (the official languages of Canada), and measurements must use the metric system. Provincial franchise disclosure laws have a higher requirement for disclosure that can trip up an American company if it is not well versed in those disclosure requirements. Yet Canada follows rule by law just as the United States does. (One of the quaint differences is that lawyers robe in court in Canada, but at least don’t wear wigs.) Although the differences (robes included) can add to costs, none are considered a major impediment to strategy.

Lastly are the cultural differences. Some of Canada’s population hubs are immensely multi-cultural; others are less so. Consumer differences are sometimes driven by the generally colder weather. However, the population distribution and consumer differences are not markedly different than that obtained by taking a northern slice across the United States, and accounting for this difference strategically should have been straightforward for a company founded and headquartered in Minneapolis with a store presence in a similar variety of settings across the United States. Target’s market research prior to its expansion into Canada indicated that customers wanted the “true U.S. Target.” Based on a smart approach to accounting for regional differences and stated consumer preferences, addressing the above cultural differences should not have been an insurmountable strategic problem.

The above CAGE analysis recognizes that Canada does have uniquely Canadian factors. However, none of the CAGE dimensions – cultural, administrative, geographic, and economic – were the key contributing factor to Target’s downfall in Canada. Instead, its downfall was a problem in executing a manageable strategy in operations management, along with a failure in marketing. The company has admitted it botched management of its supply chain with a rapidly expanding store footprint across Canada, which often led to empty shelves. Marketing, long considered Target’s forte, focused too much on conveying the sheen and trendiness of the Target brand. Target took its same “Expect More. Pay Less” tagline to Canada, and it is reasonable the Canadian consumer took that to mean they would expect more and pay less than they did in the United States, now that Target was in Canada!  Target augmented its slogan with “Target Loves Canada”, yet failed to set consumer expectations that because the cost structure is slightly higher in Canada, prices would be, too. These are a failing of operations management and marketing strategies that have nothing to do with the CAGE differences between Canada and the United States.

The bottom line is that Target’s customers in Canada wanted the exact same Target they experienced in the United States, and they didn’t get that.  Target failed in its operations management and marketing strategies in delivering to its Canadian customers. That is why Target in Canada failed.


Austen, I. and Clifford, S. (2012, September 14). American Retailers Face Challenges in Expanding to Canada. Retrieved from

Canada Facts. National Geographic. Retrieved March 20, 2015 from

Evans, P. (2015, January 15). Target closes all 133 stores in Canada, gets creditor protection. Retrieved from

Hanuka, B. (2014, March 5). The Dangerous Mistake U.S. Retailers make in Canada. Retrieved from

Kopun, F. (2013, November 22). Cool Canadian welcome hurts Target’s profits. Retrieved from

Kopun, F. and Sparks, R. (2015, January 15). Target Canada lessons: Six ways not to expand into Canada. Retrieved from

Prentice, B. and Dahlhoff, D. (2015, January 23). Why Target’s Big Canadian Expansion Went South. Retrieved from

Target Canada. Wikipedia. Retrieved March 20, 2015 from

Townsend, M. (2015, January 22). Why Target is Raking Up Its Maple Leaves. Retrieved from

Weinberg, L. (2012, August 10). Why Canada is still the best place for U.S. brands to expand. Retrieved from

Zimmerman, A. and Talley, K. (2011, January 14). Target is Going Abroad – to Canada. Retrieved from

Target Out of Canada

Twenty Years Ago: The STS-63 Mission

STS-63 Plaque Hanging

(Plaque hanging ceremony following the end of Space Shuttle mission STS-63.  That’s me on the left.)

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of Space Shuttle mission STS-63. A few years ago I wrote a retrospective of that mission. It’s worth revisiting in light of the anniversary this week, and the significance of that mission to the short-term evolution of NASA’s human spaceflight endeavors.

With the return to flight in 1988 following the Challenger accident in 1986, NASA’s Space Shuttle missions were focused on the exploration of low Earth orbit. Numerous scientific missions were flown in the following years, consisting of laboratories in the Space Shuttle cargo bay or in satellites that were deployed and retrieved by the Space Shuttle. I cut my teeth in orbital rendezvous during this period, focusing on developing piloting procedures for flying the Space Shuttle and understanding its onboard guidance and navigation systems. During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s we knew that eventually we would start construction of the space station. At the time, we didn’t know when.

The fall of the former Soviet Union played a key role in shifting US space policy and implementation in human spaceflight. The new Russia that emerged and the United States forged a cooperative space policy, one in which the United States would fly Russian cosmonauts onboard the Space Shuttle, and Russia would host US astronauts onboard its second generation space station, Mir. STS-63 marked the first mission of the Space Shuttle to Mir, executing a “dress rehearsal” of the rendezvous and docking of the two spacecraft. Building relationships between former adversaries was a big challenge and a quantum shift in how one viewed the future of human spaceflight. Rather than individual nationalistic efforts, the Shuttle-Mir program demonstrated that long-term international cooperative efforts are possible. Despite the huge CAGE distance between the United States and Russia, the program paved the way for the current International Space Station.


From a personal standpoint, it is rather remarkable that as an early-career engineer, I would get the opportunity to be in the forefront of overcoming obstacles, forging relationships, and demonstrating the incredible possibilities of international cooperative efforts in space – one that continues to this day. As I look back on this special anniversary of Space Shuttle mission STS-63, I see how far we’ve come. How far we go is up to us.

Twenty Years Ago: The STS-63 Mission

Six Years of Leading Space

Hard to believe I started LeadingSpace six years ago this month. Time flies.

Looking over the history of LeadingSpace and its 180 articles to date, I note that my writing focus has shifted with time, with several distinct phases. When I started LeadingSpace in 2009, I was leading a team of professionals charged with figuring out a strategy on how to keep two of NASA’s key facilities operating with the impending end of the Space Shuttle Program. I chose to use LeadingSpace as a vehicle to share my experiences in transitioning to a new leadership role, learning the specific situation at hand, and getting to know the people involved. In 2009 this was the primary focus of LeadingSpace, with an occasional new contribution since. The topic of Team Leadership marks the first phase of LeadingSpace.

Hints in late 2009 of changes to come in human spaceflight policy were unveiled in early 2010 with the cancellation of the Constellation Program, leading to uncertainty and debates over space policy and implementation. Some of that initial uncertainty spilled over into my work life. Consequently, much of the focus of my writing shifted from team leadership situations into dealing with change.

One of the key pieces I wrote during this time was a major multi-part treatise on the value proposition for human spaceflight, where I attempted to define a framework for conversing about its future:

Leading change and defining a value proposition for human spaceflight mark the second phase of LeadingSpace.

Starting in 2012, with my personal focus directed towards working on an Executive MBA under a two-year fellowship, I wrote a bit less. I tended to post quick blurbs on current topics. Towards the end of the two-year sabbatical I wrote a few pieces applying some of the operations management and federal budgeting principles I learned in the EMBA program.

I also shared a major multi-part treatise on elements of strategy that must be considered for the future of human spaceflight, based on a term paper I wrote for a Strategic Management class.

Thus we come to the end of third phase.

What will the future hold for LeadingSpace? It could be many things, and I have a lot of options. An ambitious project I have on my to-do list is to meld the human spaceflight value proposition series with the Strategizing for NASA series. Also, judging by pageviews the Transactional, Transitional, and Transformational Change post is by far the most popular piece I’ve written. Perhaps that indicates a hunger for information on dealing with change. I’m also drawn to matters of strategy in a broader context than human spaceflight, such as the recent decision by Target to exit the Canadian market. I have a draft post written on that. I also could return to the roots of LeadingSpace and write about my current experiences in a new role, which today deal with building a supply web of data and processes for planning, training, and executing NASA’s future Exploration missions. This would entail an interesting topical mix of influence leadership, operations management, and federal budgeting.

In other words, the future looks very promising for LeadingSpace. I hope you don’t mind that I take you where the wind blows.

Most of all, thank you for reading.


Six Years of Leading Space

2014 in Review

Many thanks to the stats helper monkeys, who prepared a 2014 annual report for Leading Space.  Here’s to a fabulous ’15!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

2014 in Review

Exploration Flight Test-1


NASA’s next generation human spaceflight vehicle, Orion, is scheduled for its first flight test next week on Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1). The un-crewed test flight of Orion is scheduled for launch on Thursday, December 4 within a two-hour launch window that opens at 7:05 AM EST, with splashdown in the Pacific Ocean about four hours later.

This flight will mark the furthest distance from Earth flown by a human spaceflight vehicle since Apollo 17 in 1972.

For more information on EFT-1 and Orion:

On a personal note, my newest assignment is tied to the human deep-space missions following EFT-1. I’ve been assigned as a core member to the integration task team within NASA that is defining the objectives for our future human deep space missions, and coordinating those objectives across the Agency. I’m also building the “supply chain” of data needed to implement those objectives in mission planning, astronaut training, and mission execution from Mission Control in Houston. I’m looking forward to EFT-1 and the challenges to come as we move forward on human spaceflight.

Exploration Flight Test-1

LED Versus Incandescent Bulbs (An Update)

In the post, LED vs. Incandescent Bulbs, I made the following case: that for high-usage incandescent bulbs, it makes sense to replace those bulbs with LED bulbs, because the cost of the bulb (the “fixed cost”) is more than covered by the savings in electricity (the “variable cost”). I also stated my intent to start replacing the BR-30 incandescent bulbs in my kitchen with LED equivalents once they started burning out.

That event happened two weeks ago. I had a BR-30 incandescent bulb burn out in the kitchen.  I also noted as part of Halloween preparation that I had two burned-out BR-30 incandescent bulbs on the front porch. Therefore, I decided to replace all five bulbs in the kitchen with LED bulbs, and use two of the four remaining incandescent bulbs from the kitchen to replace the two burned-out bulbs on the front porch, with two spares. However, when I visited to purchase the Philips BR-30 bulbs I found earlier this year for 19.95 each, I couldn’t find them listed. Bummer.

Later that week, on a separate errand to Home Depot, I looked through the lighting section to see what was available. Here is what I found:

Philips SlimStyle 65W-equivalent BR-30 soft white bulb, 9.5 W, 650 lumens, 2700 K

It was listed for $14.97 – a better price than the bulb I found earlier this year on, and one whose brightness (650 lumens) and color spectrum (2700 K) are even closer to those of the incandescent bulbs I have. Because the fixed price of the Home Depot bulb is $5 less than the earlier LED bulb and the power draw is 1 W less, these shift the economics even more favorably for the LEB bulb versus an incandescent bulb. Here’s how.

At 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, the breakeven for the earlier LED bulb versus an incandescent bulb occurs at 2692 hours of operation, as I mentioned in the earlier post. At the same price for electricity, the breakeven for the LED bulb from Home Depot occurs even sooner – at 1892 hours of operation. Beyond that point, the LED bulb is more cost effective than an incandescent bulb.

LED Update 1

The improvement of the Home Depot LED bulb versus the earlier LED bulb is due to two factors: (1) the lower fixed price – $19.95 for the earlier LED bulb versus $14.95 for the LED bulb from Home Depot, which lowers the “starting point” for the total cost line; and (2) the lower variable cost – the bulb from Home Depot draws 9.5 W versus 10.5 W for the earlier bulb, which lowers the slope slightly versus the equivalent line for the earlier bulb. (The earlier bulb results are not shown, but you can see them in the earlier post.) These two factors combine to reduce the number of hours necessary to reach the breakeven point.

Just as a reminder, the longer-term trend is again in favor of the LED bulb. Something I mentioned in the original post, but failed to highlight sufficiently, is that the longer-term trend of the incandescent bulb is far dominated by the cost of electricity and not in the replacement cost of the bulb. What this means is that in the longer trend it doesn’t matter if you are unlucky and your incandescent bulb burns out after 100 hours, or if you are extremely lucky and your incandescent bulb never burns out – the cost is dominated by the cost of electricity. You can tell this by the plot, where the upward “zag,” indicating a new incandescent bulb purchase, is so small c the upward slope of the line, representing the cost of electricity.

LED Update 2

From an economic standpoint, the fundamental question remains this:  Will I operate my BR30 incandescent bulb long enough to where I’ll exceed 1892 hours of lifetime operation? If the answer is yes, buy an equivalent LED bulb.

If the earlier post caught your interest, hopefully this updated analysis will inspire you even further.

By the way, I replaced the bulbs in the kitchen last week.  After a solid week of operation, I notice no difference in brightness and light quality of the LED bulbs versus the incandescent bulbs they replaced. And I didn’t expect a difference – the color spectrum is the same (2700 K, the soft white lighting I prefer) and the brightness is essentially the same (650 lumens). I’m very pleased, and I’m sure my wallet will be pleased with the decreased cost in electricity I will start seeing.

LED Versus Incandescent Bulbs (An Update)