From the Launch Pad
February 7, 2020
A Cosmosphere Camps Alumni’s take on Agility and Teamwork
By Sandy Marshall, Cosmosphere Camps Alumni
This past summer, I was thrilled to be selected by NASA Social to attend the SpaceX Falcon Heavy’s first-ever night launch at Kennedy Space Center. The mission, designated as STP-2, ferried new tech and experiments ranging from greener rocket fuel to a Deep Space Atomic Clock. Over the course of two days, our group of space enthusiasts and journalists toured NASA facilities, met with mission engineers, and then waved goodbye as the Falcon Heavy ignited the sky at 3 in the morning.
Though most of the event focused on the technical aspects of launching satellites into space, I was eager to learn about the human dynamics at play: having spent a career at the intersection of business and improvisation, I’ve always been fascinated with NASA’s deep roots in the “Yes, And…” methodology. (After all: is there a more collaborative call-to-action than JFK’s Moonshot speech from 1961?)
As you might imagine, our group was struck by the ensemble-like spirit among scientists who “walk the walk” in an environment of collaboration, and the surprising applications between space exploration and everyday teamwork.
“Every project here starts as a collaboration.”
When presenting mission briefings, several experts from various disciplines across NASA, NOAA, JPL, SpaceX, and Aerojet Rocketdyne (among others) mentioned this phrase. When discussing their roles, engineers spoke more about the people and teams they supported, and less about their own personal projects. The takeaway? When you’re working as a team, your project has a greater chance of success if you’re making a genuine effort to set-up your teammates for the win.
“Agility is Key”
Another insight from NASA engineers was to “Be ready for anything.” Expecting the unexpected in agile environments requires countless hours of preparation along with support, trust, and respect. This enables people to navigate high-pressure situations with a calm, collected demeanor. In the case of STP-2, the weather forced a launch delay into the wee hours of the night. How did everyone react? Like it was business as usual.
“WE are Go for Launch”
We’ve heard this phrase over and over…and though launch excitement focuses on the words “Go” or “No-Go,” we often forget the most important word in this famous phrase: “We.”
As one NASA scientist said: “No matter what you’re striving to do, if you don’t cooperate, it won’t work.” Space exploration is similar to any other business environment: we often focus on technical innovation, new products, and the next big thing…
But at the end of the day?
It’s all about the people.