The Reasons Why Gene Kranz Must Be Your Personal Hero [Specially If You are a Project Manager]


Each has his own ideal of super hero, invincible or that mythical figure who comes out of nowhere and magically solve all problems. It is typical of the heroes bring normalcy where absolute chaos prevails.

My personal hero is Gene Kranz, the former NASA’s Flight Director from Mercury Program until the Hubble Telescope launch. Let’s see why:

It’s starts with a tragedy. On January 27th, 1967 Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee died in fire during a practice exercise. In the next meeting, Kranz addressed his crew, delivering what became known as the Kranz Dictum. Despite the fact that it is conducted at the members of Mission Control only, Kranz’s words transcend that narrow audience. His will to honesty, purpose, and perfection are the heart of this man’s lesson to us all.

I plead you to read his words in full. Pay close attention to his unequivocal sense of personal accountability and the clarity of his commands that he and those who will work under him will hold themselves to only the most rigorous standards. The speech is brief but plentiful. Its two paragraphs contain great lessons of management and responsibility.

”Spaceflight will never tolerate carelessness, incapacity, and neglect. Somewhere, somehow, we screwed up. It could have been in design, build, or test. Whatever it was, we should have caught it. We were too gung ho about the schedule and we locked out all of the problems we saw each day in our work. Every element of the program was in trouble and so were we. The simulators were not working, Mission Control was behind in virtually every area, and the flight and test procedures changed daily. Nothing we did had any shelf life. Not one of us stood up and said, ‘Dammit, stop!’ I don’t know what Thompson’s committee will find as the cause, but I know what I find. We are the cause! We were not ready! We did not do our job. We were rolling the dice, hoping that things would come together by launch day, when in our hearts we knew it would take a miracle. We were pushing the schedule and betting that the Cape would slip before we did.

 

From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: ‘Tough’ and ‘Competent.’Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control we will know what we stand for. Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect. When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write ‘Tough and Competent’ on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.”

Words for life!

 

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