Building Your Own Space Shuttle...

APRIL 6, 2011

I grew up in Florida watching anything that NASA could launch into the sky. We saw satellite launches, Saturn V moon missions, and especially many Space Shuttle launches. I even had the good fortune to be standing on the beach as close as you can get to the very first shuttle launch. It was an inspiring moment.

I am often amazed at our ability to create something as amazingly complex as the Space Shuttle. In fact, the number of parts in the Space Shuttle number in the millions. By comparison, our businesses would be considered quite complex if the people, processes, and functions numbered greater than a few hundred.

It begs a rather important question.

How can NASA produce something as amazing and successful as the Space Shuttle and most businesses struggle to deliver consistent, high quality, and sustainable value to customers?

While I think there are a lot of complex answers to that question I have learned 2 key things from conversations with hundreds of leaders. Without short term accountability and long term vision, nothing great will ever be accomplished.

Sounds obvious when I say it.

The counterpoint to that statement is that in every corporate discovery discussion I ask the following questions:

How well does your company practice accountability for results?
Does your company have a clear and compelling long term vision? How well do they communicate that vision?
For both questions, less than 10% of respondents answer positively.

Think about that. Less than 10%

What does that mean?

It means that the 2 most basic and essential elements of creating an effective organization are not being practiced with any success in most companies. We think we are doing it. And we are not.

Are you the exception to the rule? How would you know?

If you aren't building a space shuttle, what are you building?

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