My article from LinkedIn
Today is the 50th Anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11. While there is no doubt of the heroic endeavours of the crew and the hard work of 400,000 people who spent a decade on the project,, it is also down to good planning, systems and procedures that made it possible.
The story has two parts, resolving the unknowing, and them systemising them to reduce risk, manage constraints and contain costs.
There were countless scientific innovations and engineering marvels, these were also backed by a systematic approach.
Experience and the lessons such as Neil Armstrong’s experience when the Gemini docking went into spin or the accident of the “lunar lander” trainer and his recovery made him the most experienced person to command the mission. You need people that both understand process but can adapt as is required such as when you need to take control because the landing site is not right.
Choosing people who have this kind of experience is invaluable. Look for people who have learnt from difficult situations and failures not just qualifications.
While I was in high school, I started to learn to fly and one of the many things I learnt was to prepare a flightplan. (there are many other things but I will leave that for another time).
Often lessons are learnt though failure and being put to the test time and time again.
Flightplans are all about detailed planning, the more detailed the plan, and the contingency, the better prepared you are.
In many things the difference between success and failure is all about preparation.
Films have scripts, storyboards, casting sheets etc, flying has similiar disciplines from simulation to flightplans to checklists
If Apollo 11 was a success it was because 10 years of planning, trialling and prepartion, learning, experimenting went into making it happen.
Do have a look at the flight plan for Apollo 11 here https://www.nasa.gov/specials/apollo50th/pdf/a11final-fltpln.pdf
One of the key parts in every first, be it a start-up, an exploration to be the first to the bottom of the sea or the first man on the moon is to
solve for the unknown
In business, science, exploration there are many unknowns, knowing how to do the first or get information/knowledge (about customers or the moon’s terrain) is the first and often biggest challenge.
or as Captain Kirk would say
Space the Final Frontier
For startups or existing companies developing a new product category, this might be validating the market or identifying the problem or figuring out the business models. (I can help you with this).
The second challenge is to systemise your little experiments into a scalable business.
Every part was sandboxed in small steps in the Gemini, Mercury and Apollo stages. every exercise was rehearsed, tested, reviewed, debriefed and those lessons were then applied to Apollo 11.
Businesses can do the same in preparing Business as Usual (BAU) manuals, checklists as their equivalent of a flightplan.
The thing is to be careful and not to set them in stone (the danger of scaling too early).
When I help businesses to scale, “prodoctionise” and put processes in place, I help them with these operational plans and procedures.
Being prepared is the secret to reducing cognitive load, making things repeatable, scaleable and impriving quality, reducing costs and risks.