Day 5,209 – Team Work Leads to Amazing Results

moon-landingI was seven years old when I started to learn everything I could about the space program. The manned space program. The Mercury program. Just before I turned seven, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.

But day 5,209 was the day that Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. It was July, we were on vacation, and I had sun poisoning. I remember lying on the couch, watching our black and white television, as the first grainy images were broadcast. I was so into what was happening in the NASA programs that when I went to college and got to interview for internships, there was only one place to consider – the NASA research center near my home.

Now, after years of working in consumer manufacturing, and in particular working on the development of high performance work teams, I look at the various manned spacecraft programs and I’m totally amazed at what they accomplished. Over forty years later when I hear someone marvel at the design and functionality of their Droid or iPhone, I see them as no big deal. When will we again see projects that match the scope, complexity and demonstration of human brainpower and determination that we can see looking back at the accomplishment of taking people to the moon and returning them safely to the earth?

Those that have climbed into those capsules and shuttles through the years were and are brave. Some have lost their lives because we are not masters of all that we touch. We cannot control each flaw and each and every possible circumstance that awaits us. Yet our space program is as close as you might come to a highly integrated collection of people working effectively to achieve common, complex, worthwhile goals. For each name we recognize from the space program, there are many hundreds of talented people who committed to working together to achieve important, incredible technical milestones.

Who’s your most important team mate? Who helps you to achieve more than you could on your own? The lesson I learned in watching the space program through the years is that vision is important, but keeping people focused on that vision is crucial.

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