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ASK OCE — February 23, 2007 — Vol. 2, Issue 2

Several of NASA’s highest-ranking officials addressed nearly 1200 participants at PM Challenge 2007 in Galveston, Texas.

The fourth annual conference attracted approximately two hundred more participants than the 2006 event, which was held in the same location. Featured speakers from NASA Headquarters this year included Associate Administrator Rex Geveden, Chief Safety and Mission Assurance Officer Bryan O’Connor, Associate Administrator for Space Operations William Gerstenmaier, and Chief Engineer Chris Scolese.

Associate Administrator Rex Geveden offered an overview of senior management’s “game plan” for achieving the six goals articulated in the 2006 NASA Strategic Plan. He described the game plan as having three components: strategic portfolio management, institutional management, and organizational governance. “One of the reasons why the game plan is not formally included in the body of policy anywhere is because it would change, because emphases change,” he said. At this point in time, he said he believes that NASA’s strategic management principles are supporting the agency’s efforts to achieve its goals and earn the confidence of its stakeholders. Noting that the confidence-building process has been a gradual one, he said, “We have to prove to our stakeholders that we deserve this vision that we have, that we deserve to be entrusted with the required resources, and to accept the risks on behalf of the American citizens in the execution of the nation’s civil space program.”

Chief Safety and Mission Assurance Officer Bryan O’Connor spoke about communications and its role in knowledge sharing. “How do you take communications and make knowledge out of it?” he asked. Given the sheer volume of information associated with NASA’s work, he framed this challenge in terms of quality management expert Dr. Joseph Juran’s management principle of separating the “vital few” from the “useful many.” Citing an anonymous Marine adage “Communications is too important to be left to the communicators,” he said that responsibility for effective communications extends beyond dedicated communications specialists to everyone in the workforce. “When we see a problem with communications, let’s not just wave our hands about it. Let’s take action.”

Associate Administrator for Space Operations William Gerstenmaier focused on the hazards of information overload. “There’s so much data out there that if you grab all that data, you will be engulfed by this web, this viral network of data, and you’re going to be not as effective or efficient as you would be if you didn’t grab all that data.” He noted that a downside to constant email traffic is that it never allows time for reflective decision-making. “Be reflective when you can and reactive when you have to be,” he said.

Chief Engineer Chris Scolese spoke about the relationship between the project manager and the chief or lead systems engineer. “How often have we heard from the program or project that engineering does not care about cost or schedule or that engineers keep on adding requirements without regard to impact? Conversely we hear from engineering that the project or program only cares about cost or schedule or that the program is ignoring physics or sound engineering,” he said. “Like all myths there is some truth to these comments. However, they are also gross exaggerations of a very complicated process to develop a spacecraft.”

Read the full schedule of speakers and sessions that took place at the conference.

In This Issue

Message from the Chief Engineer

NASA on the Hill: Marburger Testifies on R&D Budget

This Week in NASA History: Discoverer 1

PM Challenge Executive Leadership Roundup

What’s Ahead for Project Management: A Roundtable Discussion with PMI

22nd Annual George M. Low Awards: Presented at PM Challenge 2007

Integrating Risk and Knowledge Management in ESMD

Hugh Woodward on Surprising Keys to Project Success

What’s the Situation?

Let’s Talk Risk Management

APPEL Masters Forum: Call for Nominees and Speakers

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