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Risk, Change, and Innovation

Masters Forum 15: Risk, Change, and InnovationMasters Forum 15 was held October 1518, 2007, in Phoenix, Arizona. With a focus on innovation and change, the Forum program included a narrated panel discussion on driving change to achieve mission readiness. There were presentations on lessons from history about NASA’s culture and how the Agency handles change; how small teams delivered big innovations; and a case study regarding a governance model in action.

Attendees also learned about “JPL Stories” — a storytelling program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that seeks to provide an informal and experiential environment for both storyteller and listeners. Stories take place in the past, present or future; they can be historical or make believe; and they can be lighthearted or serious. This very successful program has proven that stories are an effective way to communicate and understand an organization’s culture. They help employees develop a sense of organizational identity and offer an approach different from typical formal lectures, seminars, and town hall meetings.

Midway through the Forum program, participants spent an afternoon on a site visit to Arizona State University’s Polytechnic Institute where they explored experiential learning. Finally, Masters Forum 16 concluded with a talk by Dr. Ed Hoffman, the Director of the Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership, during which he spoke about transforming wisdom into action and becoming a reflective practitioner.


Teresa Bailey, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Don Cohen, ASK Magazine Ed Hoffman NASA Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership Peter K. Homer, NASA Astronaut Glove Centennial Challenge Winner Stephen B. Johnson, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center/University of Colorado
Clyde (Chip) S. Jones, NASA Marshal Space Flight Center Matthew Kohut, NASA APPEL Debra Lavell, Intel Corporation Peter W. Lord, Island Astronomy Institute Todd May, NASA Headquarters
Jeffrey McCandless, NASA Ames Research Center Howard E. McCurdy, American University Robert W. Moorehead, NASA Glenn Research Center Katrina Pugh, Intel Corporation Laurence Prusak, ASK Magazine
Rosie Robinson, NASA APPEL Frank Snow, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Shaun Standley, Jet Propulsion Laboratory



A Tale of Two Missions: Balancing Risks with Innovation

Speaker — Todd May is the deputy associate administrator for programs in the Science Mission Directorate, located at NASA Headquarters. He is responsible for the efficient and effective execution of NASAs vast portfolio of robotic programs and projects, including more than 100 spacecraft in various stages of formulation, development, and operations. Mr. May has served in a wide variety of Agency leadership and program and project management roles in both the human space flight and robotic mission communities. He is a past associate program manager in the Constellation program and past manager of NASAs Discovery and New Frontiers Program. Major achievements under his watch include the launch of New Horizons and Deep Impact and deep space sample returns from Genesis and Stardust. He was a key member of the leadership team that launched NASAs Gravity Probe B missiona mission to test Albert Einsteins general theory of relativityand was the project manager for the successful launch of the Space Station Quest airlock module. In 2005, he received a NASA Level IV Program Manager Certification, NASAs highest possible certification.Abstract — It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. This is a story of two recent launch campaigns: the New Horizons mission to the controversial Pluto, and the Dawn mission to study two of the solar systems oldest and largest asteroids. They both provide great case studies of NASA program and project management, and they are both engaging stories. One mission is well on its journey, and the other, as of this writing, is still waiting for its ride. Todd May will share insider insights, anecdotes, and lessons learned from these two exciting robotic missions.

NASA's Culture and Change: Lessons from History


  • Stephen B. Johnson is a health management systems engineer for the Advanced Sensors and System Health Management Branch at Marshall Space Flight Center and an associate research professor with the Institute for Science, Space, and Security Centers at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Currently, Dr. Johnson works on diagnostic systems for the Ares launcher and represents the project to the Constellation program for avionics issues. He received a BA in physics from Whitman College in 1981 and a PhD in 1997 in the history of science and technology from the University of Minnesota, where he was also the associate director of the Babbage Institute for the History of Computing. Prior to 1997, he worked for Northrop and Martin Marietta and was co-owner of his own small business, managing computer simulation laboratories, designing space probes, and developing engineering processes.
  • Howard E. McCurdy is a professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, D.C., and author of six books on space policy, including Faster, Better, Cheaper: Low-Cost Innovation in the U.S. Space Program and Inside NASA, a study of the Agencys changing organizational culture. He is currently completing a book with Roger Launius on human and robotic flight.

Abstract — Stephen B. Johnson and Howard E. McCurdy describe the motives and issues leading to the managerial innovations developed at the start of the space program by the U.S. Air Force, by the U.S. Army’s (later NASA’s) Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Army Ballistic Missile Agency (later Marshall Space Flight Center), and in the human space flight program through Apollo. These include what we now call project management, systems management, configuration management, and systems engineering. He will also discuss some of the managerial issues facing NASA today and how NASA can use and expand on the lessons of the 1960s to address them.

Mission Ready: Driving Change at Glenn and Ames

Speaker — As vice president of technology and environment at Pratt & Whitney, Alan H. Epstein is responsible for setting the direction for and coordinating technology across the company as it applies to product performance and environmental impact. He leads Pratt & Whitney’s efforts to identify and evaluate new methods to improve engine performance and fuel efficiency for all new products. He also provides strategic leadership in the investment, development, and incorporation of technologies that reduce the environmental impact of Pratt & Whitney’s worldwide products and services. This includes responsibility for validating Pratt & Whitney’s technology and environmental strategy with customers, industry representatives, and government and international agencies.Abstract — NASA has been in the forefront of aviation and the environment since the introduction of commercial jet travel exacerbated the aviation noise problem in the late 1950s. Recently, climate change has been added to noise and local air quality as concerns for aviation. NASA is uniquely positioned to exhibit worldwide leadership in addressing aviation and the environment given its deep expertise in climate science, earth observation, aircraft and engine engineering, and flight operations. We will examine the environmental challenges facing NASA and explore how innovative approaches can bring value to the nation.

The Big 'Green' Picture


  • Don Cohen is managing editor of NASA’s ASK Magazine, devoted to stories of project management and engineering excellence and insights into organizational knowledge and learning.
  • Jeffrey McCandless is the strategic advisor to the Human Systems Integration Division at Ames Research Center. In this role, he helps make recommendations and develop strategies for managing research and development in the division. Previously, he worked within Project Constellation as deputy manager for space human factors engineering.
  • Robert W. Moorehead is the director of space flight systems at Glenn Research Center. This directorate has responsibility to manage, conceptualize, develop, and integrate flight and ground systems in support of NASA’s exploration and science objectives. He served as NASAs Chief Engineer, developing system architectures and design options for the Space Shuttle replacement, and was the manager of the Space Shuttle program engineering integration.

Abstract — NASA is committed to maintaining ten healthy centers, with each of them making a critical contribution to the Agency’s future missions. Achieving this goal depends on increasing expertise and knowledge at all the centers but demands more change at some centers than at others. In a conversation facilitated by ASK Managing Editor Don Cohen, Robert Moorehead, Director of Space Flight Systems at Glenn Research Center, and Jeffrey McCandless, strategic advisor for the Human Systems Integration Division at Ames Research Center, will talk about what their Centers have been doing to develop the skills and new approaches they need to play crucial roles in carrying out NASA’s ambitious plans for exploration. They will discuss the challenges of change and the programs and strategies that make it happen.

Space Systems Pollution Prevention

Speaker — Dean A. Dunn is the Orion and Space Exploration team chief for Defense Contract Management Agency (Dept. of Defense) in Denver, Colo. He has been a career Department of Defense civil servant for the past twenty-seven years. Prior to his current assignment, he was program manager for National Aerospace Program Hypersonic Engine Development and Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Stage II propulsion system; chief engineer at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base; and project engineer for Air Force One.Abstract — The military and civilian space programs face many of the same environmental challenges for executing our nation’s space program. NASA and the Department of Defense continue to collaborate on pollution-prevention initiatives to meet current environmental regulations and to reduce the effects that incorporating green technology into existing processes could have on programs. This presentation will provide an update on these collective efforts.

The Astronaut Glove Challenge and Other Projects: Big Innovation from Small Teams


  • Peter K. Homer is the developer of an innovative new space suit glove design that is strong, easy on the hands, and gives the operator a higher degree of dexterity. Working alone at his dining room table, he designed and then manufactured the best performing glove within competition parameters, winning NASA’s 2007 Astronaut Glove Challenge. His career in aerospace spans more than two decades, most recently developing commercial communications satellites for Lockheed Martin Space Systems (formerly GE Astro Space) and leading configuration and design of the A2100 spacecraft bus structure, which exceeded goals of 50% weight reduction, 50% cost reduction, and 50% cycle time reduction.
  • Peter W. Lord has extensive experience leading small teams in the successful development of spacecraft technology within commercial cost and schedule constraints: most recently as lead systems mechanical engineer for the Sirius satellite radio Constellation and Japan’s MBSAT for Space Systems Loral. He was responsible for the mechanical spacecraft systems design development and testing for a wide array of direct broadcast satellites. Mr. Lord pioneered Loral’s use of parametric solid modeling to achieve real-time integrated spacecraft configuration and antenna design optimization.

Abstract — A lone engineer working at his dining room table solved in weeks a problem that has vexed NASA astronauts and engineers for decades: making space suit gloves more flexible and dexterous. In other projects, seemingly impossible technical goals were exceeded, and insurmountable problems solved, by small teams working with limited resources. How did they do it? Peter Homer, NASA Glove Challenge winner, and Peter Lord — two “hands-on” engineers — share their personal stories with each other and the audience as they expose and elaborate upon the common themes that emerge as enablers to highly innovative and successful development teams.

Ares Upper Stage: Lessons from an "In-House" Design Project

Speaker — Clyde (Chip) S. Jones is the manufacturing and assembly manager for the upper stage of the Ares I launch vehicle, responsible for delivery of all development, test, and flight hardware for NASA’s newest launch vehicle. He directs the activities of more than 150 technical personnel with a budget of more than $600 million and leads development and qualification of new technologies for building the upper stage. Prior to joining the upper stage, he was external tank resident manager at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, overseeing Space Shuttle external tank manufacturing during the return-to-flight period. He was also responsible for daily operations of the 830-acre Michoud facility, with more than 4,000 employees.Abstract — NASA is already at work designing, testing and evaluating hardware and related systems for the agencys Ares I crew launch vehiclethe rocket that will carry a new generation of space explorers safely and reliably into orbit. Chip Jones will share his experiences as the lead for the Ares I upper stage in-house design team at Marshall as they address the challenges in ensuring mission success.

The Ares I second, or upper, stage is propelled by a J-2X main engine fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen and will provide the navigation, guidance, control and propulsion required for the second stage of the rockets ascent. The J-2X is an evolved variation of two historic predecessors: the powerful J-2 engine that propelled the Apolloera Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets, and the J-2S, a simplified version of the J-2 developed and tested in the early seventies but never flown. Jones will relay the challenges and obstacles inherent in integrating the lessons learned from these previous programs with the current technology.

The Story of Storytelling at JPL

Speaker — Teresa Bailey, currently senior technical librarian at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in the Library, Archives, and Records section, has been in several professional librarian/archivist positions at the JPL for more than 25 years. In addition to performing typical library functions such as archiving, cataloging, and reference work, she has led several initiatives, including strategic planning, communications, and information access. Significant programs developed under her leadership include the “JPL Stories” series and the JPL Information Providers community of practice. Ms. Bailey holds a masters in library science and a masters in fine art. She recently completed her PhD in human and organizational systems at the Fielding Graduate University and her dissertation, “The Experience of the Storyteller: Moving from Personal to Collective Knowledge Sharing,” is an in-depth study with JPL storytellers to understand their storytelling experiences. She has published and presented in the fields of library science and knowledge management with an emphasis on organizational storytelling, knowledge sharing, and knowledge capture.Abstract — Teresa Bailey describes the JPL Library storytelling program, which was developed to bring everyone at JPL into the library space and to promote knowledge sharing in the JPL community. Swapping stories is the easiest and most effective way to share knowledge and impart culture in organizations. The “JPL Stories” program is in its seventh year, and Teresa will share the challenges and lessons learned from developing and coordinating a storytelling program.

The Governance Model in Action: The New Horizons RP-1 Tank Decision

Speaker — Matthew Kohut of InFact Communications is a member of the Academy of Program/Project and Engineering Leadership (APPEL) team within the Office of the Chief Engineer. He is responsible for the biweekly e-newsletter ASK OCE, APPELs case study initiative, and other communications projects. He has more than fifteen years experience writing about scientific, technical, and quantitative subjects for both general and expert audiences.Abstract — In early September 2005, the Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center received an unexpected call from Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the launch vehicle for NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. The launch vehicle’s fuel tank had experienced a catastrophic failure during the final stages of qualification testing.

With just over four months until the planned launch date, work began immediately to determine the cause of the failure and the implications for the mission. The Launch Services Program began working with Lockheed Martin to understand what had happened from a technical standpoint. KSCs Safety and Mission Assurance (S&MA) team approached the problem separately, engaging the Aerospace Corporation, its contractor, to conduct an independent analysis. By November, clear differences of opinion had emerged between these organizations.

The S&MA team requested the assistance of the NASA Engineering Safety Center (NESC), an independent body within the agency that conducts testing, analysis, and assessments of NASA’s high-risk projects. As the launch date approached, this issue presented a test case for NASAs new leadership. Virtually the entire senior management team had turned over since the loss of the space shuttle Columbia two and a half years earlier. The team would face its first technical decision that required the involvement of the highest levels of agency management.

Creating an Environment for Innovation


  • Don Cohen is managing editor of NASAs ASK Magazine, devoted to stories of project management and engineering excellence and insights into organizational knowledge and learning.
  • Laurence (Larry) Prusak is Editor-in-Chief of NASA’s ASK Magazine. He is also a researcher and consultant and was the founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Knowledge Management (IKM). This was a global consortium of member organizations engaged in advancing the practice of knowledge management through action research. Mr. Prusak has had extensive experience in helping organizations work with their information and knowledge resources. He has also consulted with many U.S. and overseas government agencies and international organizations (NGOs). He currently co-directs “Working Knowledge,” a knowledge research program at Babson College, where he is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence.

Abstract — It is notoriously hard to promote innovation. Many breakthrough ideas arise from an accidental collision of seemingly unrelated concepts or from a moment of inspiration that seems to come from nowhere. Sometimes groups of smart people struggle for months or years without coming up with a truly innovative idea; sometimes a few lines quickly scrawled on a napkin in a coffee shop turn into an important new technology, product, or scientific advance.

No one can guarantee that innovation will happen, but there are things organizations can do and have done to make it more likely. Some of their efforts have to do with the design of workspaces, some with the composition of groups, the amount of freedom and time given to knowledge workers, and the ways organizations learn from customers, partners, and other outsiders. Don Cohen and Larry Prusak talk about some of the ways organizations that are innovative (or hope to be) address this issue. They describe some of the successful and promising efforts they have seen and discuss how those strategies might be applied to NASA projects and programs.

Helping Quintuplets Leave the Nest

Speaker — Frank Snow began his career with NASA in 1980. As an attitude determination and control engineer and later a mission operations manager, he supported many NASA satellites, including SMM, Landsat-4, GRO, UARS, and the International Space Station. In 1992 he joined the Explorer Program, which provides rapid development of small (300 kg) and medium (800 kg) science instrument payloads. Mr. Snow was the mission operations manager for ACE (launched 1997), the NASA project manager for RHESSI (launched February 2002), GALEX (launched April 2003), and THEMIS (launched February 2007). THEMIS is a constellation mission consisting of five identical satellites studying the Northern Lights. He is currently working on MAVEN.Abstract — Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS), a constellation mission to study the Northern Lights, was successfully launched from the Kennedy Space Center on February 17, 2007. The Boeing Delta II rocket placed the constellation in a highly elliptical orbit with an apogee of 60,000 miles. The project with five identical satellites, each satellite having five instruments, was a cost-capped ($180 million) mission lead by the principal investigator Dr. Vassilis Angelopoulos at the University of CaliforniaBerkeley.

Many of the future NASA investigations require constellation missions in order to obtain simultaneous scientific measurements. The presentation will discuss some of the challenges of developing, testing, and operating a multi-satellite mission with small margins in both the technical (mass, power, fuel) and programmatic (budget, schedule) resources. The case study will show the necessity of a risk management process and detailed resource loaded scheduling to quickly identify and resolve the multiple issues that will occur with multiple satellites.

Hitchhike to Titan: The Cassini-Huygens Project

Speaker — Shaun Standley works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. He was recently the spacecraft engineer for the Cassini spacecraft, which is currently orbiting Saturn. Before this, he was systems engineer for the Huygens probe, which descended into the clouds of Saturn’s moon Titan in January 2005. He has twenty years of spacecraft engineering experience, sixteen of those served at JPL working on interplanetary projects. He defected from ESA to NASA JPL in June 2005; he currently works on the Kepler project, a search for habitable planets. Mr. Standley is a graduate of Southampton University in Great Britain, were he completed a BS in aeronautics and astronautics and a year of postgraduate study; he also holds an MBA from Pepperdine University.Abstract — The Cassini spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral on October 15, 1997. Hitchhiking aboard Cassini was the European Space Agency (ESA) Huygens probe, which was looking for a ride to Titan. The Huygens mission was to provide in situ measurements of Titans atmosphere and possibly of the surface, if the probe survived landing. The retrieval of the Huygens probe data was a key element to the success of the joint Cassini-Huygens mission.

In February 2000, a test to characterize the probe receiver signal and data detection thresholds confirmed the expected carrier level performance, but it also showed anomalous behavior with a loss of data when a simulated mission Doppler was applied. The estimated data loss for the mission amounted to a frightening 70%80%. A Huygens Recovery Task Force was formed and made recommendations on how to modify the Cassini-Huygens mission to recover the probe data. In 2001 three ESA engineers were sent to join the Cassini team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to help implement the recommended changes. This is the story of their arrival, cultural assimilation, introduction to ITAR, and the eventual success of the Cassini-Huygens team in retrieving the probe data.

Harvesting the Knowledge


  • Katrina Pugh is technical program manager and WW knowledge management consultant with Intel Enterprise Solution Sales (ESS), business process and knowledge integration, responsible for knowledge harvesting, communities of practice, and knowledge management tools implementation. To innovate, Intel Corporation must rapidly learn from its customer-facing engagements. ESS applies knowledge management methods to improve the speed and accuracy of its services to customers and to rapidly discover and transfer customer insights into its chip planning process.
  • Debra Lavell has more than ten years experience in quality engineering. She currently works as a capability content expert in the Corporate Platform Office at Intel Corporation. Since January 2003, she has delivered more than eighty project and milestone retrospectives for Intel worldwide. In the past five years, she designed and delivered Facilitating Effective Retrospectives to more than fifty teams to build a network of certified facilitators throughout the organization. Prior to her work in quality, Ms. Lavell spent eight years managing an IT department responsible for a 500+ node network for ADC Telecommunications. She is a member of the Rose City Software Process Improvement Network Steering Committee. For the past six years she has been responsible for securing the monthly speakers. She currently is the president of the Pacific Northwest Software Quality Conference, Portland, Ore. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in management with an emphasis on industrial relations.
  • Rosie Robinson brings to the APPEL Knowledge Sharing team a rich background in workforce development. Her experience includes leadership development for all levels of management within a project-oriented research and development environment for a large Silicon Valley computer company. Prior to joining APPEL, Rosie served as project manager for two and a half years on a Department of Labor contract where she led a team in identifying needs for the Agency’s ten regions and delivering training and career development-related solutions to Department of Labor regions across the country.

Abstract — When we think of knowledge harvesting, we think of terms such as implicit or tacit knowledge. This is the intuitive, experienced-based know-how that resides in people’s heads. It’s often termed “knowledge between the ears.” Knowledge harvesting is a term used to describe the process of capturing, packaging, and making implicit knowledge available for transfer and use by other people. This process makes implicit knowledge explicit. We will begin exploring how the know-how and lessons learned shared with you this week may be made available for reuse within our Centers and throughout the Agency.

Transform Wisdom into Action: Becoming a Reflective Practitioner

Speaker — Dr. Edward Hoffman is responsible for the development of program and project leaders and teams within NASA, including the development of a comprehensive program and project management training curriculum, consulting services for project management teams, lessons learned, knowledge capture, and research and special studies on program and project management. He works both within NASA and externally with leaders of industry, academia, and other government agencies to enhance capabilities in program and project management.Abstract — Sharing knowledge has proven an effective way to teach others those hard-earned lessons we once had to experience for ourselves. Often it can be difficult to figure out what it is we know and should pass on to the next generation, and the best way to pass on that knowledge can be an even tougher challenge. One medium that has proven effective is storytelling. Dr. Ed Hoffman talks about what a story is and is not and why this venue is important for transforming wisdom into action. He also shares an example of good storytelling.