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Masters Forum 16: Proven Approaches to Achieving Project Management Excellence

Masters Forum 16 -- Proven Approaches to Achieving Project Management ExcellenceMasters Forum 16, Proven Approaches to Achieving Project Management Excellence, was held April 21-24, 2008 in Landsdowne, Virginia.

The agenda included many thought-provoking presentations, including reflections from a former Masters Forum participant, and a Roundtable Discussion on the past, present, and future of space exploration through the examination of four basic mission elements.

There was a demonstration of the NASA Engineering Network (NEN) portal — an online gateway to NASA engineering resources and home to the NASA Engineering Safety Center’s engineering Communities of Practice. Through the NEN portal, engineers are able to search dozens of data repositories spread across the NASA Centers, and they may search the NASA Lessons Learned Information System and submit new lessons.

There were also presentations based on NASA case studies, and a discussion of how NASA learns and harvests knowledge. Midway through the Program, attendees had an opportunity to tour the National Air and Space Museum.


Nick Chrissotimos, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Steve Goo, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems Angelo (Gus) Guastaferro, NASA APPEL and NASA retiree Scott Hubbard, Stanford University, NASA retiree Stephen B. Johnson, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center/University of Colorado
Matthew Kohut, InFact Communications / APPEL Communications Team Frank Martin, 4-D Systems and NASA retiree Howard E. McCurdy, American University G. Lee Norbraten, NASA Johnson Space Center James B. Odom, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)
William Pomerantz, X PRIZE Foundation Daria Topousis, Jet Propulsion Laboratory



The NASA Engineering Network (NEN): Enhancing Your Project Management Capabilities
Speaker — Daria Topousis has worked in information technology at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for more than twelve years. She is currently development-to-operations strategy and transition lead for the NASA Engineering Network (NEN), facilitator of the program/project Community of Practice, and member of the JPL Oral History Program team. Her previous experience includes developing communication strategies for the JPL Office of the Chief Information Officer, helping define a metadata standard for the JPL, and leading the redesign of the information system that houses JPL’s policies and procedures. She is vice president of the Board of the Redwood Technology Consortium, a technology nonprofit in northern California. She holds degrees from the University of Minnesota and the University of Southern California.Abstract — As NASA continues to design and build projects across Centers, the need for an integrated suite of tools to support engineers and project managers in geographically dispersed locations becomes clear. The NASA Engineering Network (NEN) is an integrated suite of tools designed for this purpose. It includes a search engine that mines data from several repositories, including Lessons Learned, NODIS, Tech Docs, NESC Reports, STI, and Goddard GOLD rules; communities of practice led by Technical Fellows and open to all NASA personnel; the POPS expertise locator; and a portal to collect all engineering resources in one location. Daria Topousis will describe how systems engineers and project managers can benefit from the NEN and will demonstrate how the system works.
Roundtable Discussion

  • Formerly Chairman and CEO of the electronics firm, nVIEW Corporation, Angelo (Gus) Guastaferro is experienced in technology management. He served as vice president with the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space Company and was deputy director of the NASA Ames Research Center. Mr. Guastaferro is also experienced in project and program management and was involved in the Viking mission to Mars and in Large Space Structures; he also served as director of Planetary Programs while at NASA. He is currently consulting for NASA on future space systems and serving as Chair Emeritus of Hampton Roads Technology Council and Director, Virginia Technology Alliances. He has a BSME from the New Jersey Institute of Technology; MBA from Florida State University; and AMP from Harvard Business School.
  • Denny Holt, NASA retiree
  • Scott Hubbard, Stanford University and NASA retiree
  • Frank Martin, 4-D Systems and NASA retiree
  • Jim Odom, SAIC and NASA retiree

Abstract — The panel will discuss the past, present, and future of space exploration through the examination of four basic mission elements. Jim Odom will reflect on the rocket science of our business by taking us back to the early days at Marshall Space Flight Center to todays thrust to the Constellation program. Frank Martin will walk us through astrophysics programs with heavy emphasis of the Great Observatories to the Hubble repair mission, leading to the current planning on the James Webb Space Telescope. Scott Hubbard will cover the planetary program with special emphasis on the Mars program from early Mariner to Viking and the Mars Rovers to the Mars Science Lab. Denny Holt will cover the history and current day plans in human exploration development from Mercury to Constellation. Gus Guastaferro will facilitate the panel and chair an extended Q&A session.

Project Management: Are You Using the Right Stuff?
Speaker — Steven Goo is vice president of Program Management and Business Excellence for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems (IDS), a $32.4 billion business unit with more than 72,000 employees who provide space, defense, intelligence, and communication products and services for military, government, and commercial customers around the world. In this position, he leads companywide efforts designed to achieve peak performance.Abstract — Steve Goo describes Boeing Program Management Best Practices, an integrated management system the company has refined over the past ten years to enable programs of all sizes achieve high levels of performance and customer satisfaction. He will discuss the importance of staying focused on the fundamentals, sharing lessons learned, and balancing new technologies with proven methods of program management. In addition, he will talk about the essential elements of leadership and creating a culture of success.
Looking at the World through Roses Colored Glasses
Speaker — Bettina (Tina) Beard is serving as deputy human factors discipline expert for the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC). NESC focuses on engineering excellence and improved safety in NASA programs. She also serves in the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), a cross-Agency group created to steer the research and development supporting the next-generation air transportation system. Ms. Beard maintains an active research program focused on Agency-critical issues, successfully obtaining internal and external Agency funding. She currently co-teaches the NESC Academy course on human factors. This three-day course provides NASA engineers and researchers with lessons learned and best practices from within NASA and in industry to train the workforce to reduce their vulnerability to human and organizational mishaps. Ms. Beard holds a masters and a PhD in experimental psychology and is stationed at the Ames Research Center.Abstract — Taking the stance of others can create an amazingly wholesome environment. All employees want to work in a collaborative culture, to receive recognition and trust, to understand how their work fits into the critical path, and to know what the future has in store. We will discuss practical tools and research-based techniques to help managers create motivated, productive teams.
Learning from Space Entrepreneurs
Speaker — William Pomerantz has been the director of space projects at the X PRIZE Foundation since 2005. He currently manages the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge, a $2 million, NASA-funded prize competition, and was one of the primary authors of the Google Lunar X PRIZE. He lives and works in Washington, D.C.Abstract — On October 4, 2004, Brian Binnie piloted SpaceShipOne above 100 km, marking the third time everand the second time in as many weeksthat a civilian astronaut had taken a privately built craft to outer space. In doing so, Binnie and SpaceShipOne captured the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for Mojave Aerospace Venturesa small, cutting-edge private enterprise led by legendary aerospace designer Burt Rutan and financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Amazingly, this small team, operating only for a short amount of time and spending an incredibly small amount of money, had joined the United States, the USSR/ Russia, and China in the exclusive ranks of human space flight powers.Prizes like the Ansari X PRIZE and later efforts like the NASA-funded Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge and the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE exist to focus public attention and apply innovative new ideas to targeted technical problems. Equally, if not more, important are the innovative program management practices that come into play when extremely small and motivated teams put their own money on the line to win a prize.Just as SpaceShipOne is not a replacement for the Space Shuttle or other governmental human space flight programs, prizes like those offered by the nonprofit X PRIZE Foundation will not, and likely cannot, replace government design, development, or procurement methods. But just as SpaceShipOne and its counterparts in the private sector can provide effective lessons and practical applications for government programs, so too can program mangers at NASA and other government agencies take important cues from the teams competing for prizes.

Expanding on Management Lessons of the 1960s

  • 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 will 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. Armys (later NASAs) 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.

Case Study: Redesigning COBE
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 the Academy, the Academys current case study initiative, and other communications projects. He has over fifteen years experience writing about scientific, technical, and quantitative subjects for both general and expert audiences.Abstract — Before founding InFact Communications, he was a senior writer/analyst for Valador, Inc., where he worked extensively on the development of NASA case studies. As Project Director for Valador at Goddard Space Flight Center, he served as lead writer/editor for the first Center-wide technical rulebook for spacecraft design. He holds a masters in public administration from Harvards Kennedy School of Government and a BA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.How did the universe begin? Humans have asked the question for millennia. The designers of the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite proposed to provide hard evidence to support long-standing hypotheses about the nature of the early universe. COBEs instruments were built to measure two types of radiation diffuse infrared and microwave radiationthat many physicists, including COBE Project Scientist John Mather, believed to be artifacts of the big bang, the moment when the universe burst into existence.COBE was slated to launch on the shuttle in 1989 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The shuttle would place the satellite at an altitude of 300 km and an onboard propulsion system would then raise it to a circular 900 km sun-synchronous orbit.

By the time Deputy Project Manager Dennis McCarthy joined Project Manager Roger Mattsons team in 1983, the scheduled launch was a full six years away. There was little question in McCarthys mind that the science team would need that much time, if not longer. The instruments were all based on new technology, there was no guarantee that they would perform as expected, and they were already behind schedule.

The team that Mattson and McCarthy managed made significant progress. By the beginning of 1986, the COBE spacecraft was all but complete and proceeding smoothly toward its planned launch. The instruments were not ready they would be the last piece of the puzzlebut the other elements had fallen into place as expected. The loss of Challenger seventy-three seconds after liftoff on January 28, 1986, changed everything. Challenger was a tragedy for the nation as well as for NASA. For the Agency, the implications were vast. The shuttle was NASAs primary means of delivering payloads to space the Agency had stopped relying on expendable launch vehicles such as Delta or Atlas rockets and as a result the supply of alternatives had dwindled.

The morning after the accident, McCarthy called a meeting of everyone involved with the project. I pulled everybody together, and we decided to keep going. My job was to get this into space, whatever the way.

STEREO: The Story
Speaker — Nick Chrissotimos has twenty-five years of project/program management experience at the Goddard Space Flight Center. He is the associate director of flight projects for the Exploration and Space Communications Projects Division. The division is responsible for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) project, TDRS project, Space and Ground Network Projects, and Constellation program support.Abstract — This presentation addresses the actions and leadership aspects that were implemented in order to meld the cultures together and form a cohesive seamless team that was successful in implementing the STEREO mission. The STEREO experience will help identify ways and tools that your project may find useful for building productive relationships among organizational team members.
The People Side of Project Transition
Speaker — Stephen N. Simons is the manager of the Lunar Lander Systems Office at Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. In this position, he leads the planning, organizing, and directing of activities required to develop the power system and ascent propulsion system for Altair, NASAs next vehicle that will transport humans to and from the surface of the moon. Mr. Simons joined NASA in 1975 developing electro-chemical energy storage systems. He has held positions of increasing responsibility, including leading development of the energy storage and thermal control systems for the International Space Station (ISS), managing the development and operations of more than thirty microgravity experiments that have flown on the Space Shuttle and ISS, and managing as Glenns associate director for space flight systems. Mr. Simons received his bachelors and masters degrees in chemical engineering from Cleveland State University in 1975 and 1980, respectively. He also received a masters degree in business administration from Baldwin Wallace College in 1985. In 2006, Mr. Simons was awarded the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for excellence in leadership of space flight projects.Abstract — All project transitions involve change, but when change involves a reduction of several hundred jobs it can be both very personal and very profound. This session will discuss how one manager worked through the transition to descope a project, work with the affected NASA and contractor personnel, and still deliver the remaining products. Leaders and managers often assume that when necessary changes are decided upon they will simply happen. However, unless the transition process is handled successfully by managers, all that careful decision making and detailed planning will matter very little. This presentation reminds us that while change can happen overnight, much more is required to manage the human side of change, often referred to as the transition. The presenter will discuss basic project management transition strategies and lessons learned about what it takes to lead employees through complex and difficult changes with renewed energy and purpose.
Jump-Starting the Future: Apollo Legacy, Shuttle Lessons
Speaker — G. Lee Norbraten is the manager of the Space Shuttle Transition Management Office at the Johnson Space Center with the responsibility to oversee the retirement of the Space Shuttle program and the transition or termination of shuttle assets and capabilities. Prior to this assignment, he served as the manager of the Space Shuttle Development Office, overseeing major upgrades to Space Shuttle flight capability. Previously, he was director of the ISO 9000 Office at Johnson, with the responsibility to establish and maintain the Johnson Quality Management System. Under his leadership, Johnson became the first NASA center and the largest government organization ever to achieve ISO 9000 Quality System certification.Abstract — The current NASA strategic initiative to return to the moon and go beyond has its heritage in both the Apollo and the Space Shuttle programs. The legacy of Apollo lies in the physics: the shape and size of the spacecraft and the path to the moon and back remind us strongly of Apollo because the laws of physics have not changed over the last forty years. The lessons of the shuttle lie in the programmatic the delicate balancing of cost, schedule, and technical constraints in an environment where consensus is hard to reach and even harder to maintain. In this session, we will examine how the heritage of both the Apollo and shuttle programs provides a proper foundation for the future of human space flight. In addition, we will review the current status of the Space Shuttle program, including the issues presented by its planned retirement in 2010.

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