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Do You Have a Moon Mission?

Most all of us enjoy sitting down and watching a good movie. We engage in this form of entertainment for many reasons, the need for a good laugh, the attraction of the arts, the acting itself or maybe what is behind the story. Many of us relate to a movie because to some extent we have lived it and it may strike a chord for the moment. Though I enjoy the humor or action, I have found in many cases there is application within the story line to apply in our daily lives be it personal or professional (Though I hope one never experiences what Andy Dufresne did in crawling down a quarter mile of sewage drain in the “Shawshank Redemption”). Sorry, bad visual.

If I could take you back to 1995, the movie is the award winning “Apollo 13”. You might already be asking how flying to the moon has any correlation to working for an insurance broker, or for that matter any company.

Follow along if you will. Well into the movie, Apollo 13 was heading towards the moon when a malfunction occurred. In short, a quadruple failure, resulting in oxygen levels dropping. Mission aborted with a new directive. Get our astronauts back to earth alive. The astronauts move from the Command Module to the Lunar Module (LM). Once inside the LM they are soon faced with another problem. There is a buildup of deadly carbon dioxide that could be life threatening if they don’t find a solution. The primary goal of returning to earth alive has temporarily been altered with a new goal. They need to reduce the CO2 buildup to sustain life.

You can surely relate in your years of employment to a serious issue, maybe an emergency not to this extent, but one that could have severe consequences to you, others or maybe the company. The fix is not easy as there are one or several dilemmas you are faced with. Now what?

Let’s continue, Gene Krantz (Ed Harris) is the Flight Director. He is assessing the situation, discussing with others at the Command Center the options. After some typical fault finding, finger pointing and washing of hands of any responsibility, Mr. Krantz directs the staff to refocus on the matter at hand. They develop a list of inventory items in the LM. Director Krantz sends several of the staff members into a room with the items they have to work with. The goal here is to “retrofit” a filter that will reduce the CO2 levels. Gene Krantz informs his team, “Failure is not an option”.

With strength in numbers and brain power, the filter is designed. This was completed by individuals in different capacities of the organization, who came together as a team to meet an immediate challenge. The astronauts where provided instructions on how to fabricate the filter in the LM. The filter was constructed, installed and waited for the results. From the words of Jim Lovell, “Houston… the CO2 level has dropped to 9…and is still falling”. A potential travesty, turns into a success story all coordinated by leadership, teamwork , focus, creativity, brainstorming and a fixation on the same goal!

Though our story lines are not as severe, we can relate. We too have challenges that confront us at times, which may require immediate attention or in the near future. We too can use the same applications as depicted in the movie in resolving our own problems:

  • Clarity of mind and knowledge of the situation
  • There needs to be one willing to take on the role of leadership and that might in some cases be someone other than the assigned leader
  • Define the goal and establish stability
  • Determine the current problems and define the solutions
  • If there are multiple issues facing us, assess and take on the major issue first. Leave the secondary issues for a later time as all items cannot necessarily be resolved at the same time
  • Understand that individuals will seek others to be the “fall guy”. Defer the “fault finding” and get everyone focused on the defined goal
  • Use the surrounding brain power to work together allowing them to use their creativity
  • Know people are typically willing to jump in during a crisis with a relentless determination
  • We engage not for ourselves, but for the benefits of the whole
  • Accept the success or in some cases the failure together, growing from the experience
  • Typically, tough circumstances bring people closer together, especially when all are affected
  • Realize something’s may be out of our hands and the results are not controllable

As you may recall there were a few other challenges in getting the astronauts home, one which was the heat shield that was potentially damaged and critical during the re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. In my opinion, one of the great lines of all times as the Odyssey was approaching re-entry, there was discussions of all the negatives, possibly the worst disaster ever for NASA. Flight Director Krantz overhearing this establishes the defining moment by saying to the NASA Director, “With all due respect sir, I believe this is going to be our finest hour” Is that awesome or what?

The end results were a successful story in that all three astronauts returned home safely. These applications can make your story a successful one as well!

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