What are the real world benefits of having a strategic foundation?
An article in Fast Company issue 121 by Charles Fishman called “To the Moon in a Minivan” reports on NASA’s approach to develop, along with Lockheed Martin, the replacement spacecraft for the space shuttle. What makes it particularly interesting is the treatment of the strategic elements within NASA’s plan, providing a behind the scenes look at how a major enterprise applies strategic concepts to move an effort ahead.
We learn NASA’s "vision" statement (“To the moon, Mars, and beyond”) and how its effort is bounded by direct critical success factors such as keeping the spacecraft’s weight under 50,250 pounds, focusing on simplicity & utility, and exploiting pre-existing technology (even going as far back as the Apollo program) before inventing new solutions. Importantly, the program has a simple and very visual statement to align its development efforts. According to Ship Hatfield, the NASA project manager for the capsule, the Orion spacecraft is “more like a mini-van. It’s more of a vehicle to go to the grocery store in.”
With a picture like this for a project team, making strategic decisions becomes much easier.