NASA’s down-to-Earth strategy
Not every organization is preparing for future trips to Mars or searching for planets well beyond our solar system. But while the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) pursues these and additional otherworldly ambitions, its approach to strategy delivery offers real-life lessons for all industries.
Today NASA faces considerable challenges to implement its strategy and achieve its mission. These include tight budgets, increasing competition from venture-capital-funded startups and the all-important safety needs surrounding human spaceflight. To address these challenges and continue to innovate, the government agency relies on several guiding principles.
Embrace Smart Simplicity
The first of these principles is to stay focused on what really matters and keep things as simple as possible. This can be challenging given that 90% of NASA’s projects are managed via a complex “supply chain of thousands of organizations” and “international collaborators” around the world, according to Edward Hoffman, academic director of the Master of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy program at Columbia University and NASA’s former Chief Knowledge Officer. For this reason, NASA relies on the science community to help simplify strategy design and implementation.
One way NASA accomplishes this is by conducting a decadal survey that asks respondents to identify and prioritize the agency’s strategic initiatives. Experts from academia, think tanks and other government agencies look out into the future and recommend key research areas. Directives may range from forming valuable international partnerships to conducting large-size missions on Earth surface deformation and change.