Enhanced Performance Systems - ICCS


This Youtube video clip from the movie “Apollo 13” portrays the events that actually took place in the NASA Control Center in Houstan in April of 1970.  The clip opens as the team becomes fully aware of the crisis that is unfolding on Apollo 13 as it orbits the moon.  What director Ron Howard has done is a masterful job of showing managements role in:  1) Providing the structure and direction necessary to hold a team together in a crisis, and; 2) Recognizing and taking advantage of the cognitive skills and abilities of the different members of the team.


As you watch the clip pay close attention to the following:


The control room in Houston is filled with a lot of highly technically educated individuals, each of whom has a particular area of expertise that is relevant to the mission.  These individuals have become experts by being very focused and detail oriented.  Under pressure the mistake they will make is to become rigid and inflexible.  As the clip begins you will see that tendency reflected in a lot of critical negative comments.  “You can’t run a vacuum cleaner on 12 amps John,” “It’s never been tried,” “Never even been simulated before Gene.”


Gene Kranz the flight director is aware of the negativity.  He can be seen as an individual who is very sensitive to everything going on in the room, as someone who thinks well on his feet, and as someone who trusts his instincts.  John Arron the controller is dominated by an analytical/strategic style of concentrating and he quickly identifies the most critical issue that the team will have to deal with.  Kranz listens to what he has to say, accepts it, makes a timely decision, and then provides the specific structure and direction that each of the technical experts needs to let go of their criticism and doubt and focus on what it is they can do to try and effect a solution.