5 Critical Lessons from NASA
NASA’s space program is shutting down. But, not after putting the man on the moon, participating in the International Space Station and developing the Hubble Telescope. These accomplishments were not without failure. I still have vivid memories of watching the space shuttle exploding while carrying the first teacher into space.
While I was in college, I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Neil Armstrong, Captain Eugene Cernan, David Hartman & Dick Rutan speak at the Richmond Forum. One thing Armstrong spoke about was John Kennedy issuing the challenge of sending a man to the moon. At the time, we did not have a clue how we were going to do it. Amazingly, three years after the challenge, NASA innovated and sent a man to the moon.
While it is a sad day, there are many timeless business lessons we’ve applied from NASA. Now, we’re certainly not saying that our work is nearly as important as NASA’s – I mean, we sell polyester for a living – but there are some timeless gems that have inspired us:
- Timing Matters – NASA is fanatical about timing. They’re constantly adjusting take-off times to match with the weather and conditions. For us, the #1 buying concern stems from time: “Can I get them by kickoff?” Everything we do is timeline driven. It puts us on edge every day as we rush through order. Yes, timing matters.
- Collaboration is Imperative – In order to pull off the miracle of guaranteed on time delivery, we must be in synch at all times. From raw material planning, to production scheduling to pushing out longer days to meet commitments, it takes a team effort from order entry to UPS delivery.
- Innovate – From the start, we set out to do business differently. One aspect that we saw as a no-brainer was to include free personalization on your soccer jerseys. Every team we know requires a team logo and player number. So, what should have been common sense was actually innovative at the time – and still is innovative as we continue to make the process easier, cheaper and faster for our teams.
- Re-Invent – We rolled out The Customizer because we listened to customer feedback. While it certainly would be easier to limit customer’s choices and always turn to in-stock product on the shelves, we re-invented how we could add value to the supply chain. We allow customers to design soccer jerseys on the most favorable terms: ten piece minimum, ten day turnarounds and no surcharges. It’s a re-invention that I’m really proud the team drove and executed.
- Aggressively Review, Critically Assess and Continually Move Forward – NASA had its failures. Between the Challenger and Discovery disasters, they had dramatic, public failures. And, they had to move forward. We fail too. For us, the failure is in disappointment of not executing and a team not having their uniforms by game day. As soccer people, it’s an awful, sinking feeling when you make a mistake. But, we review, critically assess and continually move forward.
We’d love to thank NASA for the inspiration through our lifetimes. We’re sad the space program won’t be reaching the far reaches of the Universe, but we’re thankful for the critical lessons you’ve taught us to become a better company. We’ll continue the internal rally call of “Mission Critical” when delivering our soccer uniforms.