It is April 11th, 1970. Apollo 13 is going to be launched from Kennedy Space Center to be NASA’s third moon landing mission. Everything was fine until 2 days into the mission an oxygen tank in the service module of the craft failed and it made the spacecraft crew to abort the mission and try and come back to earth. Now more than 50 years after that incident, we will take a look what really happened there and what it teaches us how to achieve success through failure.
The crew orbited the moon instead due to the extreme explosion, and did point the craft back home to planet earth. The crew unfortunately encountered a chain of troubles, each with life-threatening effects. The crew and personnel at Apollo 13 tried to tackle these issues with amazing agility and responsibility, which finally led to safe landing the three astronauts back on Earth.
Historic incidents like those tell one a lot on how to keep resilient in a crisis. Times of instability push us to slow down, think of the bigger picture, and develop new and bold solutions to challenges that may at first show up irresolvable.
Today , business owners can think fondly on this historic mission to realize what we call the Steps To Accountability — a four-step problem-solving model that can help managers solve today’s most complex challenges. Here’s how it functions.
Step 1: See it
The very first step in staying agile and taking responsibility for success is the readiness to see the truth. Any problem at a space flight is a question of life or death. The first move when the Apollo 13 oxygen tank exploded was to compute the distance between earth and the point in the route of the space craft when important resources would run out.
Mission control team quickly evaluated the quantity of every essential that the staff required to make it alive — water, power, and carbon dioxide reduction were the primary issues. Information like this are crucial; it’s difficult to decide precisely what issues need to be addressed without that sort of detail. What they found was utterly terrifying: the broken Command Module was unable to help the return of the crew.
This needs courage to understand the truth of such crisis. However, leaders knowing a situation’s maximum magnitude are faster to react to the big problems that occur. It’s useful to look at what preferences have changed in today’s disturbed world to keep the business on track to deliver results. Assess infrastructure from human capital, budget, supply chain, and bandwidth. Disruption wrecks the current state of affairs and also speeds up innovation. If executives may understand the uncertainty and how it prevents their staff from meeting their goals and achieve success, they may remain flexible and find a better path to accomplish their target or transition to a new result.
Step 2: Own It
The Apollo 13 mission controllers were engaged in providing their outcome: “How do we securely get this team back to earth?” without someone taking responsibility and openly managing their role in delivering on this result, the Apollo 13 mission would be recognized for quite another reason.
As with Apollo 13, getting momentum throughout a crisis takes a personal involvement of every member of the organization. Making a mental commitment to own new results or creating a new procedure to meet the goals set is vitally important to move forward quickly. This is not enough to be able to adjust. Everybody needs to get engaged in being part of the answer rather than waiting for instructions.
Step 3: Solve It
The most critical move in accepting responsibility for the expected outcome is to say, “What more can I do?” This is exactly the reasoning behind the mission controllers when they tried to get the crew back to home safely.
When it was apparent that the crew would have to leave the Lunar Module Command Module — and spacecraft that wasn’t built for space flight and could only carry two out of three astronauts on the moon for two days. The team asked, “What more can I do?” and rapidly engineered an additional carbon dioxide removal system. Following the mission control commands, the astronauts had one hour to build that device out of plastic bags, cardboard, lunar suit parts, and a lot of tape.
The question of “What else can I do in moments of crisis?” is never about doing more, but about changing the way you behave and act to accomplish the outcome. Taking responsibility means that you are thinking hard about various ways of innovating and moving forward. By returning to this way of thinking, staff from all organizational levels can openly work to solve problems plaguing their businesses.
Step 4: Do It
The last three steps without following through will be left pointless. Classifying who should do what and by when is the secret to execution. The team followed their decisions by identifying “who” and “by when” to make an additional carbon dioxide removal system, getting ready the Lunar Module as their space sinking boat, and who would go to work and create a brand new process to reactivate a cold control module with limited energy options. These events led the Apollo 13 mission to its goal of bringing astronauts group home successfully.
Although Apollo 13 had not achieved its intended objective of reaching the moon, the project was still considered a successful failure.
Just like space mission, businesses can’t achieve success and their expected results till they implement their plans. The Do It and Fix It steps can be reworked periodically to produce a different outcome or pivot when goals are not being achieved. Yet, unless organizations bring transparency into practice, goals can never be met.
Achieve Success through Failure
Although Apollo 13 had not achieved its intended objective of reaching the moon, the project was still considered a successful failure. The mission control department received a lot of experience into how to cope effectively with a situation that could bring their staff to life or death. They were also able to take pictures of the surface of the moon as they went by.
Like with the space mission, businesses will still gain success in the midst of a crisis. Although the initial goals may not yet be achievable, teams should stay flexible and evolve in a number of ways to produce new outcomes. They will be much better prepared with the technologies needed to keep themselves responsible when the chaos hits and propels them forward.