Back to Basics: Lessons from Apollo 13

Even if this 1970 race against time, to get three astronauts back to earth is a fading memory for many, it is recalled time and again when we shout out TEAM WORK.

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Screamed the headlines!

Even if this 1970 race against time, to get three astronauts back to earth is a fading memory for many, it is recalled time and again when we shout out TEAM WORK.

It took an army of mission control teams at NASA, under the leadership of Gene Kranz to meticulously work over grueling hours of distress. It was a fight against plummeting fuel cells and supplies to bring these brave men back to safety. In this battle against time, the focus to come out with possible solutions with a positive frame of mind, surfaced for all to remember. Adversity does something strange to us, but it needn’t always be under adversity that teams flourish.

We would all agree there is certainly more to team engagement than beer bashes and brown bag lunches. It is as much as science as an art, requiring a set of deliberate actions.

It starts with the ‘Why’:

Purpose brings that effervescent feeling. Despite individual differences and preferences, it drives one to a common cause. Be it stormy weather or smooth sailing, it’s the purpose which keeps teams focused as they move towards this north star.

Why do we exist?

Why are we doing what we are doing?

Why do we choose to be a certain way over others?

Why would we make a difference, together?

These questions help teams reflect on their holy grail.    The folks at NASA were connected by a single purpose, the safety of their fellow countrymen.

The set of Team behaviors:

There’s an old adage which goes 'what energy is to an individual, synergy is to a team’.  Teams have an unwritten set of behaviors which become part of team culture. These could range from the need for transparency or straight talk, listening, empathy, responsiveness, drive to achieve. Teams which consistently display and even consciously call it out, truly stand out.  Now date back to the Apollo 13 Mission control room, where team members had to display the behavior of ‘trust each other’s expertise’, setting aside egos, to bring the two-man lunar lander back to earth.

Recall, Repeat:

Teams who have a purpose go beyond glossy pin ups. It becomes muscle matter with an act of repeat and recall.  Think about moments when to deliberately call them out. Be it during on-boarding new members, team stand ups, program execution or problem solving.  They establish processes for sustenance.

The power of communication: One cannot ignore the need for communication as the secret sauce to team building, with trust being the foundation. Channels of communication help achieve interdependent goals. If decisions need to be made and executed, access to the right kind of information at the right time requires conscious communication among team members.

Apollo 13 was named as the mission which could not fail. Hundreds of engineers were divided into teams, which required that precise orchestration to extend resources which the astronauts had just for a few days. Each decision proved crucial for a momentary extension of their lives. Much is owed to the communication channels which were established to make it happen.

Embrace the power of Tech:

With two decades into the 21st century, managers can now keep a real time sense on team engagement and take meaningful actions. Just as the mission control room nudged the teams to get the astronauts to safety, a real time check in on engagement is getting more sophisticated through tools and tech.

Fitbots real time performance & engagement check in platform does just that for you. It’s simple, fun and easy, and oh yes! Helps you stay the course. Write in to us to know more.

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