The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

If They Were Able To Manage A Space Disaster, You Can Learn Management From Them …

There’s a lot of talk about management techniques.

A hell of a lot.

And while many are good … a huge amount take something that could be about 10 pages long, and stretch it into a book that is about 300 pages.

Recently I read an article about management that I thought was amazing.

Not just because it wasn’t meant to be about that subject, but because it highlighted that great management has nothing to do with age but everything to do with leadership, trust, empowerment and delegation.

It’s the story behind the disastrous Apollo 13 space mission.

You should read it, if only for the story that leads up to the last line:

“If you spend your time thinking about the crew dying, you’re only going to make that eventuality more likely.”

Read it here. Happy weekend.

24 Comments so far
Leave a comment

What a brilliant article. So much pressure and so young. Great lessons in leadership but I think I the part you liked most.

“Exemplary leadership is what got them through that first hour. Kranz kept his team and the vehicle together masterfully, buying time enough to start solving the problem. When reviewing the response to sudden crises, we often overlook that chaotic period, simply because it has little real structure and doesn’t appear to move things forward. But preventing a team from disintegrating in the face of an apparently overwhelming challenge is a feat in itself”.

Chaos is a sign of exemplary leadership.

Comment by George

Maybe. But though he said he liked it, the pessimistic side of his chaos would never allow him to follow this piece of advice. “If you spend your time thinking about the crew dying, you’re only going to make that eventuality more likely.” Brilliant article. I wonder how many corporations would allow people that young to rise to be in those positions of power these days?

Comment by Bazza

Well he does call himself a positive pessimist.

Comment by George

To be fair to me, I tend to be pessimistic only about how others will treat people rather than me being pessimistic. In fact I would say my biggest strength and weakness is my ability to be hugely positive about every project I take on. Believing how special we can make this. And sometimes it happens. And other times clients lack the ambition or honesty they need to achieve what they claim they want. And then I tell them and that’s where the arguments start. Haha.

Comment by Rob

Ok, I accept that. But I know you still had moments where you said “everything is shit, we’re going to go down in flames”.

Comment by Bazza

I heard Robert say “everything is shit” and “we’re going to go down in flames”, but never together. In fact, the few occasions I remember Robert saying the latter, he said it with glee in his voice, because we were going to scare the client straight.

Comment by George

I had the occasional “this bit is shit” about some work I showed Rob, but never an “everything is shit.”

I agree with George that whenever I heard “we’re going to go down in flames”, he said it in a good way. And he was right most of the time, which led to his infamous “tough love is still love.”

Comment by Pete

Can you stop talking/writing like I’m dead.

I’m here. I’m even awake.

As George and Pete bizarrely remember Baz, I never said those 2 phrases together. Maybe you remember it because I once said your work was “all shit” and you connected it to how you felt when you heard it which was, “I’m going down in flames”?

Just trying to help. Ha.

Comment by Rob

To answer your question Baz, I would imagine only start-ups would allow people at such a relatively young age to be so high up in terms of organisational structure. Which is ridiculous as I’ve met a lot of relatively young talent who have incredible leadership skills as much as I’ve met older senior leadership who were only leaders in name, rather than actions.

It’s never about age, but capability. And while experience can add a lot to that, it can also be a hindrance but ageism is rife in business. For both the young and old. And yet companies still value that more than capability.

Comment by Rob

Rob. Can I remind you of yesterday’s post.

Specifically the part where you write “when you criticise someone, they don’t stop loving you, they stop loving themselves.”

I’ll be sending my therapy invoices to you.

Comment by Bazza


Rob has had a few of those recently, including from Otis.

Comment by Pete

You got me Baz.

Not as well as Otis did (thanks a lot Pete) but you got me. Ha.

Comment by Rob

nice work bazboy. first bit of efficient strategy ive seen from you.

Comment by andy@cynic

Baz. From defeat to victory in a few comments.

Comment by DH

Many great things to take away. But the main one is shooting people into space and bringing them back after a major catastrophe is more complex and pressured than any manager or CEO will ever face. Even in the times we are going through now. It was an incredible read. Thank you Rob.

Comment by Pete

Yes. Good point. Dealing with the terrible impact of corona virus may be the closest a CEO will come to the pressure and complexity those guys faced. And the people on the ground weren’t CEO’s. They were, at best, smart managers. Smart, very young managers.

Comment by Rob

Talking of pressure, have you heard that B-Reel in London and M&C in LA have closed due to corona. This will be a blood bath to the industry – and I am sure many more will fall. It’s so sad. And while I know things will pick up eventually and people will find jobs, it’s a scary time. Few will be immune from this which is another reason we must help each other even when the temptation is to look after ourselves.

Comment by Rob

I heard. It’s very sad. It will affect every agency so I hope the holding companies are going to look after their people before their profits and bonuses. I am not sure I can say they will.

Comment by Pete

That is very sad news. As you said, there will be more.

Comment by George

Kranz may have been young but he arguably had more flight experience than anyone. Knowledge is power etc. Well it should be.

Comment by John

Yes it should be. But in the era of populist politics, it is labelled as weakness and fear-mongering.

Comment by Rob

And that’s just your clients.

Comment by John

youre the biggest fucking disaster for people to deal with campbell. i survived. where the fuck is the guardian article on me?

Comment by andy@cynic

You’re too good for them.

Comment by DH

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: