Status Report

NASA Transformation White Paper

By SpaceRef Editor
April 4, 2005
Filed under ,
NASA Transformation White Paper

Executive Summary

NASA, as a world-class organization, is committed to sustaining high performance by continually adapting to its environment in order to achieve mission objectives. Changing business practices to achieve the intent of the President’s Management Agenda, and addressing through a variety of means the technical, cultural and organizational factors that contributed to the Columbia accident serve as examples of this openness to change to ensure mission success.

However, preparation for great new opportunities often requires transformational change within an organization. The Agency is currently going through such a transformation as its primary focus is achieving the Vision for Space Exploration and as it strives to institutionalize its core values of Safety, the NASA Family, Excellence, and Integrity. To guide NASA on this journey, three Transformation Goals have been defined – Technical Excellence, Organizational Excellence, and People Excellence.

To achieve these goals, infuse its core values, and execute the Vision for Space Exploration, NASA is managing transformation efforts in an integrated and systematic way. Agency leaders are engaging the NASA Family to build commitment and ensure the best ideas for optimizing the Agency are brought forward. NASA has taken initial steps to transform broadly and deeply to produce an Agency poised to evolve and adapt to the emerging organizational, technological, and mission challenges it will face in pursuit of this new Vision.

Imperative for Transformation

Great organizations continually learn, grow, and adapt to their environments to sustain high performance. NASA’s commitment to continuous improvement to achieve and sustain high organizational performance has been apparent in the Agency’s ongoing efforts to put in place business practices and systems that address the President’s Management Agenda. Other improvements spawned by NASA’s own internal assessments, such as Freedom to Manage, One NASA, the Model Diversity and Equal Opportunity Agency Plan also demonstrate this commitment. The loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew in February 2003 created the impetus for even broader and deeper changes. To ensure that NASA no longer tolerates the flaws and behaviors that led to this tragedy, the Agency is in the process of implementing the findings and recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board that address the systemic technical, cultural, and organizational practices that contributed to the accident.

These improvement activities, though broad in scope, are incremental in nature and focus on improving NASA’s ability to accomplish Agency mission objectives in place prior to January 14, 2004. The unveiling of the Nation’s Vision for Space Exploration on that day provided the United States the opportunity to benefit from the significant returns that result every time exploratory endeavors are undertaken. Such an opportunity, which brings with it a fundamental shift in the Agency’s mission, requires non-linear or transformational change, such as that undertaken by NASA in response to President Kennedy’s mandate “to land a man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth.” The NASA that existed in the early 1960s when President Kennedy announced that decision was a very different and vastly improved organization by the time Neil Armstrong took “one small step.” Similarly, the profound challenges facing NASA to realize the Vision for Space Exploration require a transformation that will produce an Agency optimally designed to achieve this Vision and poised to evolve and adapt to the emerging organizational, technological, and mission challenges it will face in pursuit of it. Appendix A illustrates the primary imperatives that are driving the NASA transformation efforts.

The infusion of NASA’s core values of Safety, The NASA Family, Excellence, and Integrity into every aspect of the Agency lies at the heart of this transformation. We aspire to achieve these values in everything we do. We commit ourselves to the hard work ahead to realize these values. Once we achieve them, we will be vigilant in upholding them. Transformation will align the behaviors of individuals and the performance of organizational units to these core values to ensure a strong foundation for safety and mission success. More detailed descriptions of the NASA values can be found in Appendix B.

Transformation Goals

The Vision for Space Exploration calls on NASA to “implement a sustained and affordable human and robotic program to explore the solar system and beyond.” Sustainability and affordability require focus, integration, and efficiency of effort, including transformation efforts. Focus is provided by the establishment of three Transformation Goals:

  • Technical Excellence: NASA safely and consistently meets mission objectives through relentless technical rigor and sound program and project management practices. The Agency also plans strategically, manages resources effectively, and collaborates to ensure the right people have the right resources at the right times to execute the mission.
  • Organizational Excellence: NASA balances thoroughness with flexibility and innovation in its organizational and business practices to ensure mission success and alignment with Agency core values. It also engages the American people to understand the relevance and value of its work to their general welfare.
  • People Excellence: NASA employs a high-performing workforce and a cadre of exceptional leaders that are committed to NASA’s vision and mission, consistently live Agency core values, and remain adaptable to an ever-changing environment. NASA also fosters an inclusive culture in which all members of the NASA Family communicate openly, feel valued, and are empowered to ensure mission success.

More detailed descriptions of the objectives supporting each goal and the process used to derive them can be found in Appendix C. As a first step, all transformation efforts have been linked to the goals they support. Figure 1 below shows this linkage. While some efforts support multiple goals to varying degrees, the figure shows how these efforts primarily support NASA’s Transformation Goals. Appendix D provides a more detailed linkage of these efforts to the individual objectives supporting the three goals.

Figure 1: Transformation Efforts Mapped to Goals.

Transformation Goal: Technical Excellence

Transformation Efforts

  • Return to Flight
  • ISS Continuing Flight
  • Strategic Plan
  • NASA Independent Technical Authority
  • Renewed Commitment to Excellence (Diaz Report) Implementation
  • Core Competencies Assessment
  • Strategic and Capability Roadmaps

Transformation Goal: Organizational Excellence

Transformation Efforts

  • Integrated Financial Management Program
  • Report of the Roles, Responsibilities, and Structures (Clarity) Team
  • Aldridge Commission Report Response
  • NASA Shared Services Center
  • President’s Management Agenda (PMA) – Competitive Sourcing
  • PMA – Financial Performance
  • PMA – Budget and Performance Integration
  • PMA – E-Government
  • PMA – Real Property Management
  • PMA – R&D Investment Criteria
  • One NASA Implementation
  • Freedom to Manage

Transformation Goal: People Excellence

Transformation Efforts

  • Culture Change Effort
  • President’s Management Agenda – Human Capital
  • Transformation Dialogues
  • Leadership Development Strategy

Managing Transformation Efforts

NASA is managing transformation changes in an integrated and systematic way in order to ensure that its efforts will produce the results needed to prepare NASA to execute the Vision for Space Exploration. To ensure that all systems, processes, and behaviors that impact mission success are in alignment to drive and sustain real, enduring change, NASA is establishing new organizational constructs, policies, and procedures that reinforce desired ways of operating. Through the creation of the Strategic Planning Council and the Operations Council, Agency leaders have an organizational structure that improves decision-making by allowing better integration across the Agency. In addition, changes are being codified in NASA’s management systems and in NASA Procedural Requirements (NPRs) through the revision of four seminal documents – the NASA Strategic Plan (NPR 1000.1), the NASA Organization (NPR 1000.3), the Strategic Management Handbook (NPR 1000.2), and the NASA Program and Project Management Processes and Requirements (NPR 7120.5c). Finally, key senior leadership behaviors have been identified that most reflect NASA’s values and we are integrating these behaviors into NASA leadership development objectives.

Agency leaders are also committed to the rigorous oversight needed to institutionalize change. To ensure that rigor, transformation efforts are being formally tracked, measured, and documented. Appendix E provides a detailed table that outlines the guiding documents, tracking mechanisms, responsible organization, and senior executive with decision authority over all the current transformation efforts. Appendix F serves as a companion piece to Appendix E, by providing a brief description for each current transformation effort.

To build and maintain a broad understanding of the transformation efforts and to engage the NASA Family in the processes needed to ensure the achievement of the three goals, NASA is working to ensure open communications flow regarding transformation through formalized communications and feedback processes. The One NASA Leader-led Workshops held between October 2004 and January 2005 sought to begin building this understanding between senior leaders and the NASA Family resident at the Centers. In addition, the ongoing Transformation Dialogues seek to both keep the NASA Family informed as well as to solicit ideas and comments to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the transformation efforts. “Can We Talk” sessions held around the Agency, where small groups of employees have a face-to-face dialogue with senior leaders serve as another means for creating a more inclusive culture and open communication. Agency leadership is also actively keeping external groups and stakeholders, such as the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, abreast of transformation progress. In combination, the integrated and systematic approach to managing change described above will ensure that NASA’s transformation is effective and sustained.

To the NASA Family

By their nature, change and transformation are continual processes that are difficult and test the human spirit. Change requires the organization’s leaders to make tough choices and, sometimes, unpopular decisions. It is disconcerting for many to see successful and familiar programs re-prioritized, postponed, or cancelled as we move resources to new priorities. But these kinds of decisions and personal adjustments are at the heart of real change and dynamic transformation. They require flexibility and patience. If we turn away from change and transformation opportunities, we will stagnate as an Agency and as individuals. If we embrace the challenges of change and transformation, we will be better equipped to realize the Vision for Space Exploration, and we will find the experience exhilarating and rewarding. No Federal Agency should lay claim to greater eagerness for exploration, change, growth, and challenge than NASA.

APPENDIX A – Imperatives Driving NASA Transformation Efforts

NASA has had a long-standing commitment to continuous improvement to achieve and sustain high organizational performance. The chart below illustrates the various imperatives that drive the NASA transformation efforts. These imperatives stem from our customers, stakeholders, and our own desire to continuously improve. A number of these efforts were already underway in advance of the unveiling of the Nation’s Vision for Space Exploration in January 2004. The new Vision brings with it a fundamental shift in the Agency’s mission that requires non-linear or transformational change.


We are dedicated to the values of Safety, The NASA Family, Excellence, and Integrity. We aspire to achieve these values in everything we do. We commit ourselves to the hard work ahead to realize these values. Once we achieve them, we will be vigilant in upholding them.

We value:


We are committed, individually and as a team, to protecting the safety and health of the public, our partners, our people, and those assets that the Nation entrusts to us. Safety is the cornerstone upon which we build success.


We are a diverse team who are bound together in the most challenging and rewarding endeavors. We respect each other, trust each other, support each other, mourn together, celebrate together, and dream together.


We are committed to achieving the highest standards in engineering, science, management and leadership as we pioneer the future. We thrive on new ideas, experiences, and continuous learning. We are always rigorous in our operations. We demonstrate and communicate an unquenchable spirit of ingenuity and innovation.


We embrace truthfulness and trust, and have the moral courage and obligation to be open, honest, and ethical in all that we do. We treat everyone with dignity and respect. We recognize our responsibilities and are accountable for the important work entrusted to us to better our society for future generations.

…which lead to mission success in our journey of exploration and discovery

APPENDIX C – Transformation Goals & Objectives

Each Transformation Goal is supported by three objectives, as listed below. The objectives are described in terms of a future state for the Agency—a Transformed NASA, optimized to achieve the Vision for Space Exploration. The objectives and future state elements describing them were derived through an analysis and synthesis of the goals articulated for current transformation efforts (Figure 1) as well as recommendations (e.g., from the Aldridge Commission) that are under consideration for adoption by the Agency.

Technical Excellence:

  • Mission Success: NASA safely and successfully meets its mission objectives through relentless engineering and scientific rigor. NASA effectively manages projects and programs by allocating resources in accord with mission objectives and Agency core values, accounting for changing resource requirements throughout program and project lifecycles, and making sound decisions about risk by employing effective safety and engineering checks and balances (both internal and external).
  • Strategic Alignment: NASA provides equal and complementary focus on strategic and operational issues to ensure the Agency’s efforts and resources are aligned to its vision and mission. This includes creation of strategies and plans to ensure a high quality, technically competent workforce with ready access to the necessary facilities, tools, and knowledge to accomplish the mission. NASA invests its resources strategically to ensure mission success, adjusts the availability of resources when needed, and transitions resources no longer required.
  • Sound Resource Management: NASA managers have the required information to understand their costs and make good decisions about resource allocation. They develop realistic schedule, budget, and personnel requirements and credibly defend them. They engage in collaboration with internal and external partners to leverage existing capabilities, eliminate redundancy, and ensure access to the right resources at the right times to achieve NASA’s mission safely and effectively.

Organizational Excellence:

  • Flexible Organization: NASA’s organization is structured to ensure mission success. It is focused, integrated, affixes clear authority and accountability, and has the flexibility and agility to effectively, efficiently, and rapidly adapt to changing mission direction and budget conditions.
  • Best Business Practices: NASA’s processes, policies, and business systems support mission success and align with Agency core values. NASA seeks out and nurtures partnerships that produce the most innovative and cost-effective technical and business solutions in the Federal Government, the Nation, and the World.
  • Public Engagement: NASA effectively engages the public in its vision, and continues to be recognized worldwide for its technical prowess and accomplishments. The American people understand and support this vision through both public sentiment and collaborative efforts with academia and private industry. The White House, Congress, and the general public understand the relevance and value of NASA’s work to the general welfare of the United States.

People Excellence:

  • High-Performing Workforce: NASA recruits, develops and retains a diverse, agile, technically renowned workforce that operates as a unified team and possesses the strategic competencies needed to accomplish the Agency’s mission. All NASA employees—technical and mission support—understand the mission, embrace it, and know how their jobs contribute to the Agency’s success. They are motivated high-performers who value continuous learning, practice innovation, and demonstrate Agency core values in their daily duties.
  • Exceptional Leaders: The Agency grows and develops world-class leaders who are committed to NASA’s vision and mission, and accountable for overall organizational performance. They inspire, motivate, mentor and challenge the workforce. They guide others toward goals, are adaptable to change, and serve as exemplars for living NASA’s core values by demonstrating high standards of honesty, integrity, trust, openness, and respect.
  • Inclusive Culture: The Agency fosters an inclusive culture in which employees and partners feel valued and respected, and are treated with fairness and dignity. NASA employees are excited about the mission, and feel empowered to make valuable and fulfilling contributions to the mission. NASA enables open sharing of issues, concerns, and knowledge to mitigate risk, facilitate use of best practices and lessons learned, and foster personal and professional growth.

APPENDIX D – Transformation Efforts Linked to Objectives

A One NASA working group comprised of Headquarters and Center representatives, in partnership with the Advanced Planning and Integration Office and the Office of Institutions and Management, has been chartered to 1) draft this white paper, including the overall goals and objectives for Transformation; 2) analyze current and proposed activities against these goals and objectives to identify overlapping or conflicting actions, as well as areas in need of increased attention, and 3) help build a solid understanding within the NASA Family of how the initiatives strategically fit together. As a first step, all transformation efforts have been linked to the goals and objectives they support. “PRIME” entered in the box at the intersection of a transformation effort with an objective in the table below indicates that the activity within that effort primarily targets the achievement of that objective. “SECONDARY” indicates that the activity within that effort also targets this objective, but to a lesser extent. Many of these efforts also have ancillary contributions to other objectives, but for clarity we have shown only the predominate objectives targeted.

APPENDIX E – Managing Change and the Transformation Efforts

The table below outlines the guiding documents, tracking mechanisms, responsible organization, and senior executive with decision authority over all the current transformation efforts. For a brief description of each transformation effort, see Appendix F.

Click on image to enlarge

APPENDIX F – Brief Descriptions of Current Transformation Efforts

Efforts Primarily Supporting Technical Excellence

Return to Flight

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) Report, issued in August 2003, characterized the Columbia accident with two causal statements, one “physical” – the sequence of events on Shuttle Mission STS-107 that destroyed the orbiter – the other “organizational” – the failures within NASA that allowed those events to occur. NASA’s “Implementation Plan for Space Shuttle Return to Flight and Beyond” addresses the engineering and management issues associated with returning the Shuttle safely to flight status per the recommendations of the CAIB in its report. The Agency’s culture change effort, discussed below, is designed to address the underlying organizational causes of the accident across the Agency.

The Return to Flight implementation plan outlines NASA’s response to each CAIB recommendation, with the understanding that we must comply with those marked “RTF” before we return to flight. In addition, NASA performed an Agency-wide assessment to identify additional corrective actions – above and beyond those made by the CAIB – to improve our space flight program. These “Raising the Bar” actions are also detailed in this report. Finally, the report outlines the observations made by the CAIB and the Agency’s response to these. When complete, the Agency will not only have fixed the causes of the Columbia accident, but we will have begun a new chapter in NASA history. We are recommitting to excellence in all aspects of our work, strengthening our culture, and improving our technical capabilities.

International Space Station (ISS) Continuing Flight

NASA’s “Implementation Plan for International Space Station (ISS) Continuing Flight” applies lessons learned from the loss of Columbia to the ISS Program and outlines how they will work to implement these lessons into the engineering and management processes of the program. While a number of recommendations were found to be directly applicable, others that did not specifically apply were found to have underlying intent that provided valuable insight that contributed to improving ISS processes.

The ISS Continuing Flight plan calls for a number of improvements to ensure the technical excellence of the program, including: instituting a plan to perform external surveys of the ISS using on-board assets; reviewing its spares provision plans and processes for adequacy; assessment of all analytical models and tools that are used to support on-orbit operations, anomaly resolution, and decision making processes; exploring the use of appropriate national assets to support on-orbit assessment of the ISS external condition; evaluation of whether additional routine wiring inspections will be needed in the future; review and revisions of ISS Mission Management Team charter, processes, and training.

Strategic Plan

The February 2005 release of “The New Age of Exploration: NASA’s Direction for 2005 and Beyond” is a fundamental part of NASA’s commitment to making the necessary changes and to implementing the Vision for Space Exploration. This document establishes NASA’s new strategic framework and objectives, aligns with the Agency’s revised 2006 budget estimates, and will be reflected in our “FY2005 Performance and Accountability Report.” Pending the publication of the next NASA Strategic Plan, the Agency direction will be based on the framework found in “The New Age of Exploration.”

This document serves as the first phase of work associated with the full update of the Agency’s strategic plan. Assessment of Core Competencies and development of Strategic and Capability Roadmaps (described below) will also serve as key deliverables to the strategic planning process. The 2006 NASA Strategic Plan, which will be under full development later this fiscal year, will reflect the guidance of all of these key documents and deliverables.

NASA Independent Technical Authority

In November 2004, as part of NASA’s continued efforts to implement the recommendations of the President’s Commission on Implementation of U.S. Space Exploration Policy and reflect our on going efforts to apply the findings and recommendations of the CAIB, the Administrator delegated technical authority to the Chief Engineer. The Chief Engineer has subsequently delegated this authority using a technical warrant system that is providing a robust and independent technical authority with responsibility and accountability to establish, approve, and maintain technical requirements, processes, and policies.

New policies and procedures have been implemented. NASA Policy Directive 1240.4, NASA Technical Authority, and NPR 1240.1, NASA Technical Warrant System, went into effect in November 2004. The goal of the NASA Technical Warrant system is to establish and execute a standard, formal process for delegating technical authority from the Chief Engineer to competent and experienced individuals conducting and overseeing high-risk technical work in order to assure safe and reliable operations and missions. Technical Warrants are a key part of ensuring that these responsibilities are effectively and efficiently carried out. Also necessary is the continued encouragement of a deep personal sense of responsibility for safe and reliable operations and missions on the part of those performing technical work for NASA that will be provided by the explicit recognition of our “Technical Conscience.”

Renewed Commitment to Excellence (Diaz Report) Implementation

A team was commissioned by the Administrator in September 2003 to assess the broader implications of the CAIB Report on activities across the agency. Under the leadership of Al Diaz, then Center Director for the Goddard Space Flight Center, the team became known as the Diaz Team. The final Diaz Team Report, released in January 2004, is entitled “A Renewed Commitment to Excellence: An Assessment of the NASA Agency-wide Applicability of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report.” The team concluded that 85 of the 193 recommendations, observations, and findings delineated in the CAIB Report were applicable across the entire spectrum of NASA activities. It went on to define 40 specific, Agency-wide actions to address those issues, and assigned responsibility for implementation.

Following release of this report, the One NASA Team was assigned responsibility for creation of the implementation plan to address these 40 actions. In March 2004, the One NASA Team, along with members of senior management and their staff who will serve as Action Leads, completed the plan “The Implementation of the NASA Agency-wide Application of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report: Our Renewed Commitment to Excellence.” This plan applies lessons learned from the loss of Columbia and outlines how they will work to implement these lessons into the engineering and management processes of the Agency to ensure technical excellence in all programs.

Core Competencies Assessment

The Agency initiated an activity in the fall of 2004 to identify, review, and agree upon a recognized set of core competencies for NASA, with each of the NASA Centers designated to play a part in sustaining these competencies for the Agency. Each Center was asked to identify and propose key areas that are vital to NASA’s mission achievement and which must reside within NASA in accordance with certain criteria for a core competency. The Centers were then asked to demonstrate the relationship of these competencies to NASA’s goals and objectives, outline their work strategy and how they balance between NASA and other sources for performing work, how they measure whether their competency is truly world-class, and their funding approach for maintaining competencies. Agency leadership has reviewed these inputs and agreed upon the set of NASA’s core competencies and their designation by Center. In some cases, there may be a demonstrated need for the Agency to have multiple Centers with similar competencies in order to meet Agency requirements in total or with complementary roles in providing the full scope of competency needed. This understanding of the competencies of the Centers, will be periodically reviewed and adjusted where needed based on the evolving understanding of the Agency’s needs, with the first review occurring upon completion of the Strategic and Capability Roadmaps.

Strategic and Capability Roadmaps

Based on several of the recommendations from the Clarity Team Report discussed below, the Agency has restructured and placed an emphasis on the need to perform more effective strategic planning in the future. With the creation of two key executive leadership positions – the Associate Deputy Administrator for Systems Integration and the Director of Advanced Planning, and the creation of the Advanced Planning and Integration Office (APIO), NASA has assured focus on this critical requirement for achieving technical excellence.

Through the Strategic Planning Council, the Mission Directorates, with APIO support, have embarked on creating a sustainable and repeatable process that brings together NASA, other government agencies, industry, and academic partners for development of strategic and capability roadmaps to guide NASA’s future. These strategic roadmaps will assure that NASA’s mission and mission support elements are effectively aligned and integrated to execute our mission and support the recommendations of the Aldridge Commission (see below) to broadly engage partners and commercial providers in the execution of the Vision for Space Exploration. Capability roadmaps will ensure successful development of identified enabling technologies critical to attainment of exploration objectives. These roadmaps will include initial assessments of these technologies, mapping that leads to development of mature technologies, integration of these technologies into exploration architecture, and transition of appropriate technologies to the private sector in the future. Capability roadmaps will ensure that the necessary competencies, tools, and infrastructure will be in place to support the Agency’s vision and mission long term.

Efforts Primarily Supporting Organizational Excellence

Integrated Financial Management

NASA needs high performing business systems and processes to achieve its vision and mission for the future. When the program is fully implemented, NASA’s financial and business communities will have access to a single integrated management system and related processes. This integration will give business managers access to consistent and real-time information – managers will have new visibility into day-to-day operations, allowing for more informed decision-making and management against mission and performance goals. At the heart of IFMP is the need to achieve organizational excellence in order to assure technical excellence.

To date, NASA has implemented five of the ten parts of IFMP: Core Financial, Travel Management, Erasmus (Executive Management Information System), Resume Management, and Position Description Management. When we implemented each part, it resulted in a new Agency-wide software application, improved processes, and, where applicable, new policies. NASA is planning to implement the remaining parts of IFMP over the next several years – Budget Formulation, Integrated Asset Management, Contract Management, Project Systems, and Human Capital Management.

Report on the Roles, Responsibilities, and Structures (Clarity) Team

An internal team was commissioned to develop a streamlined organizational structure for the Agency, clarify the roles and responsibilities of Agency leadership, and increase top-down and bottom-up communication through clear reporting lines. The Roles, Responsibilities, and Structure Team (better known as the Clarity Team) began its work shortly after the release of the President’s Vision for Space Exploration in January 2004. The work of the Clarity Team culminated in a new organizational structure at NASA Headquarters that became effective August 2004.

NASA has experienced a transformation of its organization structure streamlining the agency and putting it in a better position to implement the Vision for Space Exploration. This transformation fundamentally restructures our Strategic Enterprises into Mission Directorates to better align with the Vision. It also restructures Headquarters support functions and clarifies organizational roles and responsibilities. NASA functional offices have been restructured as Mission Support Offices. The agency has redefined its relationships with the NASA Field Centers by developing clear and straightforward lines of responsibility and accountability. Specific Mission Associate Administrators are now assigned as Headquarters Center Executives. They have oversight of field center performance in implementing agency policies and programs.

To improve the Agency’s decision-making processes, NASA created the Strategic Planning Council, the NASA Operations Council, and the positions of the Director of Advanced Planning and the Associate Deputy Administrator for Systems Integration. The Clarity Team report challenged the Agency to continue work on a number of longer-term organizational issues, and that work continues today. This includes efforts to integrate and potentially consolidation of requirements flowing from Headquarters down to the Centers, and consistency in the use of program and project management titles, roles, and responsibilities across all major organizational elements.

Aldridge Commission Report Response

Following the January 2004 Presidential address to articulate a new Vision for Space Exploration in the 21st century, the President created a commission to develop recommendations for advancing the new Vision: the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. Chaired by Edward C. “Pete” Aldridge, this independent group became known as the Aldridge Commission. The release of their report in June 2004, “A Journey to Inspire, Innovate, and Discover,” will influence NASA’s work for years to come and will help guide us through our transformation, leading to foundational changes in our organization and the way we do business.

NASA has already begun to take action on a number of the Commission’s recommendations. The Agency has reorganized and created an Exploration Systems Mission Directorate to affix clear authority and accountability for execution of the Vision. Strategic roadmap development has begun to ensure successful development of identified enabling technologies critical to attainment of exploration objectives. In addition, a team has begun the necessary work to evaluate the feasibility of alternate organizational models for our Centers, such as Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) as recommended by the Commission. As indicated by then Administrator Sean O’Keefe, “While we have indeed accomplished a great deal in NASA’s 45-year history, in many ways we are at the beginning of the age of space exploration. We now have the foundation on which NASA can build a vibrant, safe and sustainable journey.”

NASA Shared Services Center

In the continual pursuit of organizational excellence, NASA has begun implementation of a “shared services” management approach to the performance of a variety of transactional and administrative activities currently being done at each NASA Center. This type of management approach is not new to the private sector; currently 70% of Fortune 500 companies utilize shared services to perform support processes and non-strategic activities. This approach has demonstrated significant cost and efficiency savings as well as higher levels of accuracy and customer service. It also frees up time and resources that can be focused on strategic initiatives and activities that add value to the core business.

The NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC) consolidates targeted activities in the areas of financial management, human resources, procurement, and information technology and places them in one location. It will be a separate organization from a NASA Center, reporting to Headquarters and working collaboratively with the Centers to meet their service needs. The goal of the NSSC is to establish a consolidated shared services organization that will provide timely, accurate, high quality, cost effective, and customer focused support for selected NASA business and technical services.

President’s Management Agenda

The President’s Management Agenda (PMA), issued in 2001, is an explicit effort to improve key aspects of Federal agency management. It is a call to reform government operations, how it goes about its business and how it treats the people it serves. Yet, it also identifies the need to rethink government’s purpose, how it defines what the role of government is and what services it should provide. The President’s vision for government reform is guided by three principles. Government should be: citizen-centered, not bureaucracy-centered; results-oriented; and, market-based, actively promoting rather than stifling innovation through competition.

The PMA began in 2001 as a starting point for management reform in five key areas: Strategic Management of Human Capital, Competitive Sourcing, Improved Financial Performance, Budget and Performance Integration, and Expanded Electronic Government. Recently, two additional management concerns have been added, Real Property Management, and Research and Development Investment Criteria. While the first PMA area, Strategic Management of Human Capital, has clear linkage to the Transformation Goal of People Excellence, all of the remaining elements of the PMA have direct association with our Transformation Goal of Organizational Excellence. It should be noted that NASA is using competitive sourcing as a tool for shaping the workforce to achieve strategic alignment of civil service workforce resources with the core strategy and business of the agency. Our vision for NASA’s future is an organization where each resource makes an optimal contribution towards achieving our mission.

One NASA Implementation

The concept of One NASA simply means that we will operate as one team that applies our many unique capabilities to the pursuit of our shared vision and in keeping with our clearly defined mission. NASA is pursuing a new, bolder framework for exploring our solar system. The One NASA initiative will enable NASA to better fulfill that Vision by 1) ensuring we are making decisions for the common good, 2) fostering more collaboration across the Agency to leverage existing capabilities, and 3) promoting standardization to achieve efficiencies. One NASA enables the Agency to accomplish those things that no one organizational element can possibly achieve on their own.

One NASA recognized that in order to change the culture of a large organization, actions needed to be initiated in all the systems that contribute to organizational excellence: vision, mission, and strategy; leadership; organizational culture; human resources; tools and business practices; communications; and measurement. One NASA has several actions identified in each of these areas to ensure the sustainability of the changes we are trying to achieve.

Freedom to Manage

To help enable the fulfillment of the President’s Management Agenda, in 2002 the Agency created the Freedom to Manage (F2M) Task Force with was chartered to find ways to make NASA an agency that is efficient, effective, and accountable to the American people. The F2M team’s principal role was to identify and stimulate changes that would remove impediments to effective management and help assure organizational excellence. The range of items considered included externally imposed legislation or regulation or internally imposed policies and practices that limit the ability to act in a more responsible way, and non-existing authority that if put in place would enable a more responsible approach. Further, items to be considered may be associated either with present Agency operating approaches or with the implementation of strategic transformation activities.

The F2M Task Force sorted through hundreds of suggestions from employees and, with the support of many of the mission support offices, distilled those to a candidate set of legislative initiatives. Numerous legislative proposals ultimately emerged, and NASA has proceeded to work those toward enactment. The Task Force has continued work to ensure that the remaining impediments, those not encompassed by the current set of legislative proposals, receive the Agency’s full attention. NASA is committed to removing impediments so the NASA Family can go about doing their jobs, enabling the Agency to more effectively deliver on its promises. We owe nothing less to the American public.

Efforts Primarily Supporting People Excellence

Culture Change Effort

The CAIB Report identified “organizational” failures within NASA as contributors to the loss of Columbia. As a result, NASA established the objective of completely transforming its organizational and safety culture to address the concerns cited by CAIB. Behavioral Science Technology (BST) is assisting NASA in the implementation of a plan for changing the safety climate and culture Agency-wide.

This plan recommends working through existing leaders to instill behaviors consistent with the Agency’s values and desired culture, while also establishing the foundation for developing future leaders who will sustain that culture and individual contributors who reflect the desired culture in their actions. A long-term (three-year) plan is identified with a specific series of early actions to launch this effort. Fundamental elements of this plan include reaffirmation of Agency values, executive leadership coaching, individual leadership practices assessment and coaching, behavior observation and feedback processes, behavior-based team effectiveness training, objective analysis of all NASA-sponsored leadership and management development programs, and measurement of organizational change through survey instruments.

Transformation Dialogues

NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, stated during his June 24, 2004, NASA Update that he would be engaging in a broad dialogue with the NASA Family about how we proceed in our efforts to transform the Agency. Beginning in July 2004, the One NASA Team began the Transformation Dialogues – a new way for NASA senior leaders to engage the workforce and to gather input from the NASA Family. The Transformation Dialogues consist of two key components. First is an open web site where any member of the NASA Family with access to the “” domain can enter an online dialogue forum to hear suggestions from employees and enter their own insights into how best to plan the way forward. These forums have allowed employees across NASA to hold discussions at a truly agency-wide level. The postings on the forums are read on a daily basis and each forum has an assigned moderator who summarizes the viewpoints and contributions for inclusion in routine summary reports to senior leaders. The ideas and input gathered have been used as we make transitional decisions that position the Agency for future success.

The second key element is the use of NASA TV for Transformation Dialogue broadcasts where a wide variety of senior leaders can engage the NASA community in discussion on a broad array of topics. Every member of the NASA Family is given an opportunity to hear from senior leaders that they may not normally be exposed to as a routine part of their daily duties. The One NASA Team has established these vehicles to create an unfiltered agency-wide dialogue that allows members of the NASA Family to discuss and debate these ideas openly with senior leadership. Senior leadership uses the data from the forums to identify possible topics that need to be addressed at a strategic level within the agency, and to identify items that need further communications.

Leadership Development Strategy

NASA understands that leadership talent and skill is the engine that drives transformation and organizational functioning. To this end NASA has embarked on a Leadership Development Strategy that ensures a leadership cadre, able to lead NASA’s transformation and perform on a world-class level, in advance of need. This strategy includes the following key elements: an Agency level Leadership Model that lays out the knowledge, skills and experience necessary for high performance at all levels of leadership; an integrated set of Agency and Center level training and development programs and recommended on the job experiences including mobility assignments aligned to elements of the Leadership Model; an individual development strategy, aligned to the Leadership Model, that includes education, training, on the job development and personal development for each level of leadership; a succession management strategy focused on ensuring that there is a pipeline of leaders ready to assume leadership roles in advance of need; targeted development programs aimed at developing leaders including the Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program and the Leadership Development Program; and finally a network of internal and external resources (university partners) that support development of leaders.

SpaceRef staff editor.