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Lessons Learned for Project Managers – Part V (#5 in the series 128 Lessons Learned for Project Managers)
By Jerry Madden

  1. Management principles are still the same. It is just the tools that have changed. You still should find the right people to do the work and get out of the way so they can do it.
  2. It is mainly the incompetent that don’t like to show off their work.
  3. Whoever you deal with, deal fairly. Space is not a big playing field. You may be surprised how often you have to work with the same people. Better they respect you than carry a grudge.
  4. Mistakes are all right, but failure is not. Failure is just a mistake you can’t recover from; therefore, try to create contingency plans and alternate approaches for the items or plans that have high risk.
  5. You cannot be ignorant of the language of the area you manage or with that of areas with which you interface. Education is a must for the modern manager. There are simple courses available to learn computerese, communicationese, and all the rest of the modern ese’s of the world. You can’t manage if you don’t understand what is being said or written.
  6. Most international meetings are held in English. This is a foreign language to most participants such as Americans, Germans, Italians, etc. It is important to have adequate discussions so that there are no misinterpretations of what is said.
  7. NASA Management Instructions (NMIs) are written by another NASA employee like yourself; therefore, challenge them if they don’t make sense. It is possible another NASA employee will rewrite them or waive them for you.
  8. A working meeting has about six people attending. Meetings larger than this are for information transfer.
  9. Being friendly with a contractor is fine — being a friend of a contractor is dangerous to your objectivity.
  10. The old NASA pushed the limits of technology and science; therefore, it did not worry about “requirements creep” or over-runs. The new NASA has to work as if all are fixed price; therefore, “requirements creep” has become a deadly sin.

Reprinted with permission from NASA. This article first appeared in NASA’s ASK Magazine, the NASA source for Project Management and Engineering Excellence.

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