ASK OCE — May 10, 2006 — Vol. 1, Issue 8
Message from the Chief Engineer
The Technical Excellence Initiative
By Chris Scolese
This issue provides a summary of the Program and Projects Management Challenge Conference as well as a discussion of the NPOESS program and the future of human space flight. All three of these are linked by the need for strong technical leadership. This was a theme of the conference and is required if large programs like NPOESS and Constellation are to succeed. While all present significant management challenges, they are challenges that go beyond organization to the heart of the space business — our ability to understand, manage, execute, and ultimately deliver complex technical systems. We at NASA are in the process of strengthening our capabilities and management. One very important aspect of this is the Technical Excellence Initiative.
The Technical Excellence Initiative is a series of activities that support achieving safety and mission success by institutionalizing technical excellence into the values, norms, beliefs, and practices of NASA.
The initiative has a secondary objective of enhancing the Agency's ability to perform multi-center activities efficiently and effectively by ensuring that core standards and practices are uniform across the agency. Such multi-center activities will become more common as NASA focuses Agency-wide assets on the programs that will comprise the Vision for Space Exploration.
The scope of the Technical Excellence Initiative is broad and currently includes:
- Incorporating a new Technical Authority model that provides organizational independence from programs and projects.
- Revising fundamental agency policy and directives such as those governing space flight systems, systems engineering, and program/project management procedures (the new revision of NPR 7120.5).
- Enhancing NASA's approach to providing and supporting continued growth and recognition for those individuals who choose to pursue long-term scientific or engineering careers.
- Creating new professional development programs to enhance our engineering and project management capability, with particular emphasis on systems engineering.
- Establishing a NASA-wide policy that empowers individuals to raise concerns and provides supervisors and managers with a formally recognized process to address difficult issues and dissenting opinions.
- Developing a policy that clarifies the Agency's approach to handling waivers and deviations.
The Technical Excellence Initiative is dynamic and will continue to add new activities as appropriate to support the Agency's goal of achieving safety and mission success.