Space Case Study

In Knowledge@Wharton, Michael Useem interviews Charles Elachi, director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. As overseer of the Mars missions, Elachi elaborates on what it takes to lead such a visible — and high stakes — endeavor.

One of his tactics is to bring in outside experts on a case-by-case basic for extremely specific engagements.

The other process we follow is to have senior people work on projects so that they can carefully review everything with several checks and balances. We do a lot of peer reviewing. We bring in people who have been involved in the program but not on a day-to-day basis, and who have technical depth, to look into new ideas that may be proposed to solve problems. As soon as we saw that Spirit had developed problems, we called upon a number of technical experts at JPL to help the team with the issue.

When was the last time you looked outside of your organization for a quick bit of input and insight? Beyond consulting, this kind of interorganizational collaboration has promise.