We attended a performance of Gustav Holst's The Planets at CU Boulder this week. Its was a combined media show, with music from the CU Orchestra (undergrad and grad music students) and a visual presentation of planetary pictures from the NASA missions to all the planets narrated by NASA astronaut Joseph Tanner, senior instructor in Aerospace Engineering Sciences at CU-Boulder.
What struck me was the following:
- The conductor, Gary Lewis, led the students in two pieces that night. Each student had a part to play, complete with music. They knew the parts well, followed Maestro Lewis's lead, while adding their skills and experience to the performance
- Mr. Tanner spoke many times during the evening the collaborative efforts of Jet Propulsion Laboratory, prime and subcontractors, and all the participants in the planetary missions for the success and some times the failures.
- At the conclusion of the concrete, both Maestro Lewis and Mr. Tanner both spoke of the collaborative efforts to produce the performance.
What struck me was ever one of the Orchestra members, the visual effects people, Mr. Tanner's experience as a Navy Pilot, Flight Instructor, Astronaut; Maestro Lewis' efforts to lead, mentor, and grow the students skills and experiences on the their path professional musicians or other careers was guided by the sense of mission.
My experience observing space flight missions (I'm in the program planning and controls side of that work), is if you want to see grown men cry, be in the control room when their space craft lands on Mars, enters orbits at Saturan, or crashes in the desert (some of the missions I've been around for). Why do grown men - and women - have tears for these events? Because they are watching their childern perform their job. Just like real children.
Here's the real point. Those missions, those participants, those efforts are not about ME, they are about the mission. Sure there are egos involved. Talented people have egos. But you never, and I mean never, hear them talking about It's all about me, what I need, what I want to do.
These types of programs are focused on the external outcomes - mission success, rather than self actualization of the work. The self actualization happened long before arriving on the team. And that team that so many in the software development world talk about is not a team for themselves, it's a team for the mission - beyond the customer, the MISSION. Here's a mix of animation and real footage for a Mars Lander. Eeveyone in the room is there for the mission.