108: Preparing for Glory in NASA’s Information Technology Program

People always ask me why I blog.  And I have my standard answers: (1) to learn about one of the many amazing Web 2.0 technologies; (2) to utilize diverse communication media; (3) to focus my leadership thoughts and hone ideas; and (4) to be transparent.


Some have suggested I have ridiculous and selfish reasons like entertaining the public or promoting myself.  So, be warned you may want to skip to the next item in your RSS Feed because this blog is for me – for my selfish purposes.  This is just a conversation.  Perhaps no purpose and perhaps no value to you … but of value to me and maybe to the 108 men and women who work in my organization. 


Something didn’t go my way recently … boo-hoo.  No more whining.  Whining (as well as sleeping) is for wimps! As I stood on a sidewalk outside of the Las Vegas McCarran Airport, I got another discouraging email from my Deputy, Mark.  Since I was already preparing for glory by putting my life savings on #11 black, I told him to schedule an All Hands Meeting.  I’ll tell the staff the bad news myself – if I come back. 


As young managers, we spend a lot of time understanding new and unique ways of motivating our workforce.  As seasoned leaders, we find ourselves in a position to lead and motivate even more people to do greater things and yet must somehow … someway … find the inner strength, courage and stamina to motivate ourselves even in the face of a setback or a defeat or even death.


So I stayed up until 1:30 am preparing a power point presentation for my All Hands Meeting.  All the right motivational words; the right context; restate the IT vision for the future (for the 5,000th time).  I’ll spell check later. Time to say my prayers and try to get a little sleep.  By the time I woke up in the morning, my thoughts drifted to the movie 300. So I decided to throw away the power point, but now, I had no clue what I was going to say to keep my folks motivated and engaged. Poster from Movie 300 - Prepare for Glory


The movie is a fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae circa 480 B.C.  In the movie, 300 Spartans, united with courage and fortified with geographic advantage, take a stand and are barely defeated by a Persian Army of over 100,000.  This battle buys enough time to create political support for the creation of a Spartan-Greek alliance that eventually defeats the King of Persia.


Just 300 Spartans.  I thought of the 108 employees in my Directorate.  I hate to even call them employees – I work for them instead. I think a better term is to refer to them as the 108 Spartans in my Directorate.  300 Spartans facing death? 108 NASA men and women facing change? Different yet non-trivial events.


Change and death.  Most change management professionals will tell you that people resist change because of fear.  And fear of death is similar to fear associated with change. As we go through change, as individuals or as organizations, we must be prepared for flesh wounds or setbacks.  Leaders must prepare themselves and their organizations for change. 


There was a great scene in the movie where a Spartan soldier got his eye gouged out.  His leader asks if he will be ok with that little scratch.  The soldier says, no problem, I have a spare.   As leaders prepare themselves and their organizations for glory, we all must be prepared for the inevitable little scratches. 


Yeah, this blog’s for me … and the 108 brave Spartan men and women who work in Goddard Space Flight Center’s IT and Communications Directorate.  Today, we prepare for glory.


Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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