I woke up at 4:12AM not surprised at my typical sleeplessness, but wondering what all the adrenalin was about. After giving it a few minutes of thought, I decided that I was excited about getting ready to make another trip to NASA’s Stennis Space Center. I must admit that I always look forward to meeting with people out at NASA’s field Centers – and I must also admit that I did “pre-order” some Sweet Potato French Fries and Seafood Bisque from the Rocketeria. But, there was more to this sleepless excitement.
I realized what it was when I remembered having a conversation with someone from Stennis who came up to HQ earlier this year. Many of the NASA Centers struggled with coping with the news about the future of the Constellation program. Stennis was no different, I suppose. So, I asked about the mood and morale at Stennis. The person I spoke to said that it was surprisingly upbeat. But, she thought maybe everyone was still celebrating the New Orleans Saints Super Bowl victory and Mardi Gras. Somehow, I didn’t think that mood was temporary. At 4:20AM, I realized I was looking forward to their spirit of resilience.
Sometimes the “N” part of my INTP Meyers-Briggs archetype feels like a curse. Especially with my ability to “feel” the echoes of the Katrina devastation as I walk briskly through Louis Armstrong Airport and drive efficiently through the yet-to-be restored sections of the ninth ward. Other times, the “N” part is a blessing, as I get to feel the spirit of optimism, courage, and resilience from the inhabitants of the Small But Mighty Stennis Space Center.
Resilience is called out by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as an essential core qualification for executive leaders in the Federal Government. It is one of the necessary competencies that an executive has for Leading Change. OPM defines Leading Change as:
“… the ability to bring about strategic change, both within and outside the organization, to meet organizational goals. Inherent to this … is the ability to establish an organizational vision and to implement it in a continuously changing environment.
It includes the competency of resilience which is demonstrated by a leader who:
“Deals effectively with pressure; remains optimistic and persistent, even under adversity. Recovers quickly from setbacks.”
As we move forward to implement goals and objectives of Open Government and innovation, it’s not surprising that the cultural change requires personal and organizational resilience. Perhaps to be open means to open oneself and one’s organization to criticism and scrutiny. Yet, we have to recover quickly, correct mistakes, and take our lumps. To innovate means to walk on landscape that has not been mapped through the richness and legacy of our proven processes and policies. It means the ability to keep trying when you fail; to take criticism on the chin and stay in the fight. When failure is an option, resilience means learning and recovering quickly from setbacks and disappointments.
My trip to Stennis meant more than getting my fix from high-fat, low glycemic index carbohydrates from the Rocketeria. It meant being reminded by The Mighty that getting their way isn’t as important as knowing which way to go; that clouds have silver linings; and that potential set backs are prospective opportunities.
Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA