The Four Meta Forces – Mission, People, Technology and Place

The future of work is arguably one of the most explored topics in recent years and drives ongoing study, analysis, and contemplation by academics, practitioners and policymakers, and continues as a dominant narrative across fields broadly ranging from business to the arts. To develop our own Future of Work framework, NASA started with a detailed literature review to gather information on current and projected work trends. Next, the team pursued additional primary research to validate initial findings and listen directly to our workforce. We conducted 5 workshops, surveyed 100 employees, interviewed numerous leaders, and attended numerous conferences, seminars, and gatherings. The data collected from this process led to the observations and insights in the report.

During the literature review, we looked for recurring patterns and themes. We catalogued countless disruptors and drivers that revealed unprecedented change and new possibilities in the Future of Work. From this research, we identified four largely uncontrollable external factors that influence our organization. These factors, or meta forces, include mission, people, technology, and place. They act as lens to view the future of work at NASA.

Mission: Space as an industry is emerging with increasing and new competition. The influence of existing laws, complex regulations, policies and processes impact NASA’s ability to implement its mission. NASA’s mission is to drive advances in science, technology, aeronautics, and space exploration to enhance knowledge, education, innovation, economic vitality and stewardship of Earth. Our mission statement outlines our fundamental purpose as we partner with private companies and international entities to reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.

People: An organization’s greatest asset is its people. Understanding the expectations, preferences, and behaviors of the diverse, multigenerational workforce will allow us to develop new talent strategies that go beyond today’s practices and leverage the many drivers reshaping the global talent landscape. Building NASA’s dynamic workforce of tomorrow requires that we value diversity, encourage new skill development, and understand changing expectations. NASA’s current workforce offers a snapshot of the evolving multi-generational makeup – just one critical factor we must consider as we rethink and reinvent human capital programs and services.

Technology: The most widely discussed driver of change for the future of work is technology. The evolution of technology is fast paced and alters the way we communicate information and coordinate in real time. Technology enables NASA to more effectively translate data into knowledge and improves the Agency’s ability to make real-time strategic decisions and increase operational efficiencies.

Place: Where we work, when we work and how we work is constantly changing. As we continue to migrate towards a global and connected workforce, we anticipate new opportunities to improve employee engagement and satisfaction through the use of our physical and virtual spaces. NASA is an early adopter of telework across the government and continues to explore new work arrangements.

These four forces have significant impact on NASA, it’s workforce and the future of work. Now that we have defined the four meta forces individually, our next will post will explore the intersection of these forces and the eight insights that come from them. Stay tuned for our next post!

About the Authors:

Nick Skytland | Nick has pioneered new ways of doing business in both government and industry for nearly two decades. He leads the Future of Work initiative at NASA and is the Agency Talent and Technology Strategist in the Talent Strategy and Engagement Division within the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (OCHCO).

Jani Smith | Jani is an early career consultant from LMI who has been working with NASA’s OCHCO for a little over a year. Supporting the Future of Work initiative at NASA, she strives to bring policy, practicality, and creativity together in the working world.