X

Mike Mullane

Speaker Mike Mullane keynotes on teamwork and leadership

Speaker:

MIKE MULLANE

 Inductee into the International Space Hall of Fame and is the recipient of many awards, including the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit and the NASA Space Flight Medal

Topics:

Count Down to Teamwork

Countdown to Safety

The Lighter Side to Space Flight


A West Point graduate, Vietnam Veteran, and member of the Space Hall of Fame are just a few of Colonel and speaker Mike Mullane’s many accomplishments.  Mullane was selected as a Mission Specialist in 1978 in the first group of Space Shuttle Astronauts. He completed three space missions and logged 356 hours in space aboard the Shuttles Discovery (STS-41D) and Atlantis (STS-27 & 36).

Colonel Mullane is the recipient of many awards, including the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, and the NASA Space Flight Medal.  He is the author of an award-winning children’s book, Liftoff!  An Astronaut’s Dream, and a popular space-fact book, Do Your Ears Pop In Space? His memoir, Riding Rockets, The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut has also been extremely well received.   Colonel Mullane also was the host of Inside Space, a nationally syndicated cable television program of the USA Network.

Speaker Mike Mullane

Count Down to Teamwork

In “Countdown To Teamwork” Astronaut Mullane delivers a hard-hitting, substantive teamwork and leadership program that is also wonderfully entertaining. (In places the content is laugh-out-loud funny.)  The program centers on the following fundamentals of teamwork:

GUARDING AGAINST A “NORMALIZATION OF DEVIANCE”

Normalization of deviance is a long term phenomenon in which individuals or teams repeatedly “get away” with a deviance from established standards until their thought process is dominated by this logic:  Repeated success in accepting deviance from established standards implies future success.  Over time, the individual/team fails to see their actions as deviant.  Normalization of deviance leads to “predictable surprises” which are invariably disastrous to the team.

The Challenger tragedy is an example of “Normalization of Deviance”.  Under tremendous schedule pressures the NASA team accepted a lower standard of performance on the solid rocket booster O-rings, i.e., they repeatedly accepted heat damage that was never expected.  The team slowly fell into the trap of believing their repeated success in accepting the deviance implied future success.  A “predictable surprise”, i.e., a deadly disaster, resulted.

Mullane continues with a discussion on defending against “Normalization of Deviance”:

  1. Remember your vulnerability. If it can happen to NASA, it can happen to anybody.
  2. Plan the work and work the plan under the umbrella of “situational awareness”.
  3. Listen to the people closest to the issue.
  4. Archive and review near-misses and disasters.

RESPONSIBILITY

The power of all teams resides in the uniqueness of the team members; in their diversity of life experiences which yields a diversity of insights into team situations.  When individuals become “passengers” and don’t put their unique perspectives on the table for the team and leadership to consider, the team will suffer.  Mullane drives home this point in his recounting of a story in which he slipped into the “passenger” mode during an aircraft flight test.   Ultimately, had to eject from the crashing plane.  Having narrowly escaped death because of it, Mullane is intimately familiar with the dangers of team members slipping into a “passenger” mode.  “One person with courage forms a majority”, is a quote by former President Andrew Jackson that Mullane will use in this discussion.

Everyone has a sacred responsibility to get their unique perspectives on the table for the leadership to consider; to never assume somebody else is going to fill in for them.  Leaders have a sacred responsibility to empower the voices of their people so that no one is allowed to slip into a passenger mode.

Mullane closes this discussion with a real world example of how a medical doctor at NASA (not an engineer or astronaut) had the best solution for an engineering problem associated with the post-Challenger shuttle bailout system. This is an example of how great ideas can exist in the minds of people who are not considered the experts on a particular issue.

COURAGEOUS SELF-LEADERSHIP

Most audiences are shocked to learn how ordinary Mullane was.  People assume because he is an astronaut now, that in his youth, he was a super-child, destined for great success.  That is not the case.  Mullane uses slides and video to prove he wasn’t a child genius.  He wasn’t a high school sports star.  He didn’t date the homecoming queen.  He wasn’t popular.  Yet he realized a lifetime dream through the practice of self-leadership.   Every individual and team has an “edge of a performance envelope”.  That edge is much further out than individuals and teams realize and they find it through the practice of self-leadership.

Self-leaders set very lofty goals, accept the unchangeable, make mid-course corrections around obstacles and tenaciously remain focused on the goal.  Mullane develops this philosophy of self-leadership:  “Success isn’t a final destination.  It’s a continuous life journey of working toward successively higher goals for yourself and your teams.”

“Countdown To Teamwork” is remarkably inspirational and humorous.  The audience will come away from the program with a renewed sense of their potential and the potential of their teams.

Countdown to Safety

In his program, “Countdown To Safety”, Astronaut Mullane delivers a powerful message on the individual’s role in keeping themselves and their teams safe in hazardous environments.  Mullane introduces this subject with a recount of his own near-death experience in a fighter jet, when he failed to speak up about an unsafe situation.  He assumed another crewmember, with more flying time, “knew best” about the safety of their operations.   At a critical moment in a hazardous operation, Mullane surrendered his responsibility for safety to someone else and became a “safety passenger”.  The result was his (and the pilot’s) narrow escape during their ejection from the crashing jet

Mullane continues this thread: that each individual brings to their team a unique perspective on safety.  Only when every person’s perspective is available for analysis can a team be truly safe.

Another significant message within Mullane’s “Countdown To Safety” program is his discussion on “Normalization of Deviance”.  He uses the space shuttle Challenger disaster to define this term, its safety consequences, and how individuals and teams can defend themselves from the phenomenon.

Challenger was the result of a failure of a booster rocket O-ring seal.  Viewers will be shocked to know this failure was predicted:  “It is my honest and very real fear that if we do not take immediate action to solve the problem, with the O-ring having the number one priority, then we stand in jeopardy of losing a flight along with all the launch pad facilities.” (From a NASA-contractor memo dated six months prior to Challenger).

When a burn-damaged O-ring (a criticality 1 deviance) was first observed following the second shuttle mission, NASA, under enormous schedule pressure, convinced themselves the problem could be fixed with minor modifications to booster assembly procedures and that a grounding the fleet (required for a criticality 1 deviance) was not necessary.   As flights continued safely the correctness of the decision to accept the deviance was reinforced.  Slowly the team’s launch decision-making became infected with this logic:  repeated success in accepting a “grounding” deviance implied future success.

Challenger was a “predictable surprise”.

After defining “Normalization of Deviance”, Astronaut Mullane continues with an explanation of how individuals and teams can defeat this dangerous phenomenon through these practices:

Recognize one’s vulnerability to it; if it can happen to NASA it can happen to anybody.

Plan the work and work the plan…under the umbrella of “situational awareness”.

Listen to people closest to the issue.

Archive and periodically review near-misses and disasters so the corporate “safety” memory never fades.  (The loss of the space shuttle Columbia…17 years after Challenger…was a repeat of “Normalization of Deviance”.  NASA’s safety memory had faded over those 17 years.)

The messages delivered in “Countdown To Safety” are reinforced with rarely seen NASA video and slides.  The program is hard-hitting and fast-paced.  It is certain to open the eyes of every viewer to their individual criticality to team safety.

The Lighter Side to Space Flight

In his program, The Lighter Side of Spaceflight, Astronaut Mike Mullane will take the audience on a uniquely revealing, captivating and hilarious space journey.  Using spectacular video and slides he will answer everybody’s space questions: What does a shuttle launch feel like?…How does an astronaut deal with the incredible fear of launch?…How do you sleep, bathe, eat, drink, etc.?….What do you see from space?…And, of course, he will answer the top two questions that astronauts are ever asked:

Number 1: How does the space toilet work?

Number 2: Has he seen any UFOs or aliens?

The answers to these questions and many, many more are lavishly wrapped with inside, hilarious stories and supported with amazing video.

The audience will not only be thoroughly entertained by The Lighter Side of Spaceflight but will they will also find Mullane’s message on goal setting and achievement to be powerfully inspirational.  Most audiences are shocked to learn how ordinary Mullane was.  People assume, because he is an astronaut now, that in his youth, he was a super-child, destined for great success.  That is not the case.  Mullane uses slides and video to prove he wasn’t a child genius.  He wasn’t a high school sports star.  He didn’t date the homecoming queen.  He wasn’t popular.  (He shows a slide of the dedication pages from his high school year book…which are blank except for a single inscription: “You missed Korea but here’s hoping you make Vietnam”.)

Yet, Mullane realized a lifetime dream of becoming an astronaut through the practice of “mapping the edge of his performance envelope”.   Every individual and team has an “edge of a performance envelope” and individuals and teams find those “edges” (as team member, leaders, parents, spouses, etc.) through self-challenge and tenacity.  (Mullane’s father was rendered a paraplegic at age 33 by polio and Mullane’s story of his parents response to that tragedy while raising six children is the basis of his message on tenacity and goal-achievement in the face of adversity).  Mullane develops this philosophy of self-leadership:  “Success isn’t a final destination.  It’s a continuous life journey of mapping our performance envelopes through challenge and tenacity.”

The Lighter Side of Spaceflight is remarkably inspirational and humorous.  The audience will come away from the program with a renewed sense of their potential and the potential of their teams.