Tough and Competent

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““It was as tough a test as could be conceived and put to flight control . . . if there was any weakness, the team would have crumbled. The teams dealt with IT!! There is no way that you could have a team stand up the way we did. We knew we had IT. It was all built in as we had been working on IT! for years.”— Arnold Aldrich (Apollo 13) Tough and Competent documents the leadership and teamwork principles which emerged from an organization of novice, part-time engineers in NASA Mercury Control. By July 1969, when faced with the stress of the Apollo 11 mission to land Americans on the moon, they had matured into a group of hardened individuals empowered to make the split-second decisions to land with only seventeen seconds of fuel remaining. What had changed? Team chemistry, IT!, is the unifying soul of operations that emerged from the leadership, working, and social environment to achieve organizational excellence. Mission Control could address quickly the risks and complexity of spaceflight operations. The intangible element, IT!, elevates performance to where the impossible becomes commonplace. IT! was born in a bare-bones warehouse floor work environment, where learning by doing developed the materials for flight. Controllers spanned diverse backgrounds: Philco tech reps, farm boys, Native Americans, and junior college grads who became self-made engineers. A free exchange of knowledge developed expertise among colleagues. Everyone brought unique viewpoints and skills which coalesced into IT! In relaying his long tenure at NASA, Kranz narrates the development of IT! and how it began with a watershed moment. When he addressed a stunned team after the tragic loss of Apollo 1, Kranz delivered his “Kranz Dictum” that "Tough" and "Competent" were the new tenants of Mission Control. “Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. . . . Competent means we will never take anything for granted.” Moving innovation forward was never simple. From Gemini to Apollo launches, the Skylab program, and the stunning loss of the Challenger crew, Kranz was the face of NASA leadership. His views on lessons learned through decades of Mission Control are valuable for any innovation-based organization. About the Author NASA veteran Eugene “Gene” Kranz is best known as leader of the "Tiger Team" flight controllers who returned the damaged Apollo 13 spaceship safely back to Earth on April 17, 1970. He was portrayed by Ed Harris in the 1995 movie “Apollo 13.” Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, Kranz holds a BS in Aeronautical Engineering from Parks College of Saint Louis University and served in the U.S. Air Force as a fighter pilot and a flight test engineer before joining NASA in 1960. He assumed Flight Director duties for the Project Gemini and Apollo missions, including leading the controller team for America’s first lunar landing during Apollo 11 in 1969. In 1983, Kranz assumed NASA Director of Mission Operations overseeing a workforce of over 5,000. After serving in Mission Control for over 100 launches and effectively overseeing the complete arc of U.S. manned space missions, Kranz retired in 1994 turning to motivational speaking and writing. His book on the early manned space program, Failure Is Not an Option, was a New York Times best seller and adapted as a 2004 History Channel documentary on Mission Control. Kranz received numerous awards, including the National Space Trophy, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and he is enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame. His alma mater, Central Catholic in Toledo, displays his NASA Ambassador of Exploration Award alongside other personal NASA mementos. In 2021, the city of Toledo honored its native son when it renamed its airport in honor of Kranz. A Texan for over five decades, Mr. Kranz and his wife Marta are the proud parents of six children.

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Readers' opinions about Tough and Competent by Eugene F. Kranz

This book has reignited my passion for reading. It reminded me of the sheer joy that can be found in losing oneself in the pages of a good story. I can't wait to explore more books now.

The plot was incredibly well-crafted, with twists and turns that kept me hooked until the very last page. It was impossible to predict what would happen next.

The author's ability to evoke a wide range of emotions through their words is truly remarkable. I felt like I was on an emotional rollercoaster throughout the entire book.

More by Eugene F. Kranz

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