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This STAR has only four points


The dedicated men and women of NASA’s Mission Control as seen on my recent private tour.

I doubt anyone would argue with the fact that NASA takes training seriously. Whether it is for the astronaut in space, those running Mission Control, or those who are support staff, a high level of training is necessary.

Recently, I learned that it is not only hard skills but also soft skills that are trained. NASA realized early on that just knowing the technical answers wasn’t enough. Managing stress, interacting with a team, and collaboration all add up to either making or breaking a mission. When something goes wrong in space – failure really isn’t an option.

Last week I mentioned STAR (Stop Think Analyze React) in my post. It’s drilled into the Mission Control team. It’s not “maybe I’m sure” it’s more like “Let me think and give you a definitive answer”. In the business world, more specifically the manufacturing world, we all could use some STAR in our day.

Stop You can’t keep doing the same things the same way and expecting new results. Maybe there is need to panic given your situation but maybe there isn’t. Maybe you need to stop before making your next decision. Think of it as hitting the “pause” button ever so briefly.

Think If you are working on auto-pilot and rushing through the day – your own activity will prevent quality problem solving. What are the things that are amiss? Who needs to be part of the solution? Think about the problem. What are all of the touch points for the decision in front of you? Draw it out on a whiteboard if you have to – sometimes just seeing the “big picture” on a wall can help you find a hole in your logic.

Analyze If you’ve read my blog before you know I’m a proponent of Six Sigma because it works. Using tried and true problem solving tools can uncover paths forward. You also know I’m not a proponent of jumping to conclusions. Do you have the proverbial “80%” solution? Does it make sense for your team, your floor or your business unit? Then what are you going to do with this information?

React There is no such thing as a perfect solution. I would hypothesize that waiting for a perfect solution can waste valuable resources and in manufacturing – time is a valuable resource. Sometimes being 80% sure is enough to move forward to successfully meet the goal. Sometimes it is not. You have to make the hard call each and every time. I wish it was easier but this is the world those of us in manufacturing have chosen to live in.

Like space where mistakes can have fatal outcomes, the manufacturing world can be as brutal to a business unit. Please take a moment and think through your own STAR. Together with your team you can make better decisions.

Be intentional

Do you wish upon a STAR when you have a problem?

“The problem is not that there are problems.
The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that
having problems is a problem.”

Psychiatrist and author Theodore Isaac Rubin, quoted in the Buffalo News

I ran across this quote and it really struck a chord with me. I was living in a week of problems. In manufacturing, there is always a problem. Why? Because in any complex system…

…where multiple people interact with multiple machines, tools/equipment

…and embrace imperfect systems (designed by imperfect people)

…in an effort to deliver to the customer a perfect part

…there will be a problem or two.

I recently had the privilege of a private tour of NASA’s Johnson Space Center where my husband had worked. One of the things I saw was the original Mission Control where they flew all of the Apollo missions. During our discussion I was told  they drill into everyone (Astronauts and Front Control Room Operators) the STAR thought process when presented with a problem: Stop Think Analyze React. That really resonated with me as I was in the middle of writing this post. (More on STAR in a future post.)


STAR in action

Knowing that every day you will have a problem or two is key to having a successful day. You will be either getting into a problem, are currently in a problem or coming out of a problem. For those of us in manufacturing we need to:

  • Design flexibility into our systems.
  • Understand the risks and have back-up plans already in play.
  • Embrace problem solving with a vengeance. It is our best friend.
  • Mitigate potential risks. Not every problem can be solved, however every problem can be assessed for risk.
  • Figure out early if the battle wins the war, and if fighting the battle is worth the resources.
  • Celebrate all wins. Bring humor to the effort. Recharge your teams batteries. Without engaged people, there is nothing.

Be the STAR of your operations environment.

Be intentional