Planning can often be most important

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 10, 2005

“Plans are nothing….planning is everything”

Gen. Dwight Eisenhower

I imagine the recent conversation went something like this…..

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“Houston….we have a problem….”

“This is ground-commander Paul Hill at control center, what’s wrong?”

“Sir, it seems that a couple of the heat-shields on the bottom of the space shuttle have had a little separation at the seams and that some of the thermal blanket between them is protruding.

We think that when the spacecraft attempts re-entry later, it could cause wind deflection and drag, thus misdirecting heat on the vehicle.

And as you know sir, this could have catastrophic consequences to the spacecraft and crew.”

“##** it, Carlson, as ground-commander of this mission, I am telling you, failure is not an option.

That is a twenty billion dollar aircraft and a crew of seven up there and we are going to get them back safely.

We will fix this problem.

Get every top engineer together and let’s figure out what to do.”

“Yes sir, right away sir.”

A day or so later….

“Gentlemen and ladies, you are the top engineers responsible for the design and operation of the Discovery spacecraft.

You all are aware of the crisis and you have been working on a solution for over twenty-four hours straight.

What have you come up with?”

“Well, sir, in this room we have had the aerodynamic engineers from the Air Force Academy working with the physicists from Stanford U., and they in turn have been working with the mathematicians from U. of Chicago, who have been working with the structural engineers from MIT, who have been working with chemical engineers from Cal-Poly Tech, who have been working with the metallurgists from U. of Arizona,

who have been working with the component-design engineers from Georgia Tech, and this is what they recommend…duct tape…and a hacksaw blade.”

“What the ##** did you say, Carlson?”

“Sir, I said they recommended using duct tape to help fix the problem.”

“Carlson, there are more degrees in this room than in a thermometer warehouse, and the best you all came up with is something using duct tape?”

“Yes sir.

This is how we see it.

Bubba, from building maintenance, always puts hacksaw blades and duct tape in the shuttle’s tool box.

We feel that if the crew will duct tape one of the hacksaw blades to some sort of handle device, and then duct tape the end of the blade where it will not scratch any of the heat-shields while sawing, then that should remove the protruding thermal blanket enough to correct the problem.”

“Carlson, I’ve got a twenty billion dollar space-bird operation going on up there and you all are suggesting that we fix our problem with a seventy-nine cent hacksaw blade and a dollar and forty-nine cent roll of duct tape-things that you can get at any small town hardware store?

By golly Carlson, I love ya’lls style.”

And two days later, while all of the distinguished noses of NASA were being tickled from the bubbles of the freshly poured champagne, celebrating the solving of the crisis, Bubba was on his way to the neighborhood hardware store to buy another hacksaw blade and roll of duct tape.

For he knows in a few months another shuttle would be going up into space with an elaborate mission plan and he knows that sometimes “plans are nothing….but… planning is everything.”

Readers-those of you that followed Discovery’s latest journey into space know that, believe it or not, the above story is basically what took place.

And I remind us of this recent event because many chamber members too well that to be successful in business one has to be able to adjust to the unexpected and to improvise accordingly.

And chamber members will most likely tell you that this ‘think on your feet’ innovative spirit is not learned from a textbook-rather it is learned while in the daily trenches of the business world.

Our members who exemplify this trait contribute greatly to the economic vitality of our area….even though champagne corks are rarely popped in their honor.

If they ever were, however, I would raise my glass (even though I am a non-drinker) and toast to them “Duct tape to all of you.”