The Burden of Command - The Kranz Dictum
Earl Breon 0:10
Your host Earl Breon here, you know, a while back when I first got into podcasting, I had a show called the leadership Chronicles. And in that show, I would tell stories from history that had something to do with leadership had some type of leadership listen. Well, you know, I've only been able to do an interview every couple of weeks to stay consistent. And I thought, well, what a good idea would be to resurrect the leadership Chronicles, if you will, and make it part of the burden of command podcast. And I wanted to start it off this week, because the whole 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission.
Now, this show being about the burden of command, and timing with the Apollo 50th anniversary, I thought it would be a thought it'd be a good idea to talk about somebody who is kind of a, an idol of mine, Mr. Gene Kranz. This was somebody who definitely understood what the burden of command was, you know, the Apollo 11 mission was just a resounding success all the way around went off fairly without a hitch by any spaceflight standards at the time. But cranz was involved in the Apollo 13 mission as well, which everybody knows what happened with that if you haven't seen the movie, it's a great movie fairly factual, from what I understand of how things actually went down. And that's the thing that gene is known the most for his his handling of the Apollo 13 mission. It's believed that it was his guidance, his leadership, his leadership abilities, was the reason that that mission came back home successfully and we didn't lose the astronauts that day. But what he is overlooked for sadly, I guess he's not really overlooked for what most people don't understand is that wasn't his first brush with adversity. You see, the Apollo one mission was an utter disaster.
On January 27 1967, three astronauts, Chafee wine and Grissom were sitting in the pad, running some tasks getting ready for their flight, it was supposed to be in just the following week. And there was a catastrophe that hit somehow or another there was a spark that happened to the cab, and there's a little there's a little controversy as to what caused it, nobody really wanted to take blame on the contractor. So there's still some controversy as to what piece actually caused the spark. But you see the cabin, it was pressurized, this was a full mission simulation getting ready to get ready to go through. And it was a highly oxygen enriched environment. And when this spark struck up, highly oxygen rich environments, they tend to become very flammable. That's exactly what happened here. The capsule turned into a fireball. And after just a few seconds of audio, it became very clear as what was going on. And due to a design flaw, the door opened in Word. So they couldn't, they couldn't just punch out. And so the technicians had to come in and help get this thing open. And by the time they got there will the three gentlemen Chaffee YN Grissom were dead. It was it was basically just a big incinerator in there. Now, that's tragic enough, but January 27, was a Friday. And so everybody who was involved with admission, they had to go home and wait until Monday, there was a lot of tension, there was a lot of questioning going on. Everybody knew that there was going to be an investigation that come down. And being the types of people that they were they really didn't obviously didn't enjoy their weekend, three of their close friends had passed away. You know, it was NASA was very tight knit at the time. So losing three astronauts, I mean, think about what an astronaut looks like today. But back then this was pioneer cutting edge like, as much as we hold astronauts today in high regard. These gentlemen who are the closest things to living legends that most people would see. And we lost three of them on that day.
So Monday rolls around, and Gene Kranz being the boss at the time, the flight control, he comes in and he realizes I've got to do something, I've got to take ownership. And he does something that nobody expected. He pulled his team together. And he delivered an amazing speech, which became known as the cranz dictum. And I'm going to read that speech, word for word right now.
Spaceflight will never tolerate carelessness incapacity and neglect. Somewhere, somehow we screwed up. It could have been in design, build or test, whatever it was, we should have caught it. We were too gung ho about the schedule, and we locked out all of the possibilities. We saw in each day in our work. Every element of the program was in trouble. And so were we. The simulators were not working, Mission Control was behind in virtually every area, and the flight and test procedures change daily. Nothing we did had any shelf life, not one of us stood up and said Damn it stop. I don't know what the Thompson committee will find is the cause. But I know what I find. We are the cause. We were not ready, we did not do our job, we were rolling the dice hoping that things would come together by launch day. When in our hearts, we knew it would take a miracle.
We were pushing the schedule and betting that the cape would slip before we did. From this day forward, flight control will be known by two words tough and competent. Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do, or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control, we will know what we stand for. competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect. When you leave this meeting today you go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to right tough and competent on your Blackboard. It will never be erased. Each day. When you enter the room. These words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.
Boom, ownership. As somebody I know some of you are familiar with Jocko Willink would call it Extreme Ownership. See, that's the thing. It's one of the things is drilled into our heads as military personnel and Gene Kranz was a fighter pilot in Korea. Ownership, when you take ownership, you take all of the power for yourself. You see, Gene didn't have to worry about what the Thompson committee was going to find out because he had already figured it out. And he had already taken corrective action. And his corrective action was to give everybody in the room. Two words as guiding principles, tough and competent. You see, when you take ownership of something, you take all of that power away from anybody else, and you bring it on you. You see this Thompson committee, whatever they did, from here on out didn't matter.
Sure, they could still lay blame. But nobody was going to be affected by it, because they had already dealt with it and move forward. Sure, they can still come head hunting after cranz. But once they come down, and they see that he's already taken ownership, he's already taking corrective action he's moved on. The would the point be. And that is something that leaders today have a hard time doing is taking ownership when things fail. It sounds scary. It sounds scary to be that vulnerable. But the truth of the matter is, it's the best course of action.
Now, you gotta mean it you can't just say Oh, it was my fault, and then move on. You, have to mean it. And you have to take action, and you have to do something to be better. And I love Gene's approach here because it was simple, tough, incompetent, two words. And they need to define what each one of those words means.
Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do, or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Every time we walk into Mission Control, we will know what we stand for. Competent, competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect.
And then he takes it to the next step. And he gives them guidance so they don't forget, when you leave this meeting today, you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is a right tough and competent on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room. These words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.
Clear corrective action. Clear guidance. Clear expectations. And, a way to remember their fallen comrades Grissom, White and Chaffee.
It's that simple, ladies and gentlemen, it is that simple. Look, you're going to screw up, it's going to happen. Nobody goes to live without screwing up. What matters is how you handle it, period. Now I want to think about this in three dimensions here, right? Because this was Apollo one. We know about the successes up to Apollo 11. And we know about the disasters and near disasters of Apollo 13. I want you to imagine for just a second here, if Gene Kranz the man we know today, the myth, the legend, if you will. What if he had handled this differently? What if he hadn't taken ownership? What if he had of waited for the Thompson report to come out? And find him and his team at fault? What if he had have been removed from this position? How would the subsequent Apollo missions have when they would have had to find a new flight controller for their top team? How would that personally perform? Maybe better, maybe much worse? We don't know. But what we do know is if it happened like that, and he wasn't there for Apollo 13, we may have lost three more astronauts. Because again, everybody involved credits his leadership and his experience with keeping all the various teams together working together and focused on the mission of bringing those gentlemen home.
So I want to challenge you, as I close out this episode will challenge you right now to think about, some of the times you have failed. And maybe you didn't handle it the best. Maybe you tried to blame somebody else. And think about how it could have helped you and your leadership. If you had said you know what? At the very least, we're all to blame. Because that's the other thing here.
He used we a lot he never said you. He said we was talking as a team, he included himself in this thing. We screwed up, we were too gung ho, we locked out all the problems we saw each day. He included himself in this because he knew that he was ultimately responsible, and was just as big a screw up in this situation is everybody else. He didn't throw anybody under the bus. He didn't. He gave his team responsibility for what happened and how to fix it.
So think about that. When have you had some type of screw up in your life and your leadership and your career and not reacted appropriately? That's easy. That's as easy as it is, ladies and gentlemen, if you're listening to this, when you screw up when something goes wrong, even if you do everything right, and something goes wrong, you got to be able to sit back, own the outcome, be able to figure out what went wrong, be able to figure out a course of corrective action and give clear, concise guidance on how to do it. This was the the key to America landing on the moon, we had people in place like Gene Kranz, who had great leadership skills, who had a great daring drive to do what had never been done before. And it's the same thing that we need in our modern workplace. We need people who are great leaders who are going to take responsibility who are going to own it. Ladies and gentlemen, these words are the price of admission to the ranks of leadership, tough and competent, mean just as much to you, as they did the mission control back in the Apollo days.
So there it is the story of Gene Kranz, the Kranz Dictum, and you know how it helped him be around to help out with the Apollo 13 missions. Like I said, this is something new. I want to try to interject these in between the interviews. So ideally, I see an interview, a story, an interview, a story coming down the pipe. If you liked this format, please let me know hit me up at burden firstname.lastname@example.org if you're following us on social media, I'm Earl underscore Breon. You know, and if you just want to, I use the hashtag shields up if you just want to follow that hashtag shields up all one word. Follow that you'll get all of our posts from from my partner nice business at the leadership failings. Any articles we share any blog posts we share, and definitely all of the podcast. So follow hashtag shields up follow me at Earl underscore Breon. And if you have any ideas for stories if you have any ideas for guest if you have any feedback on this format, please hit me up burden dot command at gmail com. Thanks for listening and keep those shields up.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai