The Stratos Redbull jump was amazing. The fact that we've come so far as a race that we can put somebody up in "space", 24 miles high and then execute a freefall, history-making jump with such precision is outstanding. However, If you recall this is not the first attempt at setting the world record. This is not the first attempt at this jump. Last week there were supposed to do this, but unfavorable conditions prevented them from completing their mission.
The team regrouped they must have tweaked a few thing, s rehearsed their roles and on Sunday, October 14
Felix Baumgartner jumped. His jump will hold records for ages to come. I sat there with my wife and by coincidence or sheer luck I remembered that this was happening and I quickly fired up YouTube hoping that I would not have missed it. Turns out we had about 20 minutes before the jump actually took place. My wife had no idea this was going on and I my mom was in her way to our house; babyshower planning. I told them both, "you must watch this, you're about to witness history in the making."
Back in 1960 Joseph Kittinger jumped out of a similar contraption but he was about 30,000 feet closer to Earth; his jump could have been fatal but his parachute finally opened and saved his life. As I listened to the commentator today I wondered how much preparation has gone into this jump? Must have been hundreds of hours probably thousands of combined man-hours. Interesting enough, turns out that the jump was not a government sponsored event nor was the military directly involved. This was sponsored sponsored by red bull. This is remarkable because now we see a company or private entity sponsoring the beginnings of space exploration. What is more intriguing to me is how much was spent to create this jump not only financially but all overall in terms of resources and planning to believe me when I say this was no easy feat.
So perhaps I should tell you some of the lessons I think I learned by watching this event. You too, and your company can certainly benefit from this observations.
Here's a short version of the jump edited and set with music to get you pumped up. There's a link to the full version a bit further down.
Despite months and perhaps even a year or longer own planning, the project was put off for a week from their launch date. This happened one week before the actual jump. then eventually we saw the jump, finally. When you plan for something great, when you know there is no room for failure you must plan and you must stick to your protocol otherwise things can go wrong. Money can be wasted and sometimes people's lives are at stake. If you have been working on a project for a long time, and have already decided the course of action based on deep intense research and advise from your counselors you must not be hasty. If the conditions are not right maybe it's time to pack it up, go home and try again tomorrow. The flipside to this would be if is RedBull planned the delay as a marketing ploy to get more people to watch this. NOW that would be a lesson to pay attention to.
It takes a team, one man jumped but if you paid attention you saw a few dozen people as his support team monitoring his ascent and descent. You must have a team of supporters behind you; holding you up. The team must be carefully selected well-prepared and unwavering in their execution of their roles. Did you see where the family was? they were just sitting as is spectators, they weren't trying to man any of the machinery nor were they advising anybody on what to do. They were VIP spectators. When you start your company and you run your project, family and friends may not always be the best at helping you out. They certainly will be your biggest fans, they will watch your moves and hopefully be there to celebrate with you when you succeed. But hiring your nephew to build you a website because he is "good with computers" may not be the best course of action.
Building a little bit on the previous point. Hire people that have done it. When you select your team something to consider is this: hire people that have done what you need them to do for you. Did you know the guy that was reading off the checklist and keeping us abreast of most of the stuff going on throughout the process was actually Joseph Kittinger; he had jumped twice before and one last time when he set the world record in 1960. Today his role was to watch out for our hero, he has experience, been there, done that. Do you think there was somebody more qualified to be behind that microphone? I don't think so.
Precision is paramount. One of my favorite parts of the whole thing was watching and listening to the checklist been completed if I remember correctly there were just around 30 steps. Some of them seem trivial, yet Joseph waited patiently for each one to be completed sometimes reminding Felix by repeating the command. Occasionally saying attaboy! Things like "disengage seatbelt" seems something so trivial to you or me, yet if they don't to this something else may go wrong. You're probably thinking, this is so basic, why do they have to say it? Felix wasn't going to go anywhere without unbuckling his seatbelt, that's for sure... so why remind him? Consider this, what if he forgot to undo his belt and tried moving way from his seat, and because he was still buckled in, he accidentally pushed a button or pulled a lever. That could be a major compromise to the operation so even the minor checklist items that point to release a strap have to be noted down check for review and verified.
If you missed the video, this is the complete 30 minute broadcast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giTDYBXx7FE
These are just a few of the observations I made while watching and they remind me of a lot of the stuff I have to do when deploying a new network, or moving a company from one building to another. Yes, you can usually correct things after the fact, even days later after you've "completed" the project. But if it just takes some careful planning and protocol driven execution to avoid having to "do it over" why not do it?
I'm sure you watched the event and have other insights I missed, care to share some in the comments?