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Success factors and future challenges in the management of faster-better-cheaper projects: lessons learned from NASA

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2 Author(s)
Pate-Cornell, M.E. ; Stanford Univ., CA, USA ; Dillon, R.L.

In the last few years, NASA has shifted its mode of management of unmanned space missions from “flagship” missions to faster-better-cheaper (FBC) projects with reduced scope, budget and schedule. In order to examine the successful attributes and potential weaknesses of this new management style, the authors prepared four case studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, CA) in 1997 and 1998. Based on these case studies, (Cassini, Mars Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, and Deep Space 1), they identified a number of management features that seem to have contributed to the success of the early FBC projects. These features generally involve simplification, standardization and the use of commercially available components and talents. They also pointed out that most of these features had potential downsides, and they expressed some concerns about the long-term viability of some of these features. The recent failures of two Mars missions have also shown the limitations of this mode of operations. Therefore, in the future, some of these features may have to be revisited to account better for risks and uncertainties. In this paper, the authors describe these management factors, some of the challenges that remain, and a set of recommendations based on their observations, many of which apply to other industries subjected to similar constraints

Published in:

Engineering Management, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:48 ,  Issue: 1 )