Book review: Failure is not an option

I thought I’d share about a book I am reading now… which I found memorable mainly for the type of teamwork and leadership it’s describing.

What about it?

It’s describing work practices from the Gemini and Apollo mission control teams. Now: those were the people who worked - together with the astronauts - on all aspects of the space missions. They were involved in definition of objectives, feasibility, planning, to the design of every single aspect of the flights.

One characteristic of the mission control team members is called out about halfway through the book (but by that time, you’d have guessed it 😊): competent.
I can’t even begin to explain how much I agree with this point of view.

Those were people who knew what they were talking about. Knowledge was considered THE most important factor when preparing for a mission: they knew what the missile engineers knew, they knew what the astronauts knew, they knew what the surgeons knew, on top of their own expertise on trajectory, guidance, control, etc…

Granted - it’s advice from 50 years ago, a very different era and domain. But I see a parallel in Software and Systems Architecture.

Architects should try to know as much as possible about the system they’re working on, the system they design, the system they inherit… there are difference in the various job of a scrum team, but the Architect should be striving to know as much as possible, about everything in and around the system, application, domain, etc. Knowledge will help - when you least expect it - to get out of some complex and challenging situations.

Read the book. It’s a nice book. And even if you don’t, go to the Appendix and read the “Foundations of Mission Control” (italic is mine):

To instill within ourselves these qualities essential for professional excellence:
Discipline Being able to follow as well as lead, knowing that we must master ourselves before we can master our task.
Competence There being no substitute for total preparation and complete dedication, for space will not tolerate the careless or indifferent
Confidence Believing in ourselves as well as others, knowing that we must master fear and hesitation before we can succeeed.
Responsibility Realizing that it cannot be shifted to others, for it belongs to each of us; we must answer for what we do, or fail to do.
Toughness Taking a stand when we must; to try again, and again, even if it means following a more difficult path.
Teamwork Respecting and utilizing the ability of others, realizing that the work towards a common goal, for success depends on the efforts of all.


To recognize that the greatest error is not to have tried and failed, but that in trying, we did not give it our best effort.

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