So far, 27 people were 300,000 km away – twelve of them were on foot and motorized on the moon. Survival was ensured by the Lunar Module and the A7L spacesuit (the seventh and fireproof version of the Pressure Suit Assembly (PSA) of the Apollo missions). In an environment that makes survival impossible without special equipment, people must carry all the necessities of life – the air to breathe, the mandatory pressure balance, air conditioning for the required temperature, supply, and disposal units, and all other necessary functions for the time when they cannot leave the suit. At the same time, freedom of movement, a panoramic view, and the exchange of data should be maintained. Even if business life does not seem so threatening to life, particular basic needs should also be ensured.
The workforce’s basic needs, including executives and business partners, imply the vital building blocks to survive in the VUCA world.
Sufficient resources to be able to work are essential. These consist of all supplies, such as capable and dedicated staff, knowledge accumulated over time, an up-to-date and sound infrastructure, and sufficient financial resources. As with A7L, survival is seriously threatened if vital resources are missing.
On the Moon, ALL crucial systems must be carried. Fortunately, they weigh only one sixth of the weight measured on earth. At the same time, maneuverability must be maintained. Just as a spacesuit restricts freedom of movement, bureaucracy limits in business. Myriads provide the necessary tools. If something fails, these employees provide an interim solution until everything is up and running again. The elbowroom is narrowed down by lavish procedures for their approval. This would be equivalent to a long, stiff cable that restricts range and maneuverability on the moon. In all cases, this makes tasks much more complicated.
To get an overview of the overall system, you need comprehensive monitoring. Apollo Mission Control included 20-30 experts in Houston and hundreds in the back office. Before powerful computers could take over these roles, employees had to observe and report individual sensors’ deviations. In the past, watchdogs took on the task of collecting measured values and summarizing them in reports. Today, networked IT systems pull data from databases and feed overviews and alerts. In any case, an essential basic need is the availability of data, at any time and ANY place.
- Communication channels
To enable all participants’ interaction, data regarding status, problems, ideas, solutions, and other impressions must be exchanged. Even with the Apollo program, voice and image data were exchanged along with a stream of automatically determined digital data. Today’s fast-moving business requires many short-term decisions, which can no longer be made with traditional reporting and decision-making channels. For this, the employees who make the decisions on site need a timely supply of data.
However, the best data supply is of no use if on-site decision making is NOT ALLOWED. In hierarchical companies, this is the default mode. Surprisingly, this is also true for companies that think of themselves as customer and employee focused. There is scope for decision-making with short reaction times when excessive reporting and decision-making channels are avoided. The management team does not practice micromanagement, and the acting employees have the necessary authorizations. If Neil Armstrong had not been allowed to take over the lunar module’s manual control, the Eagle would likely have crashed on the moon.
Bottom line: The essential needs of a company are indispensable for the continuance of the business. Just as the A7L ensures astronauts’ survival on the moon, similar building blocks must be provided in the enterprise. It needs the essential resources, without the restriction of movement, with the appropriate transparency, a trouble-free exchange of data, and, above all, sufficient authority for the acting people. Bureaucratic reporting and decision-making, a traditional leadership style, and corrupted resources by exaggerated stinginess further burden unsatisfying basic needs. If the A7l were in a comparable state, astronauts would not be conducting field missions on the moon or in space. In business, a few dedicated employees ensure that the survival of the company is not threatened. The A7L, with its life-supporting functions, is the ideal metaphor for basic needs.