Gene Kranz – Nasa Flight Director

The Kranz Dictum

On January 27th, 1967 Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and
Roger Chaffee died in fire during a training exercise. The following
Monday, Kranz addressed his team, delivering what became known as the
Kranz Dictum. Although it is directed at the members of Mission
Control, Kranz’s words transcend that narrow audience. His will to
honesty, purpose, and perfection are the heart of this man’s lesson to
us all.

I urge you to read his words in full. Pay close attention to his
unequivocal sense of personal accountability and the clarity of his
demands that he and those who will work under him will hold themselves
to only the most exacting standards. The speech is brief, but rich. Its
two paragraphs contain great lessons.

”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 problems we saw 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 changed daily. Nothing we did had any shelf life. Not
one of us stood up and said, ‘Dammit, stop!’ I don’t know what
Thompson’s committee will find as 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 will go to your office
and the first thing you will do there is to write ‘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.”

A full study of this great man is beyond the scope of a simple blog
entry. To learn more about Kranz and his achievements at NASA, one may
look to his autobiography, Failure is Not an Option, or this documentary of the same name. (Be sure to check out Part 8 about Apollo 13, perhaps the most dramatic single episode.)


Read also the artofmanliness blog post about Gene. Fantastic –