Saturday, April 20, 2013

Learning from a Gentle Giant

My perceptions changed dramatically on that day
by Charles C.
I worked at Michoud from July 1981 through December 2009 on the Space Shuttle external tank project. Lockheed Martin is a fantastic company. I saw dedicated and intelligent people working every day, and am proud of its mission.

My story, however, is about a particular event in the early 1980s. I was in charge of the performance analysis quality trending, and was the presenter at the monthly meetings with quality and production management. Most meetings were fairly routine, with general cause and corrective action comments and explanations of performance. Most in the audience just wanted the meeting to be finished.
One month, however, an elderly, tall gentleman came in and started asking questions, one after the other, about quality and production issues relative to the data being presented. Although I knew the questions were not really directed at me to answer, but rather to production and quality managers, it started to get on my nerves a bit. I finally asked the gentleman, something to the effect of “You ask a lot of questions. Who are you?” Well, half the room burst out in laughter, and the other half were like me, not knowing who he was. His response was “I am George Rodney, and I should probably come to these meetings more often.” It turned out he was Director of Mission Success at the time, and he was located in another building. Needless to say, I became aware of who he was, and his history with Martin. He was quite a man, as described in the book Raise Heaven and Earth.
The moral of the story is to know your audience. That lesson will remain with me always!