Missile culture

All businesses have important things in common. However, every business is also a subculture – a world of its own, with its own customs and characteristics – and so every good manager must be a bit of an anthropologist.

In that role, astute business leaders will tend to notice other subcultures whose strengths and weaknesses may shed light on in their environment. How do these cultures stay cohesive while adjusting to change? How is the hierarchy established? How are values ​​passed? Which element of culture contributes the most to meeting organizational goals?

There are many reasons to read Relevant content, Tom Wolfe’s compelling account of the birth of America’s space program, but one that’s particularly good in this context is how effectively it captures the power of culture within the enterprise . In this case, it’s the unusual subculture common among test pilots who pushed the jet’s frontier, often at the expense of their own lives, over the decades. century after World War II.

At the heart of Wolfe’s great story is change: at some point, space travel became the focal point of advancement in flight — and the key to its status in the world of aviation. not post-Sputnik. This change provides the thrust that powers the power supply Relevant contentoffers a compelling case study for anyone interested in business culture, technology, and managing people for one reason or another.

The book was a huge success when it was published in 1979, and its style reflects Wolfe’s aim in reinventing long-form journalism using a range of literary skills in a style a more lively, less formal way. It’s an approach that fits well with its colorful theme: a group of men accustomed to taking huge risks, dancing coldly on the brink of disaster, and making decisions in the wild. stuck in an environment where mistakes can easily lead to a gruesome death.

It was an extremely risky and low-paying, but very glorious job. And the pilots were perpetuated by an all-powerful, incredibly powerful military culture that dictated almost every aspect of their lives. In many ways, it is a far cry from today’s typical office culture as an isolated tribe of hunter-gatherers. The main characters of Relevant content are white American Protestant men who are masculine stoic but have gone the way of the dodo bird in contemporary culture. There is even a strong Calvinist tension for the so-called “right thing,” the combination of daring, skill, and sangfroid that gives the book its name: Wolfe implies that , like grace, it’s something you can’t get, but you’ve tried all the time to show it off, as if to prove your rightful place among the elect.

It’s another world, and these are unusual people. However, the transition from supersonic flight to space as the focus of the book presented challenges for pilots and for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), conceived broad, will be familiar to anyone in today’s business world. At the heart of these challenges is the extent to which new technology displaces old hierarchies and creates new power structures.

Before the space race, test pilots were the top dogs in aeronautics, and when the space program kicked off, it seemed like picking the first seven astronauts out of them all was Naturally. But the plan is for these highly confident and skilled men to function like human guinea pigs, with no control over the giant rockets they’re riding to heaven. Not only have they been reduced from pilot to passenger, but in this tumultuous new world, the scientists they once sponsored have suddenly become top dogs.

A whole new civilian bureaucracy had grown up around them, complete with congressional backing, a burgeoning constituency, and a culture of their own to create. For political reasons, NASA’s civilian leaders made astronauts heroes even before they boarded the first spaceflight. Powered by a new television medium as well as a new space program, the newfound importance of astronauts has turned them upside down for officials and scientists alike. people seem to just treat them like lab rats.

Relevant content proves that, in some types of businesses, stars can be immensely powerful, especially if the organization itself enables them to shine. The astronauts, once anointed and publicly advertised, soon began with some experiments they found daunting — and that was just the beginning. For instance, there was no way for the pilot to open the lid of the original Mercury space capsule, but that soon changed due to pilot pressure. Astronauts also gain manual control of the capsule, just in case. Those controls became a lifesaver when Gordon Cooper, the last of the seven to go into space, manually lowered the capsule after its automated system worked well. For a time, that made him almost as big of a hero as John Glenn, whose previous orbital flight made him a national icon. Glenn’s star shines so brightly that even James E. Webb, NASA’s astute political head, can’t get him to do anything he doesn’t want to. None of this will surprise LeBron James or Tom Hanks.

Relevant content proves that, in some types of businesses, stars can be immensely powerful, especially if the organization itself enables them to shine.

The original astronauts did not emerge from a therapeutic workplace culture; conversely, there is no talk of emotion or fear, and Wolfe claims the vague, Appalachian tone influenced by many commercial airline pilots can be traced back to Chuck Yeager, dean of test pilots experience of the time, whose unadorned scissors accompanies West Virginia Origin.

But the calm forecast is almost always worth it. And other “proper stuff” practices have begun as well. Pilots’ reliance on checklists only increases during spaceflight, when they have long lists of test and other tasks to complete. Since then, surgeon and author Atul Gawande, among others, has favor more checklists in medicine. A pilot’s checklist is an important component, not only of how you would handle take-offs and landings under normal circumstances, but even how you would handle a crisis. “.

As Glenn was instructed, to prepare for his earth orbit, “rebroadcast every sight, every sensation, and otherwise provide taxpayers with the fascinating stuff they want to hear.” “, that’s the opposite of the taboo for gladiators to “talk nervously” in radio communications. That taboo has fostered an important focus — and just like the checklist, found its way into the healthcare field. For example, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists called on operating room staff to “Postpone unnecessary conversation until the surgery is over. “It even cites federalism”sterile cockpitThis rule blocks “engaging in unnecessary conversations” during critical flight operations.

Creating and nurturing the right subculture can go a long way toward building a successful business. But the rise of remote work, like the advent of space exploration, poses new challenges for business cultures — and for the many subcultures that offer character, meaning, and competitive advantage. compete for workplaces that maintain them.

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