What program managers can learn from NASA

program management DXC Blogs

When people think of NASA, they tend to think of the moon landings and the enormous benefits mankind has received from the side effects of the space program. (Think LEDs or radial tyres, artificial limbs or fire-resistant clothing.)

But there is another great benefit of NASA that you might not be aware of: better program management.

NASA has always been a world leader in project and program management.

For proof, just look to the movies. Hollywood often shows NASA’s leadership in action. See these two fine film clips for example:

Apollo13 failure is not an option

Apollo13 square peg in a round hole

Great project and program management not only got us to the moon but saved lives (and got us back again).

The 4-D program management system came out of NASA when the agency was implementing the rectification of the Hubble Space Telescope. A root-cause analysis showed that defect lay in leadership failures and the normalization of deviance — not in the technology. The same issues occured with the Challenger disaster and the failure of the ‘O’-ring, as investigated by the great Richard Feynman.

In response, Dr. Charles Pellerin created a new methodology focused, not on the individual, but on his or her interactions and behaviors with others. This focus on peer assessment is what makes 4-D stand out from other methodologies such as Myers-Briggs or LSI.

It includes the following competencies:

  • Creating accountability
  • Establishing trust
  • Challenging the client
  • Creating awareness
  • Communicating directly
  • Listening skillfully

If this sounds like what your team needs to succeed, I encourage you to find out more about this method.

Start your research here Introduction to 4-D systems from DXC, and check out this site for more info: NASA 4-D site.

Happy hunting!

*Thanks to Ian Sharpe for the inspiration for this post


  1. Thanks for the kind acknowledgement Steve – this is powerful stuff and can be readily used with many clients as part of our delivery assurance too. Focus is on teams and individuals under the system, which provides a good developmental aspect too.


  2. geosupergirl says:

    4D Systems and Charlie’s work is awesome and both the individual and team assessments are certainly worth while. In 15+ years of working with technical teams it is the best tool I have come across.



  1. […] What program managers can learn from NASA […]


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