Putting your man on the moon – a business mentoring tip from Space

May 24, 2011Post by Laura Humphreys

One of my favourite business mentoring tips is to plan your business as if you were NASA planning to put a man on the moon.  This is what I learned to do at the 1991 Accelerated Business School for Entrepreneurs with Robert Kiyosaki in Hawaii.  The teacher was Blair Singer and the business planning technique we used was based on PERT (Programme Evaluation and Review) planning technologies, which apparently is what NASA used to plan their attempt to put a man on the moon.  I don’t know anything about PERT to be honest and I’m no text book teacher, so if what I’m about to say is completely wrong and not at all how PERT works or what NASA did … never mind… it just works godammit!

It goes like this… NASA had a pretty ambitious business goal.. to put a man on the moon.  Not a small goal at all.   When they started planning they had a very clear picture in their minds of what success looked like… a man on the moon planting the American flag.  They looked at that picture and thought about what they would need to create in order to make it happen.  They could see they’d need a rocket to get the man there… so they would need rocket scientists, engineers, designers, mechanics – a whole array of experts and workers.  Then they’d need the man, the astronaut.  They’d need to select the right guy and train him, have him pass all sorts of tests.  They would also need something for him to wear, so he could bounce around out there and be able to breathe, cope with the different atmosphere.  So they needed to design space suits, test how he might survive up there in Space.  There was a lot to do, so they (and this is the PERT bit as I understand it) chunked it all up and plotted the key milestones/the goals along the way that would get them there.  They then put dates on these milestones… how long would each chunk of achievement take them?  They no doubt put some budget around the milestones too.  This type of planning allowed them to work out what they needed, how long it would take and how much it was likely to cost.  By having a clear picture of the end goal and a clear plan, mapped out in manageable chunks, they significantly increased their chance of success.

This is much like my ‘Your business is like a shed’ blog post.  You have a clear picture of what you want to achieve, you get the plan and the tools and then you build it to plan.  Same principle just much more ambitious project, requiring more detailed long term planning.

The theory is the same.  Plan your business like you’d plan a project.  Have a very clear picture of what success looks like (a shed or a man on the moon), then work out what you need to do to get there.  Plot your key milestones, put timeframes and budgets (income goals/profit goals) on your milestones, then plan what you need to do to reach Milestone 1.  This first milestone should be 12 – 18 months out from today and in effect by planning your action steps to reach Milestone 1, you are writing your annual business plan.   You can then focus just on these actions steps, execute the plan and review how well you have once agains your Milestone 1 goals when you get there.

This is how I planned my advertising agency that I eventually sold to multi-national agency group Ogilvy. And this is what I teach in my liber8yourbusiness programme.  It is the most empowering way of planning a business I’ve ever come across.  Try it if you don’t believe me!