Old footage and information about Apollo 11 and the moon landing in 1969 has understandably been everywhere recently. I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind“. It has been celebrated as it encapsulated the moment when the progress of humanity seemed only limited by our imagination, when the future seemed full of possibilities and when the universe seemed just a little less out of reach.
It all began of course with JFK’s speech in 1961 in which he set out a bold ambition for the USA when he declared:
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him to earth safely”.
Importance of team
That it was able to be accomplished in 1969 was the result of 8 years and 9 months of a determined pursuit to achieve that target. A total of 400,000 engineers and technicians from 20,000 private companies all collaborated to make the impossible possible. Chief Engineer of the Lunar Module, Owen Morris described how such a daring vision could be achieved:
“We got together on a frequent basis, compared notes about the problems and what anybody could do to help the situation. And there was a spirit of co-operation pretty much throughout the program.”
The team working on it understood that you cannot achieve great things or overcome tough challenges by focusing on your own work, but have to get out of your own bunker and collaborate with others.
At Nelsons, we recognise the importance of regular get togethers and sharing of notes to build that togetherness throughout the whole company.
One step at a time
I also love the story told by the granddaughter of Matt Radnofsky who designed the spacesuits. She’s a journalist and interviewed 18 engineers who worked on the suits. She asked them all if they ever thought “screw this – it won’t work“; or were worried about deadlines or getting everyone home safely. She says they all replied in the same way – “we just got on with it, one step at a time“.
How do you achieve an impossible vision? How do you get to the moon and back? How do you overcome all the problems and frustrations and difficulties and imperfections? By taking one step at a time.
I am sure you recognise the themes emerging from the moon landing:
- A clear, bold vision for everyone to work towards.
- Everyone was a team player, understanding the need to work together to achieve the objective without ego.
- A positive ‘can do’ attitude was necessary where problems were there to be solved. No cynicism, no defeatism – just a determined confidence to solve the next problem, then the next, then the next…
- A determination to surpass expectations – they beat JFK’s deadline – impossible though it had sounded when he announced it – by managing to land someone in 1969, so within the decade.
Here at Nelsons, our vision is defined – we want to finish what was started in 1983 and become the leading law firm in the East Midlands in our target markets. Where that requires us to push boundaries so we can empower our clients, we will. That’s our passion, our purpose, our reason why we are striving towards our goal and what must drive us forward.
Earlier this year, challenged by Damian Hughes – an expert sports psychologist and author of The Barcelona Way – we identified the key behaviours we need everyone to display to drive us towards our goal. We announced these at our company AGM and I am struck by how much they resonate with those that managed to leave footprints on the moon:
- Be a team player.
- Adopt a ‘can-do’ attitude.
- Be determined to surpass expectations.
We want to create a culture that when we set targets, there is a determination shared that we will together all set out to beat them – not just to get close to them, but make sure we deliver. Together.