Supporting NASA's strategy for maintaining space leadership

01 September 2017

Professor Loizos Heracleous’ research on organisational ambidexterity and performance has caught the interest of leaders at NASA. Ambidexterity means an organisation’s ability to operate with efficiency and stability, whilst simultaneously being able to change and innovate in response to a shifting environment

After having had a near monopoly in the space sector in the 1960s, NASA found itself facing increasing competition in the following decades. Senior NASA leadership recognised the need for NASA to change, innovate and partner with external organisations in response to this new environment. Professor Heracleous has collaborated on research with the Deputy in the Johnson Space Centre (JSC) Strategic Partnerships Office, exploring NASA's history and current organisational aspects, and how these could be developed to support NASA in achieving ambidexterity.

The research found that NASA's success was due in large part to the early flexibility NASA had in relation to its resources, human resource policies and a highly innovative hands-on culture. This flexibility has been eroded over time owing to increased regulation, red tape and budgetary constraints.  The research advocates renewed flexibility for NASA to manage its people and infrastructure based on market-based, competitive, performance oriented principles, and encourages NASA to become a network organisation that is integrated both internally across NASA's centres as well as with external organisations with superior space-related knowledge and technology.

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