Was NASA’s experiment with low-cost “Faster, Better, Cheaper” planetary missions really a failure? The conventional wisdom is being challenged by acquisition professions.

Lt. Col. Dan Ward, chief of acquisition innovation in the Air Force’s Acquisition Chief Process Office, wrote the following in Defense AT&L magazine:

In 1992, NASA administrator Daniel Goldin began the agency’s “Faster, Better, Cheaper” initiative. Over the next eight years, 16 missions were launched under the FBC banner, including the remarkable Mars Pathfinder mission. Today, however, many people look back at FBC with disparaging chuckles and wry remarks, as if it were an embarrassing failed experiment.

Casual observers and serious students alike have apparently concluded that it’s impossible for a high-tech project to be simultaneously faster, better, and cheaper… and that it’s foolish to even try. The popular consensus on FBC is often expressed in the supposedly self-evident saying: “Faster, better, cheaper – pick two.”

It turns out popular consensus is wrong….

A closer examination of NASA’s FBC missions reveals an admirable record of success, along with helpful and illuminating lessons for anyone involved in developing and fielding high-tech systems. Far from an embarrassing failure or proof that program managers must “pick two,” the FBC initiative actually improved cost, schedule, and performance all at once.

“If the low success rate was a central reason for canceling FBC.” Colonel Ward says, “someone made an unfortunate miscalculation. While it is true that 10 out of 16 is 63 percent, that number is not an accurate measure of what FBC accomplished.”

“Success-per-dollar is a more meaningful measurement of achievement than success-per-attempt because there is no limit to the number of attempts we can make. The only real constraint on our activity is the amount of time and money we can spend… The important thing is not how much success we get out of 100 tries, but rather, how much success we get out of 100 dollars.”

The complete article is available here.


Written by Astro1 on April 10th, 2012 , Innovation

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