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How NASA Builds Teams: Mission Critical Soft Skills for Scientists, Engineers, and Project Teams Hardcover – July 7, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (July 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470456485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470456484
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #506,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Every successful organization needs high-performance teams in order to compete and succeed. Yet, technical people are often resistant to the traditional "touchy-feely" brand of team building.

To improve communication, performance, and morale among NASA's technical teams, former NASA astrophysicist Charles Pellerin developed the team-building process described in How NASA Builds Teams-an approach that is proven, quantitative, and requires only a fraction of the time and resources of traditional training methods.

Pellerin's "4-D" process has boosted team performance in hundreds of NASA project teams, engineering teams, and management teams, including the people responsible for NASA's most complex systems-the Space Shuttle, space telescopes, robots on Mars, and the mission back to the moon. How NASA Builds Teams explains how the 4-D team-building process can be implemented in any organization, and includes a fast, free online behavioral assessment to help your team and the individual members understand each other and measure the key driver of team performance: the social context.

Moreover, these simple, logical processes appeal strongly to technical teams who eschew traditional training. Pellerin applies simple, elegant principles from his physics background to the art of team building, such as the use of a coordinate system to analyze the characteristics of team performance into actionable elements.

The author illustrates the team-building process with entertaining stories from his decade as NASA's Director for Astrophysics and subsequent fifteen years of working closely with NASA and outside business teams. For example, he tells how the processes in the book enabled him to initiate the space mission to fix the Hubble Space Telescope's flawed mirror.

The book includes a free download of Pellerin's most powerful tool for influencing the outcome of any difficult situation: the Context Shifting Worksheet. In addition, free downloadable resources will help you:

  • Identify your teammates' innate personalities
  • Diagram your culture-and compare it to that of your customer
  • Measure the coherency of your project's paradigm-get this wrong and you will be fired
  • Learn how authentic appreciation creates an atmosphere of mutual respect

From the Back Cover

Includes Free Online Team and Individual Assessments to Measure and Improve Your Team's Culture

"Dr. Pellerin knows how NASA works, from long experience with the organization. What he has learned about how NASA puts together teams to attain out-of-this-world goals can help you and your organization achieve your own goals. This is a book well worth studying."
Dr. Michael D. Griffin, Head of NASA, 2005-2009

"As a NASA program manager, I saw our teams make quantum leaps in improvement using Pellerin's 4-D system. Later, as a senior NASA leader, I witnessed an organization-wide transformation as the 4-D team-building system took root in our culture. I can endorse this book in the strongest possible terms, but what matters more is the experience of thousands of engineers and scientists whose careers and lives have been positively affected by 4-D."
Rex D. Geveden, former chief engineer, NASA

"This book is an extraordinary guide to building effective teams to solve technical problems. The insights, based on years of experience in building teams for NASA, reveal a deep understanding of how technical people interact and can be motivated to work more effectively. Any organization where success requires a motivated technical staff will benefit from this book."
Dr. Len Fisk, Head of Space Science, NASA, 1985-1992

"Great projects demand great leadership. The 4-D process in this book has tools, attitudes, and habits that will help make you a great project leader. It's really for any group that is tackling a challenging project, not just for NASA or space projects. I strongly endorse this volume. I believe the reader will find it entertaining as well as a wonderful approach to forging a more successful management team. When I developed and ran GPS, I wish it had been available to me."
Brad Parkinson, chief architect of the Global Positioning System (GPS); Professor Emeritus, Astronautics, Stanford University

"By teaching us how to understand our customer's mind-set and then to authentically shape our team's offering in response, Pellerin helped us win three major competitive proposals worth $9 billion. His 4-D approach helps team members achieve superior results-and in the process, live richer and more compassionate lives."
Greg Davidson, Northrop Grumman Space Technology

"This book has become an integral part of my life. It provides a framework for improving not only your professional life but your personal life as well."
John Morton, Vice President, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation


More About the Author

Charles Pellerin, PhD
Author of How NASA Builds Teams (Wiley, 2009)

Charlie received Goddard Space Flight Center's highest patent related award for inventing a "Two-axis Fluxgate Magnetometer. The design, published in IEEE Transactions, then flew on missions to the planets. He earned a PhD in Astrophysics publishing in Solar Physics and the Astrophysical Journal. Catholic University awarded him their Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievement in Science.

After the Harvard Business School's "Program for Management Development," NASA appointed Charlie Director, Astrophysics. He led this program for a decade launching 12 satellites. Charlie invented the Great Observatories Program garnering over $8B for space astrophysics. NASA awarded him an Outstanding Leadership Medal and the American Astronautical Society gave him their highest award, the Space Flight Award.

In 1990, Charlie launched the Hubble Space Telescope with a flawed mirror. He then mounted the space repair mission that fixed the telescope. Hubble is now in its 20th year of operations. NASA awarded him a second Outstanding Leadership Medal, an honor bestowed on less than 50 people (including astronauts) in NASA's History.

Charlie then developed NASA's post-cold-war strategy, and NASA awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, given "when the contribution is so extraordinary that other forms of recognition would be inadequate."

In 1993, he joined the University of Colorado's (CU) Business School as a professor of Leadership. He taught leadership to undergraduates, MBAs, and executives. His classes had the highest ratings in the college, consistently "A+."

Charlie then founded "4-D Systems" with sales of about $5 Million / year. His coaches won the International Coach Federation's 2007 Prism Award for "enhanced excellence and business achievement . . . with documented return on investment."

How NASA Builds Teams is in English, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, and Bulgarian.

Charlie lives a happy life with his wife in Boulder, Colorado.

Customer Reviews

I recommend this book for all teams that want to improve their performance.
John Fairey
He is correct that gathering the team assessment data, follow up to work on issues, and coaching is what makes the 4-D Process valuable for teams.
Helen J. Hall
Charlie Pellerin's "How NASA Builds Teams" is an excellent tutorial of Charlie's proven 4D System to build highly effective technical teams.
Gerard D. Wittman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Franklin Cameron on July 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a Counseling Psychologist specializing in working with teenagers, I come to Dr. Pellerin's book from a different perspective. I had to opportunity to participate in a 4-D workshop conducted in the private sector and was amazed at how deeply the 4-D construct understood and spoke to the fact that teams consist of individuals who often have fundamental personality differences that influence--and bedevil--their ability to communicate and cooperate with each other. One particular intervention Dr. Pellerin has devised is a communication instrument called the "Context Shifting Worksheet" that I now use to coach teenagers in how to structure conversations with their parents and teachers that will foster shared realities, cultivate agreement, and set the ground for making valid requests for things they want and need. The instrument is a masterful invention, to say the least.
Franklin Cameron, Psy.D.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Tina M. Chindgren-Wagner, Ph.D. on August 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As an OD and learning consultant for nearly 20 years, this is the only approach to teambuilding that I have discovered that consistently transforms teams and has quantitative evidence to prove it. With a `team shifting context', Dr. Pellerin provides leaders and their teams with tools that are easily put into practice - and much more effective and efficient than individual training. The examples in his book are interesting and relatable for any project team member; and as a bonus, he offers free downloable resources.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By James L. Green on March 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been a manager for over 25 years and I thought I had been exposed to everything until I put in practice the principals in Dr. Pellerin's book. I have taken extensive management training and tried to put those things into practice after each training session but in reality they were all on the periphery. For me it has been putting in practice the 4D system that has been the best organizational improvement of them all. In today's business world it's all about your people. If you want to succeed then stop messing around and bring your team to their peak capacity by putting into practice the 4D system.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Beth Hand on August 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I met Charlie Pellerin when he was a man on a mission--one he is still on--to help NASA avoid leadership challenges that in the past had cost lives, time, and money. How NASA Builds Teams is a product of that mission. As one of the original team of coaches for his company 4-D Systems, I have an insider's view of how his approaches and content are valued by technical teams.

In highly technical cultures, because time is at a premium and the projects so large in scope, anything that isn't about getting the job done and done well is considered a distraction. So you can imagine how a flight project team might feel about having to take time out for a workshop focusing on soft skills--they would consider it an unnecessary, and unwelcome, distraction.

Yet those very workshops, which are based on the principles presented in How NASA Builds Teams, are consistently given outstanding scores by the participants, who say they consider the time well-spent. For busy people, that's one of the highest accolades.

Another indication of how well this material is received is that most participants choose to engage in one-on-one leadership coaching, one of the recommendations Pellerin offers in his book. Coaching coupled with regular, confidential assessments based on the 4-D approaches helps leaders get practical, useful results applying their insights and learning in real time.

In my consulting role providing project management to large-scale IT projects, and in my role as executive coach to high-performers, I am committed to helping these talented, passionate clients achieve measurable results. How NASA Builds Teams is a valued part of my coaching toolset. Using the material presented in this book can help your team or organization get the results you want as well.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pellerin's How NASA Builds Teams Shows How Important Lessons Can be Learned from Spectacular Failures

By Shannon Benic

If failure can teach important lessons for future success, then Charles Pellerin is well-equipped to teach all of us some very important lessons indeed. Pellerin refreshingly confesses in the opening paragraphs of his 260-page book, How NASA Builds Teams, that he was director of astrophysics for NASA in 1990 and oversaw one of the greatest mistakes in the history of space exploration, the launching of the Hubble Space Telescope with a severely flawed mirror. Moreover, the Hubble Failure Review Board blamed not only the manufacturer of the mirror but also a "leadership failure" at NASA.

Pellerin took the blame personally and admits his exemplary 30-year career with the space agency was in serious jeopardy. But instead of attempting to deflect the blame, Pellerin set out to fix the problem. He left NASA five years later but not before overseeing the successful mission that repaired Hubble - turning it from the butt of jokes to one of the most important and successful achievements of the space agency.

How NASA Builds Teams represents the culmination of the lessons learned by Pellerin of the original Hubble failure, other spectacular NASA failures such as the Challenger and Columbia explosions, and failure in corporate management in general. As a faculty member at the University of Colorado's business school for the past 15 years, Pellerin has devoted his professional life since NASA to finding out why companies and projects fail and in devising systems to improve staff and management interaction and performance.
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