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Management: The Final Frontier

Management: The Final Frontier

Supporting NASA’s strategy for maintaining leadership in space

The space industry is worth $415 billion worldwide each year. Unlike the 1960s, when state agencies dominated the sector, 80% of the market now comprises private companies. Professor Loizos Heracleous’ research explored how NASA could maintain excellence in a rapidly changing field, supporting the implementation of key reforms at NASA and helping to improve the agency's resilience in an increasingly competitive sector.

The challenge

The global space industry has been evolving rapidly, presenting strategic and environmental challenges for NASA. They have had to manage competing tensions, balancing the exploration of new domains and technologies with exploitation of its existing resources and capabilities, all within a climate of reduced funding.

Professor Heracleous’ research has assisted the space agency to become more adaptive to change and adopt a network-based organisational model, whilst shaping the strategic thinking, mindset and culture at all levels within the agency.

Our approach

Professor Heracleous’ prior case study research with global companies, such as Apple Inc, Singapore Airlines and Xerox, resonated with senior leaders at NASA and led to an ongoing collaboration; research interventions included:

  • Significant organisation development activities through bespoke workshops were conducted to translate knowledge and evidence from research to underpin major change programmes within the agency.

  • A study to understand how NASA could pursue and ambidexterity within their main operations, rather than by instituting separate subsidiaries as suggested by the dominant alternative model of ‘structural ambidexterity.'

A series of co-authored articles with senior leaders at NASA were published in Space Policy, Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review , which outlined these changes and illustrated the history of reform embedded in the agency's culture.

Our impact

  • Professor Heracleous’s research directly informed the organisation’s management strategy, underpinning major change programmes across the agency.

  • Organisational development workshops supported these changes, which resulted in more flexible ways of working, whilst supporting the shift towards a network organisation model to enable NASA to realise strategic agility.


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