There’s a critical moment at the beginning of any crisis, the moment we realise we can’t act because we don’t understand the problem… because we don’t know what caused it… because we don’t have time to find out… because we have to act now… which we can’t.
That’s the moment most people’s brains seize up… but for Apollo 13 Flight Director Gene Krantz it was the moment to maximise all the brainpower he had at his disposal by focusing different teams onto distinct aspects the problem.
“Ok, all flight controllers, I suggest you start handing over because I think a fresh team’s probably going to be thinking clearer… I suggest White Team goes back through the data; go back to the initial conditions and see if we can find out what happened and let the fresh guys try to figure out where we go from here”
Within moments he had three critical investigations underway:
‘WHAT IS HAPPENING?’ (Present Effects) What do we know for certain?
‘WHY IS IT HAPPENING?’ (Past Causes) What’s been different or weird about this mission so far?
‘HOW DO WE FIX IT?’ (Future Options) Forget what it was designed for, what can it actually do?
On their own, none of these discussions was enough to solve the problem but taken together they offered an accurate and reliable picture of the true state of things, a short list of its probable causes and a menu of innovative options and alternatives.
Houston, we have a solution.