“Focus on the problem, people”

After watching our elected officials, yet again, wait to the last minute to do something, I was not surprised things fell apart. That is one of the easiest predictions that could be made. I am certain they will regather and do something, but it will be a lesser result. I also learned the Biden transition team and Department of Defense are having a spitting contest over who said what about getting together on transition issues. Really, folks?

Quoting a classic line from Gene Kranz, the mission control director for NASA, who was played by Ed Harris in the movie “Apollo 13,” “focus on the problem, people.” Apollo 13 was a successful failure. The NASA team had to pull out all the stops to get their three astronauts home from an aborted mission due to an explosion when the reserve oxygen tanks were started.

Witnessing a state of mayhem when the news came down, Kranz quieted every one with these words. Focus on the problem, people. He added he wanted answers not blame. He insisted we are not going to lose these men on my watch. Work the problem. That was the recurring theme as challenge after challenge surfaced.

I think of this when groups of people begin yelling at each other rather than solving the problem at hand. The real problem, not some made up one used to get elected or postured because it sounded good or made them look smart. Organizations are infested with people who have ideas, even good ones, but don’t get up out of their chair to go do them. They fear backlash for saying or doing something stupid.

The movie had two segments that were said to have really happened. First, they needed to vent air from one exhaust hole that was round from the spacecraft to another that was square in the lunar module. It was a square peg in a round hole exercise. The team on the ground had to figure this out with the parts on board and communicate with the three on board.

Second, the spacecraft had to come back to earth without exceeding 22 amps (I think that was the number). So, the reserve astronaut, Ken Mattingly, was gotten out of bed to help them figure this out in the working model craft. Mattingly was shelved because they thought he had the measles. Things had to be switched on in the right order or the amps would be exceeded and the electronics would shut down. When handed a flashlight, he said only give me things they have on board.

Focus on the problem, people. I do not care whose fault it is. Work the problem. That is what you are paid to do and what we need you to do.

Note: Per Wikipedia, Eugene Francis “Gene” Kranz is an American aerospace engineer, a former fighter pilot, and a retired NASA Flight Director and manager. Kranz served as NASA’s second Chief Flight Director, directing missions of the Gemini and Apollo programs, including the first lunar landing mission, Apollo 11. He is best known for directing the successful efforts by the Mission Control team to save the crew of Apollo 13, and was later portrayed in the major motion picture of the same name by actor Ed Harris. He is also noted for his close-cut flattop hairstyle and the dapper “mission” vests of different styles and materials made by his wife, Marta Kranz, for his Flight Director missions.

17 thoughts on ““Focus on the problem, people”

  1. Work the problem, people has never been more important than it is right now. I’m counting the days until the inauguration but so many things just can’t wait.

    • Laura, agreed. Would it not have been far better for the incumbent president back in late January or early February, had forewarned us about COVID-19 and asked a team of people to work the problem? Keith

  2. It would seem that our employees in Congress are too busy playing political games to ‘focus on the problem’, and now it very much looks as if there will be no new stimulus bill. I’m not sure where they stand on the spending bill, but I won’t be surprised if they don’t meet that deadline, either. It’s a good thing there aren’t people floating in a broken space capsule relying on these 535 men and women to rescue them, but there are people in dire straits who need them to sit up and focus on the damn problem before more people lose their homes, or even their lives. Very good post, Keith … thanks!

    • Jill, I think I shared with you a while ago, I used to think Congress benefitted from more information and used that to make decisions. I also think the caliber if House and Senate members was, on average, much higher – Congressman Jack Kemp, Senator Bill Bradley, Senator Phil Gramm, etc. Now, with 24×7 campaigning, they tend to govern off rhetoric more and with gerrymandering, the quality of candidates has declined. The same holds true in state houses, as well. Keith

      • In Warren Davidson’s newsletter this weekend, he noted that because he didn’t like the way Nancy Pelosi and the democrats handled the spending bill, he and others had written a letter to Donald Trump asking him to veto it. Which, of course, would lead to a likely government shutdown leaving thousands of federal workers without income right at Christmas. He didn’t seem to have any particular complaint about policy or issues, simply he didn’t like the way Pelosi and other democrats handled it. We desperately need a reset in Congress! That the likes of Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham and Matt Gaetz were re-elected despite their actions these past few years is simply jaw-dropping. People don’t seem to vote based on facts or policy, but rather on a party line, or a persona. We need to better educate the people of this nation! Sigh.

      • Jill, I think they will have the votes to override it. As for the likes of Warren Davdison, Matt Gaetz, Mo Brooks, Ron Johnson, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, et al, I would like to see them answer questions on camera about Fox’s retraction of the accusations of fraud with one voting system company. The post I just published speaks to this pending litigation and another threat toward Sidney Powell for her defamation. Keith

  3. It is sad that when reading the preview of your article which only showed the first sentence, I had to wonder which country you meant. Just too many for which your statement is true. US, UK, etc

    • Julia, it must be an epidemic. I was referring to the US, but the UK parliament likes to dawdle. Brexit negotiation – all sets – were rushed. Here in the US they spend so much time fund raising and listening to lobbyists to do any work. Keith

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