It’s not about the Tools — ATOMs #13-4

DavidYou and I could use Michelangelo’s chisel and not come up with anything close to his spectacular work, the famous sculpture of David. It’s not about the tools. It’s about the person using the tools.

ATOMs need leaders. Without leadership, ATOMs are just chisels and hammers in a tool chest.

We left off last time preparing for the airdrop of the 70,000 lb Ares, and we highlighted three egregious shortcomings of the models & simulation available to us.

At the outset, our goal was to characterize the pitch change, the dynamic response, of the aircraft during extraction of an airdrop load.  But we couldn’t do that based on the previously described limitations.

I will tell you the punchline–we used the sample max (not averages or standard deviations) to evaluate the aircraft response. That non-parametric statistic answers the following question: “what is the largest expected pitch change and pitch rate?”

It took expert knowledge of the problem, of the way we did airdrop and handled emergencies, to reframe the problem and to realize that the solution was reasonable. Hired guns don’t have that knowledge.

Models spit out numbers. Leaders apply those numbers to the situation!

You are in the trenches, and you have that knowledge, which is why you need to arm yourself with ATOMs. You are the leader. It’s your vision–if it’s surrounded by uncertainty, an outsider’s view will be out of focus.

This example is shared in greater detail in the book, Where Do We Go from Here: Analytical Tools to Help Leaders Navigate Uncertainty and Risk. I think it will help you greatly, and so I encourage you to buy it.  Amazon has a money back guarantee as well.

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Where Do We Go From Here

How do we find our way then, when we are exploring the unknown, blazing a trail into uncharted territory? How do we apply elementary statistical principles to transform uncertainty into decisive action? What is to prevent us from making a preposterous application of ATOMs when we deal with very complex situations, those in which our intuition fails?

These questions are not much different from those faced by Chuck Yeager before he ever broke the sound barrier or Neil Armstrong as he took that first step on the moon. Neither of these men, nor anyone around them–with hundreds or thousands of highly educated, very scientific people on these teams–knew what to expect. Or did they…?

ATOMs is a monthly column that introduces analytical tools of mathematics and statistics and illustrates their application. To read more about ATOMs, you can read Where Do We Go From Here, or view the online workbook here.

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