Thursday, May 04, 2006


It's funny how two seemingly disparate pieces of work can fuse together quite powerfully.

At present I'm putting together a training day on the move from an internal communications focus on outputs - those award-winning magazines, events and intranets - to outcomes - what business benefit is the communication actually enabling?

I'm also researching an article on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 1 cockpit fire that caused the deaths of Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White.

I'd been looking for a powerful motif of outcome-based communication to set the tone for the training day. I found it on page 1 of Andrew Chaikin's book: A man on the moon.

Chaikin quotes John Kennedy, standing on the podium at Rice University Texas on September 12 1962. Kennedy said: "I believe this nation should commit itself, before the decade is out, to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."

Whatever political and cold war sentiments charged that statement, it gave an entirely clear direction that steered the efforts of 400,000 people for the next seven years. When Neil Armstong set foot on the moon, the outcome was achieved.

Millions of messages were exchanged at thousands of levels between September 1962 and July 1969 when Apollo 11 achieved Kennedy's avowed intent. But having that clarity of purpose articulated clearly ensured everyone was engaged in reaching a clear goal. Few events, before or since, have enjoyed such clarity of purpose - but what an example of what can be achieved.

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