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Sally Ride
Sally Ride
July 23, 2014 7:00 AM CDT

Sally Ride and other heroes

Full Contact Project Management


Rarely does success happen accidentally. You need a plan. So, here’s the question: What’s your game plan to move your business further into success this year? More important, what’s your Plan B, in case your primary plan fails?

I want to remind you of three very brief stories. They are all from organizations with huge budgets and deep resources, but their stories are your story – at least, they should be.

Thirty-one years ago, in June of 1983, Sally Ride made history by becoming the first woman in space. Sadly, we lost her to cancer in July 2012. Sally gave us a great lesson.

To even get into the cockpit of the shuttle, she had to accomplish some amazing feats, professionally, which she did. But once she was strapped in, helmet on, oxygen flowing, ready for takeoff, she had in front of her checklists with four contingency plans, depending upon what happened, and how things went.

Think about this: NASA, with its huge budget, extensive training, and well-advanced equipment, was mightily concerned with things not going according to plan. So they had backups.

Forty-five years ago this month, the U.S. landed on the moon for the first time – Apollo 11. Everyone knows that story. But just two missions later, Apollo 13 happened: “Houston, we have a problem.”

Everyone should know that story as well. Systems failed, as did the backup system. Another “system” was created, on the fly, and some very sharp-thinking engineers and astronauts were able to fabricate a solution never before tried, returning the crew to earth.

As I write this column, we are still in the midst of the D-Day anniversary celebration. It’s been 70 years – June 6-11, 1944. But here’s the thing about D-Day: There was redundancy of systems and backup plans and overlap to make that happen.

Because the very freedom of the world was at stake, and the allies were losing the war at that time, the generals doing the planning came up with a plan that involved just about all of their resources. If we were playing cards, you could say that we were “all in.” Everything hinged upon winning this hand.

Here are the chips they threw in: 24,000 airborne troops jumping, at night, six hours before the landing, and delivered by about 2,400 aircraft; and 225 Army Rangers coming ashore and scaling 100-foot cliffs and taking out the enemy’s gun emplacements about a half-hour before about 160,000 troops came ashore by 4,100 landing craft, overseen by 195,000 sailors and 11,500 aircraft.

Oh, yeah: Part of the plan – a big part – was that the enemy had to be tricked into believing that the landing was not going to occur where it actually did.

This was a huge deal, which is why we celebrate it today, and why we remember historic moon and shuttle missions. They all relied upon redundant systems, backups with backups, the marshalling of huge resources.

The lesson for us is that we, who are so much more fragile than these big organizations, should think through our operations much more thoroughly than, perhaps, we do. For us, fortunately, groups like the MCAA have done precisely this. They’ve sliced and diced more than their fair share of business plans for mason contractors. And, they’re willing to share this knowledge with you.

I don’t know this for a fact, but if Sally Rider were a mason contractor, one of the first items to check off of her lists would be touching base with the MCAA. Ride, Sally, Ride!

About the Author

Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at


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