Moonshot 101: Transforming Healthcare Organizations

Moonshots in healthcare are target goals that are so challenging and ideal that they are near impossibility. A previous blog discussed the quest to end cancer,  increase life expectancy by at least 50 years, universal access to healthcare at zero cost, and an end to chronic diseases. In this blog we want to talk about certain aspects of healthcare that can go a long way towards transformation.

Moonshot thinking is the driving force that inspires high quality continuous process improvements. The Apollo 11 moonshot thinking empowered collaborative and creative teamwork to overcome some daunting odds . Furthermore, it opened lessons of failures with the firm belief that these lessons would eventually lead to success. Reaching the moon seemed unrealistic and far-reaching when President Kennedy first announced the goal in his speech at Rice University in 1962.  

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

The bright young minds of that decade responded to the challenge with a ferocious belief in what was possible, and a dedication to making it happen. Less than a decade later, the first men landed on the moon and returned safely to earth. Making the near impossible possible has since then been referred to as the term ‘moonshot’. Apollo 11's legacy has inspired industries across the globe, especially those processes within NASA’s organization that soon became exemplary standards for improvement.

What are some of the achievements from Apollo 11's moonshot thinking that we can use in healthcare?

A Clear Vision with Safety and Quality as the Priority

President Kennedy’s condition for approving the mission was clear, to ensure a safe landing and a safe return. Safety and quality were considered in every decision. Ensuring the well being of those aboard took 8 years, $20 billion, and 400,000 workers in one well orchestrated project. A high price but justified because the price of failure was higher and not acceptable.

Safety and quality are the foundation of high reliability products and care that professionals want to provide, and consumers are seeking. By quality, we don’t mean that which is above the rest, but that which is unlike the others.

For example, the Apollo engineers wanted a lightweight computerized inertial guidance system that would enable a soft lunar landing. Back then computers with very simple programs took up an entire room. The quality that the moonshot called for necessitated a new invention, and that demand was met by Fairchild Semiconductor. Two employees from Fairchild, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, went on to found the company Intel seven years later. Who would have known that the gadget you have now is an indirect byproduct of the space mission half a century ago?

 Effectiveness as the Guiding Principle

The Apollo 11 mission was the success story of a space exploration that was conceptualized more than decade before it became a reality. In between its conceptualization and realization were numerous challenges in manpower, technology and experimentations. This meant countless failed experiments, including the tragedies of Apollo 1 where the crew expired during a disastrous fire in the capsule. These failures were never considered deterrents but sources of lessons to be learned for optimum effectiveness.

Evaluations after the Apollo 11 mission showed that effectiveness of the trainings prior to the rocket launch was the key to the successful lunar landing. They used what they learned from previous mistakes to make improvements in training because they wanted to be effective in every possible way.

Efficiency as a Product of Leadership, Technology, Thorough Planning and Continuous Process Improvement

NASA’s evaluations after the Apollo 11 mission led them to conclude that the efficiency of the execution of the project was the direct result of thorough planning, an excellent performing spacecraft and precision maneuvering by the astronauts on board while under the guidance of the leaders here on earth.

Efficiency means meeting all expectations in every aspect of the mission, including timelines. Although the kaizen principal of management was not yet a known term at that time, Apollo 11's lunar mission exemplified kaizen as evidenced by the continuous process improvements that were made and an amazing outcome. This was efficiency at its best.

 Zest as the Sustaining Power Source

Around 400,000 workers labored to make this mission a success. That meant 24/7 of work, years of sleepless nights and of missed family occasions and events, and even tragedies that had to be overcome. Yet it is quite invigorating to read about true accounts  of the people who were a part of this success. What kept them going and sustained them? People gave their all not because of extra pay  but because they considered it a privilege to be working on a project that would leave a huge mark on the history of mankind. For them, it was part of realizing a farfetched childhood dream and they gave their best in contributing to this transformative effort.  The workers considered their experience in this project, the most memorable one.

Organizational Transformation in Healthcare

These attributes should serve as the framework  of organizational transformation in healthcare. With the universal goal of improving patient health outcomes through 'moonshots' as significant as the Apollo 11 mission, we can change the way we conduct healthcare delivery.

 ManageUP recognizes the importance of these attributes to achieve 'moonshots' in healthcare, and we made these the framework of our own mission and vision. SQUEEZE -(s)afety, (qu)ality, (e)ffectiveness, (e)fficiency and (z)est is the motivating force and guiding principle behind our employee reward system. We understand that SQUEEZE influences better patient outcomes and safety, while also creating an engaging workplace culture and employee sustainability. Contact us to learn how we can help you achieve your organization’s moonshots.



APOLLO 11 The Fifth Mission: The First Lunar Landing 16 July–24 July 1969

Apollo’s Army

Health Moonshots that will Transform the World

 What is Kaizen?