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Apparently, these guys are doing things differently than their competitors. I am looking for a structured source of information about what's going on in there, what works, what does not. The book would be perfect.

I've tried browsing Amazon and other local bookstores on this subject but the issue is that due to a massive medial success of the company and its CEO, it's a massive hype and so many authors try to get their slice of the pie by publishing about the company from various angles, not necessarily of interest to me (going through books reviews shows that it's not just me).

Could anyone suggest a structured, technical and detailed position (book, video, study) on their approach to project management?

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    Welcome to pmse. To be clear - You're asking for some sort of 'official' study on SpaceX's project management style?
    – Sarov
    Aug 30, 2021 at 13:25
  • What leads you to believe they are particularly successful at project management? "Apparently, these guys are doing things differently than their competitors. " why do you think so?
    – MCW
    Aug 30, 2021 at 16:26
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    @MCW it common knowledge that SpaceX is considerably more successful at Project Management than competitors (by any measure of the iron triangle (scope, time, budget)). So much so that NASA have launched a number of publicised initiatives to adopt more of the SpaceX approach. The largest advocate has been Dan Rasky who speaks at great length about the subject. Aug 30, 2021 at 17:34
  • Can the person who has voted to close this question please provide their input for improving the question as per the PMSE guidelines. Aug 31, 2021 at 15:26
  • @Sarov, no, nothing 'official', just insightful and not hype-based. It's a private-held company so anything official would be things like their Twitter posts or maybe financial records - both of no interest to me. Sep 1, 2021 at 7:16

1 Answer 1

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I have delivered several keynote workshops and talks about project management on SpaceX - everything you seek can be found in a careful reading of the book Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future.

It is hard to separate the success of SpaceX and Tesla for reasons that become apparent with research, most notably, their co-location, same working patterns and technology sharing agreements (the Tesla chassis is so strong because it is actually a SpaceX rocket).

Summarising a book will appear as shilling and is beyond the remit of PMSE so I will not do so but I will say that I pulled out over 200 Agile and Project Management insights which any keen reader will be able to find.

In addition, you can find supporting evidence by Dan Rasky in a number of interviews and testimonies including a notable YouTube series where he discusses why SpaceX have more success than NASA in getting to a flight ready state.

(Currently on mobile so will return this evening and add in links).

That book and the series links will give you an excellent springboard to understand why SpaceX have a significantly more successful record than other aerospace providers.

Examples

  • Not risk averse
  • 85% in-house supply chain
  • Significant Lean Startup and Agile learnings and mentality
  • Huge parallelized testing suite for both hardware and software
  • Leveraged CI/CD pipeline for patching which means faults can be fixed literally on the launchpad (a process adopted by Tesla) instead of aborting missions and replanning
  • Engineering-first mentality
  • Rapid decision making and prototyping culture (Dan Rasky once made a build it or buy it Dragon capsule decision in minutes because Musk told him to just choose and get back to work)
  • 100 day roadmaps
  • Massively audacious goal setting often beyond the realms of engineering feasibility
  • Highly successful scaling framework

I could post over 100+ insights here but, as I said, it would be summarising several books/white papers/interviews.

However it should also be noted that SpaceX benefited hugely from launching non-live cargo and now that they have transitioned to live cargo it will be interesting to see if their devil-may-care it-is-only-money approach to risk will be able to be maintained.

Edit and Addendum

I would add that my answer is purely dedicated to the principles of project management and delivery. Any answer concerning Tesla or SpaceX is likely to attract a polarising assessing of Elon Musk. Whilst initially a Musk fan, I have found his behaviour in recent years to be appalling and I attribute all of the SpaceX success to engineers being allowed to work in an Engineering-first environment.

Whilst Musk may have provided that environment and funding, I don't believe he has done much else beyond increase the cult of Musk. Any attribution to him of patents and engineering brilliance are nonsense. SpaceX stands today as testimony to the brilliance of the people of SpaceX freed from the traditional corporate and government politics which restrain other organisations.

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  • Thank you @Venture2099 for your insights. Is there a chance of filling in your post with links you mentioned anytime soon? Sep 1, 2021 at 7:23
  • Done @mkarczewski - the videos and book combined have a lot of insight Sep 1, 2021 at 8:43

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