Nan Hardin on what it’s like to successfully manage complex programs for NASA

March 1, 2018 Jenny Franchi

Nan Hardin, Program Manager — “Partnership involves looking at the world from the customer’s perspective and anticipating
new processes and products that will enable them to achieve
their goals.” 

Nan manages both the Cargo Mission Contract 2 (CMC2) and Research Engineering Mission Integration Services (REMIS) program for NASA. CMC2 provides analytical and physical processing activities to support pressurized cargo requirements for visiting vehicle flights to and from the International Space Station (ISS). REMIS provides end-to-end mission integration and operations in support of the research objectives for principle investigators and facilitation of the commercialization of the low-earth orbit mission. Nan is responsible for technical, cost, and schedule requirements on the programs and acts as the primary interface with NASA.

Below Nan answers questions why partnership is critical to large, complex IT programs.

What does partnership mean to you?

Partnership with the customer means that we, as Leidos, work to understand customer needs and challenges and to provide solutions to meet those needs.  Partnership involves looking at the world from the customer’s perspective and anticipating new processes and products that will enable them to achieve their goals.  It requires time and effort to build relationships of trust that allow open communication to freely discuss any issues, challenges, and potential solutions.

When did collaboration with NASA lead to better business outcomes?

The ISS Program is focused on a Revolutionizing ISS for Science and Exploration (RISE) initiative to re-invent the way the ISS does business in order to simplify processes for the payload developers. NASA was interested in improving the process required to manifest an item to fly to ISS, but was struggling with an approach.  We saw that the project was not moving forward and took the initiative to develop a relationship with an associate contractor that allowed us to jointly recommend an approach to develop a new process and tool for manifesting.  Leidos and the associate contractor presented a proposal to NASA, and over the last year, we have delivered that new tool and worked closely with the user community to make the new process and tool successful.  The project was used in an ISS Program all hands as an example of how we want to do business and has also led to NASA trusting us to use a similar approach for automation of another process with two associate contractors.

How do you strengthen partnerships with your customers?

I participate in customer business rhythms to understand the big picture of what’s happening on the program and where they are struggling so that I can look for ways that our contract can adapt to meet those challenges.  I conduct regular tag-up meetings with customers at different levels of the organization to listen and make suggestions on how to improve things at their level.  I provide candid, but professional, feedback to customers on problems that we are experiencing and suggest ways for us to work together to resolve it.  It’s also important to translate the customer’s needs and concerns to the team in a way that they can understand how we fit into the big picture and to allow them to suggest ways that we can adapt to an ever changing environment on ISS.  This flowdown to the team is done in all hands, email communications, during regular meetings, and informal discussions. 

I also think it’s very important to build relationships with associate contractors to build an environment of trust where we work together to respond to customer needs and suggest better ways of doing things.  This involves making opportunities to meet and discuss things with the Program Managers on the associate contracts and demonstrating a willingness to work together within contract boundaries to make everyone successful.

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