Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Posted: 3 Apr 2010

See all articles by Robert S. Kaplan

Robert S. Kaplan

Harvard Business School

Anette Mikes

Harvard Business School

Date Written: March 16, 2010

Abstract

The case, in a non-profit project-oriented setting, introduces fundamental risk management principles and processes that are easily applicable to private sector settings. Gentry Lee, senior systems engineer and de-facto chief risk officer, is applying a new comprehensive risk management system to a $600 million high-profile Mars landing mission. The case illustrates JPL's risk culture for high-visibility and expensive missions in the post-Challenger era with tightly constrained budgets. It introduces risk analytics, such as heat maps, and the management process and governance system centered around continuous challenge and "intellectual confrontation." Students will consider JPL's strategy and constraints, measurable technical risks, non-measurable external risks and societal pressures in making a decision about whether to launch or delay the Mars mission launch. The case calls for an appreciation of the role of the chief risk officer, and in general, of leadership, in risk management.

Suggested Citation

Kaplan, Robert S. and Mikes, Anette, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (March 16, 2010). HBS Case No. 110-031, Harvard Business School Accounting & Management Unit, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1581385

Robert S. Kaplan (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field
Accounting & Control
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6150 (Phone)
617-496-7363 (Fax)

Anette Mikes

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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