Organizational Dynamics Working Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



Working Paper #11-01


The purpose of this paper is to share NASA’s model for developing high-potential, mid-level systems engineers and the results achieved. It describes the complex system approach to technical leadership development and factors that contributed to the program’s success. Findings show that identifying, training, and developing the entire learning system—not just program participants—significantly affected the participants’ ability to make a greater contribution to the organization. NASA achieved an 80% first year, and 90% second year, success rate of individuals transitioning into more complex and difficult positions upon returning to their organizations. Comparatively, the average failure rate for executive transition is 40%. NASA’s findings are applicable to other organizations. Developing potential leaders by involving the entire system in which the individual works, while holding their leadership accountable, produces qualified leaders ready to meet the organization’s ongoing challenges.



Date Posted: 28 October 2011

This document has been peer reviewed.