Apollo 13 – an ITSM case experience

28 University students at University of Borås was set up to guide the crew of Apollo 13 on their journey to the moon and back. They were hired to be NASA mission control center for two days and experience the whole journey of Apollo 13 and make a lot of learnings over the days.

The mission director was very excited, fourteen specialists in the middle of their studies to become technical specialist, could it be any better? Apollo 13 will go to the moon and back with success!


For students with no or little work experience these simulations are a superb boost for their understanding of communication, dynamics and structure in a IT organization. During the session reflections was of course around the teams performance and improvement, but it’s also a golden opportunity for us as teachers to make connections to IT organizations and challenges they will meet ‘in the real world’ when they graduate.

These students attends a two year IT technician program and will be our future IT specialists and consultants, so it’s extremely important that they are aware of structures, processes, organizations and culture they will meet in the future.

When these students graduate our aim is that they will have participated in three simulations during their program, roughly described;

  • Apollo 13; learning the dynamics between user, customer, service desk and specialists including teamwork, communication and the ABC’s(Attitude, behavior, culture) Knowledge in some of the main processes they will meet and how they interact
  • The Phoenix project; learning the basics of Devops and Agile in an IT organization and the main processes, culture, and tools they will see and use. Visual management and automation.
  • Grab@pizza; learning the business language and how IT and business must work together to make digitalization possible. What are the drivers for IT , how is strategy implemented all the way and how can IT help business with value creation and innovation.

I will put up a blog after each of these sessions and we will perform an evaluation after the program to look at outcomes of the simulations and how they have contributed in making the students more ready for their new careers in IT.

Huoston, we have a problem…

Our Apollo 13 journey went as we expected, but 55 hours and 55 minutes in the flight we heard a loud bang in the capsule! Houston we have a problem….

With such a professional organization we managed to get our astronauts home safely, even if it was a bumpy ride with a lot of learning and challenges. The mission budget was breached and we failed most of our original goals. We managed two, Photos were taken and we learned more about how we function and react in a space environment – and we succeeded with the most important goal that was not on the list form start. We must of course get our astronauts home safely to their families!

Wrap up

Below bullets was captured after each session and the question was  – “what was the biggest learning point for YOU from this workshop?”

Learning points Apollo 13, session one

  • Being flexibel
  • Doing to much can be counter productive (bottleneck)
  • Prioritization is important
  • Clarity when handing over tasks (incidents, changes etc)
  • Communication – all coomunication (internal, user, customer
  • Clarity in how a task is devided and handed out
  • Knowing what everybody has for responsibility
  • Structured planning important
  • Structures for catching and soliving issues and also testing them
  • Practice makes perfect
  • Important to find out who you need to communicate with
  • Communication important

Learning points Apollo 13, session two

  • Communication and cooperation important
  • Adapted communication, cooperation
  • Be a better listener
  • Cooperation
  • Cooperation is the key to success
  • Teamwork
  • Dont stress to much
  • Teamwork, communication and interplay key
  • Better communication
  • Balance at work – balance stress and reflection
  • Planning
  • Understanding other people (look for behavior styles and adjust communication)
  • Priority and commitment important

And…everyone had a day full of energy, learning and fun!

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Leif Andersson

Leif has worked as a manager and leader in IT organisation for almost 30 years now, and for the last 15 years with management consulting, governance, strategy, support training, business relations and leadership coaching. Leif is owner and consultant at Illumineight AB in Sweden, delivering training and consulting in ITIL, USM, BRM, leadership and organizational change. He is an approved instructor for business simulations from Gamingworks since 2008. (Apollo 13, The Phoenix Project, Marslander (including online version) and Grab@pizza) He was also an early adopter of the Gamingworks concept ‘ABC of ICT’ and have translated the ABC of ICT deck of cards to Swedish and promoted it in Sweden. Leif is also an ambassador for BRM institute and promotes BRM in Sweden and the Nordics. He is a lecturer at University of Borås and participates as an ITSM specialist in several projects at the University of Borås.