What can Leaders learn from Chandrayan?

Sep 6, 2023

NASA shows sportsmanship by congratulating India on beating the US to the moon’s South Pole – but Russia and China stay silent after the Chandrayaan-3 craft makes history

Daily Mail, UK

The most important leadership lesson some countries can learn is to recognize the achievements of others. When political considerations influence decisions rather than human-centered decisions, relationships suffer.

The Chandrayan mission, seemingly picture-perfect in execution, must have gone through grueling months and days of preparation, especially after the failure of Chandrayan 2 as it was about to land. Chandrayan 1’s mission was to gather information about the lunar landscape, which was accomplished. Chandrayan 2 mission was to land on the moon, and it crashed. Chandrayan 3 has orbited, landed, walked, and is now gathering data.

The first leadership lesson for ISRO was to learn from the failure of Chandrayan 2. This was addressed remarkably by ISRO leadership. Whatever ISRO scientists did was based on failure proofing for success, addressing all possible risks, in what the quality assurance process calls poke-yoke. We do not know what was done, but surely many elements of Deming, Juran, and Lean Thinking must have gone into this amazing achievement. Someday, perhaps its scientists will share their process methodology to benefit other enterprises.


From a business perspective, the Chandrayan 3 mission offers these additional lessons:


Strategic Management

Though details may never be revealed, total autonomy including financial autonomy was given to the ISRO leadership. PM Modi’s vision appears to have been anchored as a commitment in the collaborative way the ISRO team achieved what it did. In a democracy, still fledgling in space research, this is nothing short of a miracle.


Budget Management

At $75 million, which many have stated is cheaper than a lot of Hollywood and (some) Bollywood movies, Chandrayan 3 is an incredible achievement. The Russian Luna mission that failed is estimated to have cost 3 times as much. The project management leadership to achieve this is a global benchmark. Though on a smaller scale, the only other State-led projects to have been carried out with such precision were some railway projects including a few of the Metros.


Supply Chain Management

Part of the budget cost management has been attributed to a longer, slower elliptical orbit. Manpower costs are also cited as a reason for the lower cost. This may be true in comparison to the USA, while not necessarily in comparison to Russia and China, the other two countries making the four moon landers. The indigenous supply chain is arguably the most significant, accounting for as much as 90%. This is perhaps the greatest achievement other than the technological one, in building and developing India as a manufacturing base for such sophisticated projects.




To the extent possible in such a strategic mission with national security implications, communication has been open with the public. No attempt was made to hide details of Chandrayan 2 failure. It was treated as a learning. No scapegoats were created as is common in many such endeavors. For a change, no politician claimed credit. The technologists were the visible ones, other than the PM who celebrated them.

Chandrayan 3 mission needs to be a case study in project management. It’s an achievement every Indian can be proud of. More importantly, it’s a project that managers and leaders can learn from. It’s also a lesson bureaucrats and politicians can learn from, to leave scientists, technologists, and experts alone to make our country credible and visible instead of introducing corrupt practices of self-interest.

Picture Credit: The Siasat Daily

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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