Saturday, March 28, 2009

Management lesson from the GPS Satellite Navigation System

The Global Position Satellite navigation system is an indispensable part of a modern seafarer's life.
On a sidetrack, navigation used to be carried out by Star-gazing in the days of yore. The sextant, a star sighting instrument, was invented by the Chinese, although most of us Indian maintain that we taught the world the art and science of Navigation. My personal quest into how the art and science of navigation came to human kind has yet indicated the we Indians would only do a river navigation, which was called 'Nav gath' in Sanskrit which perhaps is the etymological base for the Navigation. But river navigation, which harnesses 'terrestrial navigation' is vastly different from ocean navigation, which uses the 'celestial navigation'. Celestial navigation is the first place where the need for chronometer, or a time measuring device, was first felt by mankind. The purpose was to be able to measure the movement of sun across the longitudes. The "long by chron" method was theoretically worked out much much before the chronometer, (aka, in modern days, a wrist watch)came into being, but could not be practised while at sea. Year 1800 AD marked the invention of longitudes for the purpose of navigation. Imagine how Vasco da Gama and Columbus might have carried out their sea-voyages even with being able to know the longitudes! great work, i say. Interestingly, the Logarithms, which we so tediously study in schools, found their first practical use none other than, at sea for calculating the position using 'long by chron' method.
It really amazes me think the history of shipping is indeed the history of mankind, and in one accurate glance a history of the future of this world as well. Sometimes i think of throwing down this bold statement to all the thinker that- this world and all its civilisations have been settled and brought about by none other than it's mariners! Think over it, all those reading this statement.

Returning back to the original theme of my talk, the GPS works using some 24 satellites, all owned by the US Dept of Defense(the Pentagon) and employs a craft of quartz clocks in its electronics, which are able to measure time to its 9th place after decimal.!!! can you people imagine that and assimilate how the GPS system is so accurate in fixing the position. It has a accuracy level measurable in centimetres. And the challenge remains that each of the 24 satellites and the GPS ground control stations on earth have these quartz crystal clocks which each measure the time to that high precision. The challenge is the the inherent vibrations of quartz crystals should have been synchronized at the beginning of their formation itself to all of them vibrate in sync all the time yet, which practically means synchronisation the time of formation of earth! Now that is not known to have happened or not.!
So how do the scientist achieve that. That's where the management philosophy teaches some lessons to technology, and vice verse. A clever management of these satellite keeps them working in sync all the time. This concept in turn teaches an observer the great lesson that- what and individual cannot achieve independently can sometimes be achieved by some careful and well cor-ordinated team work.
Like, none of us can be fully correct and full wrong at the same time, but by a well-argued proposition achieve full-correctness on some matters. We cannot be God individually, but we can achieve a very high standard of Godliness, by working in close liaison with other well-read, intellectual people. The decision of an individual can be subject to mistakes, but a panel of high-class judges can achieve even the unattainable.
Think about the above, who have their argument lines as:
You are not God, nor can you be one. !!( individual is not, but an elite panel can nearly be so.)
If something cannot be achieved by any individual, then it is really unachievable!!(it's really not so).
No body is fully correct; nobody is fully wrong. (co-ordination can do more wonders).