SMA Leadership Profile: Greg Blaney

SMA Leadership Profile: Greg Blaney

3-minute read
Greg Blaney

As director of NASA’s Independent Validation and Verification (IV&V) program, Greg Blaney’s focus is on supporting mission success across the agency. He sees IV&V as a team member for programs and projects.

“My job is to articulate our vision, our mission, our goals and objectives to the program, put the organization in place, provide guidance, eliminate obstacles for the team and allow them to achieve our mission,” said Blaney.

IV&V is a crucial component for assuring mission success. The program independently verifies and validates the agency’s most safety- and mission-critical software through effective applications of systems and software IV&V methods, practices and techniques.

To do this, IV&V asks three deceptively simple questions. 1) Will the software do what it’s supposed to do? 2) Will the software not do what it’s not supposed to do? 3) Will the software respond appropriately under adverse conditions?

“Most developers will answer the first question and make sure that happens,” said Blaney, “but sometimes they struggle with the second and third questions, so we bring that aspect to the table.”

By asking these questions, IV&V uncovered 61 high-severity issues last year that could have led to mission-ending failure, and thousands more of lesser severity. The cost savings and safety benefits of IV&V are immeasurable.

Part of IV&V’s success with programs and projects stems from Blaney’s team-driven and value-based leadership. “I believe an open, honest, transparent, inclusive communications approach and working as a team are key to having the best program possible,” said Blaney.

IV&V has built upon the agency’s four Core Values to include three more of their own. NASA’s Core Values of Safety, Integrity, Teamwork and Excellence create the foundation. IV&V has added to that Balance, Innovation and Respect.

Blaney explains, “We add Respect because we must honor our customer’s unique needs and processes as we independently evaluate them. We also add Balance. There are occasions when unknown things happen…. The team needs to pull together and readjust the workload to balance the team and carry other people. If you do those things, you will motivate and allow Innovation. Innovation is key to keeping the program relevant as leaders in the industry. If we do that, we will achieve our last value, which is Excellence, which is what we strive for — excellence in what we do.”

Blaney’s emphasis on values started long before he became director. From his childhood growing up on a farm, to working as an air traffic controller for the Federal Aviation Administration, to working at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Blaney is no stranger to hard work, stressful situations and challenges. The Challenger and Columbia accidents also solidified the importance of safety for him. Blaney arrived at IV&V in 1996, and worked his way up, serving in almost every position in the organization on his way. Blaney cites the breadth of his experience as an asset in his role as director. It allows him perspective that few other IV&V directors have had.

Under Blaney’s direction, IV&V continues to support mission success through emerging challenges, such as the validation of NASA’s commercial partners’ contributions to human spaceflight, and new opportunities, which may include partnerships beyond NASA.

“Our program vision statement is to be a world leader,” said Blaney. “In that vein, not only do we want to be the IV&V provider for NASA, we want to enable other government agencies to use our services as well.”