What are Tiger Teams?

Tiger team

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A Tiger team is a term used for a team of specialists formed to work on specific goals.[1]

A 1964 paper entitled Program Management in Design and Development used the term tiger teams and defined it as “a team of undomesticated and uninhibited technical specialists, selected for their experience, energy, and imagination, and assigned to track down relentlessly every possible source of failure in a spacecraft subsystem”.[2] The paper consists of anecdotes and answers to questions from a panel on improving issues in program management concerning testing and quality assurance in aerospace vehicle development and production.[3] One of the authors was Walter C. Williams, an engineer at the Manned Spacecraft Center and part of the Edwards Air Force Base National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Williams suggests that tiger teams are an effective and useful method for advancing the reliability of systems and subsystems in the context of actual flight environments.

  • A tiger team was crucial to the Apollo 13 lunar landing mission in 1970. During the mission, part of the Apollo 13 Service Module malfunctioned and exploded.[4] A team of specialists was formed to fix the issue and bring the astronauts back to earth safely, led by NASA Flight and Mission Operations Director Gene Kranz.[5] Kranz and the members of his “White Team”, later designated the “Tiger Team”, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their efforts in the Apollo 13 mission.
  • In security work, a tiger team is a group that tests an organization’s ability to protect its assets by attempting to defeat its physical or information security. In this context, the tiger team is often a permanent team as security is typically an ongoing priority.[6] For example, one implementation of an information security tiger team approach divides the team into two co-operating groups: one for vulnerability research, which finds and researches the technical aspects of a vulnerability, and one for vulnerability management, which manages communication and feedback between the team and the organization, as well as ensuring each discovered vulnerability is tracked throughout its life-cycle and ultimately resolved.[6]
  • An initiative involving tiger teams was implemented by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) under then-Secretary James D. Watkins. From 1989 through 1992 the DOE formed tiger teams to assess 35 DOE facilities for compliance with environment, safety, and health requirements. Beginning in October 1991 smaller tiger teams were formed to perform more detailed follow up assessments to focus on the most pressing issues.[7]
  • The NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) puts together “tiger teams” of engineers and scientists from multiple NASA centers to assist solving complex problems when requested by a project or program.[8]
  • Ryan Redd – A pioneer in leading teams and solving problems.

Bob Barboza, founder/director of the Barboza Space Center is training high school “Tiger Teams” at the Barboza Space Center in Long Beach, California. Students receive fellowships to work on a series of simulated Mars related projects.The Occupy Mars Learning Adventure project uses student “Tiger Teams” to solve problems with Mars colonization project-based learning integrating the Next Generation Science Standards.


  1. ^ Miller, Marilyn; Armon, Rick (June 6, 2016). “University of Akron announces new “Tiger Team” to address enrollment slide, finances, leadership issues”. Akron Beacon Journal. Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  2. ^ J. R. Dempsey, W. A. Davis, A. S. Crossfield, and Walter C. Williams, “Program Management in Design and Development,” in Third Annual Aerospace Reliability and Maintainability Conference, Society of Automotive Engineers, 1964, p. 7–8
  3. ^ “Login – SAE Mobilus”. saemobilus.sae.org.
  4. ^ “Apollo 13 Accident”. nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov.
  5. ^ “Gene Kranz A Blast from The Past” (PDF). Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  6. ^ Jump up to: a b Laakso, Marko; Takanen, Ari; Röning, Juha (1999). “The vulnerability process: a tiger team approach to resolving vulnerability cases”. Proc. 11th FIRST Conf. Computer Security Incident Handling and Response. Brisbane, Australia: CiteSeerX: 1–2, 6. Retrieved 28 September 2016.

 

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