Challenger Disaster

.. others see things differently. Sixth, dont be afraid of error; let trial and error be a path of success, if lives are not at stake. Seventh, take time to play and experiment. Eighth, open up to other viewpoints and perspectives and support nonconformity.

Finally, believe in creativity. If Thiokol and NASA followed this then maybe they may have decided to avoid the launch. A third key aspect is the whistleblowers. In the Challenger disaster there where two main whistleblowers, Richard Cook who worked for NASA and Roger Boisjoly who was the SRM Seals Engineer with Thiokol. Whistleblowers expose the misdeeds of others in organizations.

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Both Cook and Boisjoly wrote many memos to their bosses and collogues in warning them of the disaster. Also after the Challenger disaster, they continued to write memos expressing themselves to fellow members of the organization. The main significance of these men was when they spoke before the committee. When they were brought before the committee, they revealed that both Thiokol and NASA knew of the O-ring problem and the consequences of the launch at temperatures lower then the limit. These men made it clear to the nation that there were major organizational problems.

These men had the courage to go against the norms of the organization because of the bad ethics being conducted throughout the organization. In Thiokol and NASA, many employees where too scared to come forward or they did not think they were doing anything wrong because the organizations top executives approved of the behavior. A checklist for making ethical decisions is first to recognize the ethical dilemma. Second, is to get the facts. Third is to identify your options and test them.

Fifth is to decide which option to follow and double check your decision. Finally, take action. These steps can help a whistleblower make the right ethical decision. A fourth key aspect is the organizations corporate social responsibility. That is an obligation of an organization to act in ways that serve both its own interests and the interests of its stakeholders.

In an American society it is important for an organization to stress social responsibility in order to be a successful organization, this was true with NASA at the beginning of the organizations history. In the case of the Challenger disaster, NASA and Thiokol assumed the role of the defensive strategy. Thiokol and NASA seemed to do the minimum legally required on the Challenger mission. These organizations were able to bend and break a lot of requirements because in their field no other organization knows what they do because it is a state of the art field of work. This could be one of the reasons why Thiokol got away with their poor ethical standards because no other organization knew whether or not they were practicing unethical behaviors. Thiokol and NASA made an unethical decision when they decided to risk human lives and proceed with countless launches escaping near tragedies each time.

These organizations were pushing the limit on their luck. As an organization, both Thiokol and NASA had a responsibility to protect its crew members from a disaster. Instead they ignored the warnings from a number of employees and ultimately risked human lives. Thiokol and NASA were playing a game of Russian roulette. A fifth key aspect that led to a break down in the organization was the management and technical relationship.

This would be the relationship between the top executives and the designers and engineers of the space shuttle. In the Challenger disaster this relationship was thrown into total chaos. This could have been the biggest reason for the cause of the disaster. Both in Thiokol and NASA, the upper management ignored the warnings by the technical employees. Years before the Challenger launch NASA and Thiokol completely redesigned the space shuttle, turning the shuttle into a countless reusable space shuttle. In this design they had a problem with the sealing of the O-rings, these rings stop the passage of gas in the rockets.

Every time the shuttle came back from space there would be erosion on both of the seals; this became an immediate concern for Thiokol and NASA. However, these organizations decided that it would be better for both companies to continue with the launches so they would not bring alarm to the American people. Over the years leading up to the Challenger launch there were countless memos written by the technical employees of both companies warning of the danger, but they were ignored. The few days before the launch both companies met with technical employees and top executives to discuss the cancellation of the launch. Although the executives listened to the other employees, they ignored their warnings and decided that the decision should be an executive decision not a technical decision.

This is a clear case of the upper level management having too much power. The top executives were willing to take the risk of a disaster in order to save their reputation if they cancelled. The main problem with these organizations was that their top management was making poor decisions based behind poor ethical standards and these filtered down throughout the organization. The relationship between the upper and lower level management was a bad relationship. The upper level management was too focused on fame and fortune rather then safety.

In the case of the Challenger disaster, NASAs matrix organizational structure was not in perfect alignment. The main problem with their structure was the communication between the different project managers. It seemed as though each project manager did not want to disrupt the other and deter form the expected launch date. The general managers or top executives made it clear to the project managers that this launch is very important to the success of the organization. The power that the general managers had is incomprehensible.

They sent fear throughout the different groups that if they did anything against the norm then they would be punished. Another problem with the structure is that there was a sense of do as I say and not what I do. This kind of mentality sent mixed signals down through the organization. It puts the organizations members in a no win situation. They do what their superiors tell them, yet the members no that what they are doing is not illegal but very unethical.

The structure system of this organization is not to blame; it is top executives of the organization who are at fault for this preventable disaster. Even though the structure is spread out over the United States the communication was very good. It is the individuals at the top of the organization that were the problem. If they had listened to the experts on the problem rather then to themselves, the disaster would have been prevented. The heads of the different departments of the organization were very ignorant to fellow employees and to human life. These people took a gamble that blew up in their face.

Out of the twenty or so top executives, only half of them remained after the disaster. Most of these people who left were the people responsible for the launching of the Challenger. From watching the Challenger disaster, I mainly have learned that I would not want to be apart of an organization that practices unethical behaviors. I also do not want to be apart of an organization where the top executives will not listen to the opinion of the workers. This is especially important to me because it is the workers who know what is working and what is not working.

The workers must come into play in the decision making process because they are the people who put in the labor to produce the product or outcome. Finally, I learned the importance of a whistleblower and how to protect yourself if you decide to become one. A whistleblower must gather all of the facts and defend only the facts that you know. Also to make sure that you know what you are getting involved in because it could get ugly. The Challenger disaster was probably one of the most preventable disasters that our nation has ever faced in dealing with an organization. It is a shame that seven human lives were lost, but the knowledge and lessons that people and fellow organizations have learned from this experience were far greater then people could have imagined. The only good out of this is that it might have prevented another tragedy in an organization.

I feel as though that the movie of the Challenger disaster was very interesting and educational to watch. Although I feel as though a better paper could be designed to cover more of the material covered throughout the semester. I did like doing this paper because it was very interesting to me.