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Space Shuttle Challenger

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Space Shuttle Challenger Case

I have read and studied the Space Shutter Challenger Case thoroughly and I believe that the most important failure of the case study was due to many factors which include personality, communication and motivation among the members of the group. In terms of personality, I believe the part of the failure was due to the mix of strong and weak personalities among the group. The stronger personalities which included Mason and Wiggins used direct pressure to influence Lund in to agreeing with their decision. Mason told Lund to take off his engineering hat and to put on his management hat. I believe that Mason and Wiggins used their strong and domineering personalities to influence Lund. This is a contributing factor to the failure of the space shuttle launch. Another aspect of the failure of the case is due to the poor communication between the Thiokol engineers and management. The Thiokol engineers had expressed their concerns to management about the reliability of the O-Rings being used on the space shuttles but a review committee concluded that they were safe to use and if a problem did arise there were secondary O-rings in place. In the flights leading up to the challengers departure, there was evidence that there were serious problems with the O-rings. On the eve of the launch, the weather forecast was unusually cold for Florida weather, with temperatures in the low twenty’s. Thiokol expressed concern that the O-rings would not work properly in the cold weather. But the communication was unsuccessful because the engineers had no data to quantify their concerns. There was two telephone conferences were held between Thiokol, Marshall SFC and Kennedy Space Center, where the engineers expressed their concerns however there was a breakdown in communication when Kilminster asked for the Thiokol engineers and managers to go off line. While they were offline Mason, Kilminster, Wiggins and Lund made the decision without consulting the engineers to launch the space shuttle the next day. I believe the bad communication was a huge factor in the failure of the launch. I also believe that people’s motivation and drive also lead to the challenger disaster. The space shuttle Challenger was about to make history because it was to bring school teacher Christa MacAuliffe, the first civilian into space, it had also been delayed four times previous. NASA was anxious to launch the space shuttle because by putting a civilian in space would create public interest that they badly needed for space travel. I believe that management were motivated to launch the shuttle for their own benefit and they did not take the safety of the astronauts into account. There were aspects of groupthink that also lead to the failure of the case was ‘‘illusion of invulnerability: members display excessive optimism that past success will continue and will shield them, hence they tend to take extreme risks” (Huczynski A.A., Buchanan D.A, (1985,2007) Organizational Behaviour.p747 ) Marson was very confident that the O-rings would work into colder weather because of the past success of the other shuttle launches. Another aspect of groupthink that played a big part in the failure of the case was ‘‘self- censorship: members keep silent about misgivings about the apparent group consensus and try to minimize their doubts” Huczynski A.A., Buchanan D.A, (1985,2007) Organizational Behaviour.p747 ) This is clearly evident when the participants of the teleconference were asked did they have any comments regarding Thiokol’s recommendation, they did not say anything. They would not stand up against the decision of the group even though they did not agree with it. These are two classic symptoms of groupthink were the group has become to cohesive and the members are afraid to go against the decision of the group. I believe that this tragedy could have been avoided if the decision making involved all members and the concerns of the engineers had been listened to.

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