NASA's Incompetence: The Challenger and Columbia Shuttle Disasters

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On an unusually cool Florida morning in January 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 50,000 feet above ground just moments after liftoff killing seven crew members onboard (Palmer, Dunford, and Akin, 2009). A presidential commission, dubbed “the Rogers Commission” (hereafter, the Commission) after former Secretary of State William Rogers, was appointed to investigate the cause of the disaster. Although mechanical failure of an O-ring seal in one of the rocket boosters was identified as the physical cause, the investigation revealed something much more disheartening; organizational deficiencies at NASA had allowed potential safety hazards to be disregarded. The disastrous consequences of NASA’s organizational failure prompted calls …show more content…
An overarching distinction in the perceptions of managing change is the desire to either control or shape change outcomes. The images are further differentiated based on assumptions about the degree to which change managers influence change outcomes. Palmer, Dunford, and Akin (2009) state that these images guide change leaders in certain directions as they make sense of events unfolding around them. The caretaking image, as an ideal, maintains a controlling view of management, but also recognizes that control is acutely limited by numerous internal and external forces (Palmer and Dunford, 2008). Consequently, change unfolds independently of managers’ intentions and the objective is to “shepherd” the organization to the best of their ability (Palmer, Dunford, and Akin, 2009). In this vein, NASA took on the caretaking image in its tolerance for and eventual normalization of safety hazards. Moreover, this image can be perceived in NASA’s assumption that nothing could be done to repair the space shuttle Columbia or prevent the disaster that occurred upon its return. Palmer, Dunford, and Akin (2009) state that the director image deflects organizations’ attention away from whether outcomes are achievable. Indication of the directing image, which views management as control and intended outcomes as achievable, can be found in NASA’s commitment to an unrealistic launch schedule while sacrificing
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