Challenger Disaster



The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster was a preventable disaster that NASA tried to cover up by calling it a mysterious accident. However, two men had the courage to bring the real true story to the eyes of the public and it is to Richard Cook and Roger Boisjoly to whom we are thankful. Many lessons can be learned from this disaster to help prevent further disasters and to improve on organizations ethics.
One of the many key topics behind the Challenger disaster is the organizational culture. One of the aspects of an organizational culture is the observable culture of an organization that is what one sees and hears when walking around an organization. There are four parts to the observable culture, stories, heroes, rites and rituals and symbols. The first one is stories, which is tales told among an organizationís members. In the Challenger Space Shuttle incident there were mainly four organizations thrown together to form one, Morton Thiokol, Marshall Space Flight Center, Johnson Space Center and NASA Headquarters. All of these organizations had the same type of stories to be told. At Morton Thiokol, they talked about their product and their big deal, which they received from NASA. At NASA, itís members retold stories of the previous space missions and being the first people to have landed on the moon.
Second are their heroes. At Morton Thiokol, their heroes might have been the founders of the organization or itís top executives like Charles Locke or Jerry Mason. At NASA, their heroes might have been Neil Armstrong, staff or any members of the organization. All of these people that were chosen to be heroes set the standards for that organization and conducted themselves for others to follow.
Third are the rites and rituals those members of an organization conduct. Since both of these organizations work together to attain the same goal, a ritual for the organization is the celebration after each successful launch and landing of a space shuttle. A rite or ritual shows a since of group unity and friendship among the organizationís members.
Finally there are symbols that the organization uses, which has may carry a special meaning through its communication. Symbols in these organizations are very important because with these organizations line of work, symbols could mean the difference between life and death. For example, in the space shuttle there are different symbols on their controls. If an emergency light goes on they must know these symbols in order to fix the problem or abort the shuttle.
All of these four aspects are centered on the organizations core culture. An organizations core culture is the beliefs about the right ways to behave. When Thiokol and NASA first started to plan for Challengerís mission, it was part of their core culture, which ultimately caused the Challenger disaster. To an observer at both of these organizations dealing with the Challenger mission was that everything was perfect and right on schedule. The top executives in these organizations told their employees to be quite and act as if everything was fine. They did this so that the media and the people of the United States would believe and have great admiration for NASA. The Challenger was different then the previous missions because it was the first time a citizen would be going into outer space. At this time in these organizations time, it was essential to their futures to boost Americans opinion of the space program. The executives of these organizations knew how important this mission was to their success and pushed for the mission to happen and for its employees to convince the people of the programís growth and success.
In the direction in organizational culture, worker empowerment was highly stressed although top management did not listen. This was also very important in trying to prevent the Challenger disaster. Both Thiokol and NASA asked for employees opinion on whether the launch should be a go or were their problems that may arise. When the engineers gave their opinion that I was to dangerous for launch, the top executives refused to listen to them and voted to launch asking only for the top executives to vote. In Challengerís case, the engineers were the people who knew whether or not it would be safe for launch. The employees of these