“Roger, go at throttle up.” — Commander Dick ScobeeSTS-51-L.

Today I showed a The New York Times documentary from June 2014 titled “Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster: Major Malfunction” in my MGT 205, Organizational Behavior class at the American University in the Emirates.

The documentary is about the Space Shuttle Challenger and Space Shuttle Columbia disasters; it explores how poor decision-making resulted in the death of the astronauts in both ill-fated flights.

Notably, the documentary is complimented by an article about the same subject matter from January 28, 2016 titled, “The Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster, 30 Years Later.” I shared this article with my students to provide background information and to ensure their understanding of both tragedies.

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In addition to watching the documentary and discussing the article, I asked my students to get into small groups. I then gave them a worksheet with the following five questions to pair and share:

  1. What was the external image of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) before the Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986 – and how did that influence the internal culture at NASA?
  2. How did the need for NASA’s Space Shuttle program to be self-funded influence it’s organizational culture, managerial operations, and decision-making process – especially as it relates to their willingness to take risks?
  3. How did pressure to launch the Shuttle and “amorally calculating managers” result in the death of the 7 astronauts?
  4. What changes were made to the Shuttle program as a result of the Challenger disaster? Did any of the recommendations address changes that needed to be made within the culture at NASA?
  5. What were the similarities between the Space Shuttle Challenger and Space Shuttle Columbia disasters? Why did NASA’s engineering culture, leadership philosophy, and safety policies still cloud its decision-making and lead to the second disaster?

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After 30 years the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster still brings tears to my eyes; I was 11 (almost 12) when it happened and it affected me profoundly. It shattered my innocence.

The Columbia disaster was equally as emotional, though by that point, I had experienced many other trials and tribulations of adult life, so it was a less shocking. Knowing that many of the same organizational issues caused the loss of a second Shuttle and her crew made me equally as frustrated and sad.

As a child of the 1980’s, the Space Shuttle program was a pivotal part of my early life experiences; it defined my generation to a large degree. When Space Shuttle Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center on July 21, 2011, it signaled the end of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.

Although a troubling topic — one of my students commented that it was “heavy” — challenging my students to think about something significant revealed many insightful observations. They were intrigued and engaged; I’ve never had a class as quiet as the one today.

Achieving and maintaining high performance levels in any organization requires an effective communication system — otherwise there will be no way to exchange information and share knowledge.

This paper explores a highly effective tool with which an organization can improve its organizational communication: Intranets.  The abstract of the paper reads as follows:

With increasing frequency, organizations are implementing intranets to improve their internal communication, increase productivity and reduce operating expenses. This paper defines the need for improved internal communication, outlines the history of intranets, explores their benefits, notes the risks and solutions, and offers implementation insights to which an organization can refer.

iabd-business-research-yearbookThis was the first scholarly paper I wrote that was published. I originally wrote it in the fall of 2002 for an organizational behavior and strategy class in my MBA program at Woodbury
University
.

Upon the suggestion of my instructor — Dr. Satinder K. Dhiman, the Associate Dean of Business and MBA Program Chair — I submitted it for publication in the 2003 Business Research Yearbook of the International Academy of Business Disciplines (IABD).

Fortunately my paper was accepted and I presented it at the group’s annual conference in Orlando, Florida that April. The experience was an exceptionally positive one that opened my eyes to the option of academia as a career path.

Two months later, in June 2003, I flew to Honolulu, Hawaii to present the same paper at the International Business and Management Research Conference (IBMRC), which had also been published in the organization’s refereed academic journal, The Business Review, Cambridge. I was also recognized with the “Best Presenter” award at the conference.

If you would like to read my paper, you can read it online on Academia.edu. I welcome your thoughts and comments — please contact me at doctorious (at) generative (dot) com.

Update: My paper was cited in the 2004 book “MBA In A Day: What You Would Learn At Top-Tier Business Schools (If You Only Had The Time!) ” by Dr. Steven Stralser. It was apparently used as a general source of information in a chapter dealing with Intranets! The citation appears on page 262 and covers material presented on pages 260 to 262.

Attached is a paper titled “H.I.G.H. O.C.T.A.N.E. – Ten Additives that Power High Performance in Organizations” that I originally conceptualized in the fall of 2006 during my first of two semesters in the Pepperdine University Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership program.

I subsequently co-wrote the paper with classmates Fa’auliulito H. Meni, Jill A. Peck, and Wayne J. Stickney-Smith — all of whom are still enrolled at Pepperdine.

I later presented the paper in March 2007 at the annual conference of the International Academy of Business Disciplines in Orlando, Florida. I am considering making this the focus of my doctoral dissertation or perhaps an area of significant academic inquiry.

The abstract from the paper is as follows:

Organizations are similar to cars: both require fuel to power them and a driver to direct them. In an organization, the fuel is its culture and the driver is initially its founder and in later years its current chief executive.

Just as cars require fuel to function, organizations share key cultural factors in order to exist.  Uniquely, some organizations are able to elevate themselves beyond basic existence into a coveted realm of high performance.

Doing so is difficult, and requires ten additives that convert a group’s culture into a H.I.G.H. O.C.T.A.N.E. source of power that can transform it into a high performing entity.

I welcome your comments, questions and ideas to doctorious [at] generative [dot] com.