When it comes to a perfect marriage of intelligence and efficiency, one of the first names that would spring to the mind would be that of NASA. So imagine how the entire nation of USA must have reacted on hearing of how space shuttle Challenger ended up meeting its doomed fate.
On January 28, 1986, NASA’s space shuttle Challenger tore apart just 73 seconds into its flight, causing the deaths of all the five NASA astronauts and two Payload Specialists aboard. The disaster cast a dark shadow over the country. The then President, Ronald Reagan appointed a special commission (Rogers Commission) to investigate the accident. The Rogers Commission went on with their investigation, during which NASA’s space shuttle program was halted for 32 months.
When Rogers Commission submitted their report, the details of their investigation were chilling. It was found that NASA’s organizational culture and poor decision-making processes had been key contributing factors to the accident. NASA managers had been warned by their engineers about the potentially catastrophic flaws in the shuttle’s design since 1977, but they chose to ignore those warnings as they felt that the program needed to look successful and a delay would ruin that image and invite political ramifications.
Many managers, and almost all the engineers, had grave concerns about launching the spacecraft on that cold morning of January 28, 1986 as the temperature was 18 degrees, while the spacecraft was designed to work at the much higher temperatures of about 40 degrees. Although many of these people knew exactly what was coming, they didn’t speak out fearing personal retribution. Many of them thought their careers would have been severely harmed, if not over.
If an organization like NASA could come across such glaring issues in workplace politics, every company can have it too. Although we are not dealing with as fatal an issue as a spacecraft crash and lives lost while talking about Office Politics in the rest of the companies, this deadly phenomenon could crash the company itself through an ever-increasing performance-pay gap.