This chapter provides some words of caution in terms of what to be alert to in regard to sustaining change. Which of the following do you see as most applicable to addressing the situation described in this case?
- Don’t “declare victory”¯ too soon.
Despite the fact that at first the launch of the Challenger was going without any problems, it ended with catastrophic consequences. The management officials of the shuttle launch thought that everything went perfectly well, but only at first. That’s why they should not have declared victory too soon, but they should have predicted the catastrophe before the launch. According to the cause investigation, the disaster has happened because “one of the joints on a booster rocket failed to seal”¯ (Palmer, 2005), and also due to malfunction of the O-rings. There was a possibility to prevent the catastrophe, as the NASA administration realized that such failures happened during the test launch, prior to the final launch itself.
Why did the administration and management authorities decide to launch the shuttle before its proper testing? Long before the final launch, the shuttle has been tested many times during 1984-1985. NASA officials organized a really tight schedule for test launches, but they didn’t cope with it and couldn’t manage to work according to that schedule. In such a way, it was far too early to consider that the shuttle was ready for launching and declare victory.
The authorities had multiple alerts in regard to postponing the final launch, but they ignored them. Firstly, “the Rogers Commission”¯ had doubts as for the safe condition of the O-rings (Palmer, 2005). They were previously labeled “criticality 1”¯ items, which mean that their use can lead to disastrous consequences in case they failed. However, in spite of the visible defects of the O-rings and their malfunction, measures were taken neither by NASA, nor by the Commission. The problem was not solved, and it’s common knowledge that the results were disastrous, leading to the death of the whole crew of the Challenger. Besides, the conditions for the final launch were inappropriate, due to extremely low temperature. Such conditions could prevent the O-rings from sealing. But NASA and the Commission seemed to be absolutely sure in their victory, and launched the shuttle.
In this chapter Ian Palmer (2005) clearly explained the reasons of the catastrophe and its consequences, stating that in spite of the fact that Thiokol engineers opposed to the launch of the shuttle, the authorities made their own decision without listening to people, who seemingly knew better.
As for the events that took place after the catastrophe, it is important to mention that there were considerable changes in NASA’s management strategy. Thus, some measures have been taken in order to improve the construction of shuttles and prevent future failures. They have set up stricter rules in regard to tracking of possible dangers of shuttle launch.
In conclusion, soon after the Challenger disaster, the authorities started conducting quality and safety programs to avoid such accidents in future. For the implementation of changes NASA hired more people to be in charge of SRM & QA, which mean “Safety, Reliability, Management”¯ and “Quality Assurance programs”¯ (Palmer, 2005). Around thirty people were hired to work for NASA and help with solving the problem and improving the shuttle construction. Will these changes be enough? The answer would be that the management authorities should not think of victory and success in the first place, but they should think about how safe the conditions on the shuttle are, and take into account the possibility of its collapse. It should be the first thing to consider before taking any actions.