Thursday, October 27, 2005

blogging ban

I was just at my computer doing some work with the news in the background and heard a quick story about how a school principal banned his students from blogging because he wants to protect them from predators. I tried to find the story on the news stations website but couldn't. Brings up interresting points...are blogs potentially dangerous? Does the principal have the right to make such a ban?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Email from Tompkins

So I emailed Phillip Tompkins - here is what I wrote:

Hi Dr. Tompkins.

I am a student at Northeastern University taking an advanced Organizational Communications class. We use your book, Apollo, Challenger, Columbia: The Decline of the Space Program” as a guide to studying organizational communications. I just had a small uestion regarding your book. Richard Cook, the whistle blower of NASA nvolved with the Challenger accident had a main argument that was not discussed in your book. He claimed that NASA was being pushed by the hite House to launch on time, regardless of safety issues. Because of his, concerns about the Orings were addressed but no action was taken y managers. Because this idea was so prevalent in Cook’s testimony, hy wasn’t it addressed in your book? Thank you for your time and consideration.

Gretchen Lovell

Here was his reply:
Hi Gretchen Lovell,

After the accident there were a lot of claims about the White House.
President Reagan was said to have a passage about the launch in a speech being prepared. The White House denied it meant to put pressure on them and so on. No individual had the time and resources to replicate the investigation of the Commission appointed to investigate the Challenger accident. I met Roger Boisjoly and asked him about it; he felt he was being forced to prove the shuttle would not launch successfully, for whatever reason, and so I decided to go with the conclusion reached by the Commission. I quote their conclusions about the illfated decision.

In addition, I quote CAIB in reviewing the original investigation. There is always pressure to keep to the schedule: Time is one of the three main topoi I discuss. Faster, Better, Cheaper is introduced by Administrator Goldin after the Challenger accident. And if you have read the rest of the book you know that schedule is emphasized in the Columbia case. But again, managers paid tool little attention to the concerns of engineers.

Thanks for the question and say hi to your professor and classmates for me.

Phil Tompkins

What do you think?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Companies Banning Blogs

Wasn't exactly sure if this is on topic or not, but I thought it was relevant. I noticed this article on how organizations are banning blogs in the workplace. One of the primary concerns mentioned in the article was of employees 'leaking sensitive material'.

Anyway, I saw the article while browsing another website mentioned in the article, fark.com. Usually a pretty funny website/blog if you're bored.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Whistleblowing

The end of the movie was talking alot about having the courage to stand up against an organization if you see a major problem. I though I'd do a little more research on whistleblowing. I found that there is actually a National Whistleblowing Center which provides would-be whistleblowers with alot of information. Including, attorney referrals, a law library, and links to seminars. It also outlines an act passed in 2002 called the Sarbanes-Oxly Act (SOX) which provides legal protections for corporate whistleblowers. It also provides a forum for people to offer support for corporate whistleblowers who have been cast aside in their professions. This organization provides the help and resources people need to be able to stand up against faulty organizations.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Chapter 8: The Wal-Mart Effect

I have always heard negative comments about the way in which the Wal-Mart corporation treats its employees. But after reading some of the details, I decided to compare the information from the book to the corporation's career website. The book discusses how the wages of employees in recent years were under the U.S. poverty line and how managers were called "servant leaders". When looking at the website, it said that Wal-Mart has always remained true to it's three main beliefs: "respect for the individual, service to our customers, and strive for excellence." The first of these, especially, seems ironic to me.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Burden of Proof

I got to thinking about the reversal of the burden of proof in the Columbia disaster which forced the engineers to prove why the space shuttle was not safe to fly as opposed to why the space shuttle is safe to fly. If the burden of proof was also reversed in a similar manner during the Challenger mission, how could the same mistake be repeated in NASA? Wouldn't the managers realize that if they reversed the burden of proof for Challenger and the end result was a tragic disaster, that if the same procedure were followed for another space shuttle, the same results could possibly happen? This frustrates me because it is one thing to make a mistake and suffer the consequences. However, it is another thing to refrain from making any alterations after the first mistake and then eventually making the same exact mistake again.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The story behind Project Paperclip

After searching through various articles, I finally found out the story behind the name Project Paperclip. In short, President Truman gave the order to not let anyone deeply involved with the Nazi party to be brought over to the U.S. But since most of the scientists did have strong relationships with the party, Army intelligence and the CIA concealed the information and re-wrote their files to eliminate the incriminating evidence. The Americans then put an ordinary paperclip on the files to identify the German scientists. Thus the name "Project Paperclip" was created.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

My thoughts.

The NASA website showed a history of the Challenger accident. One thing that stuck out in my mind was the chronological timeline link involving the accident. Unfortunately, I barely understood what it was saying. They were using jargon and terminology that I was unfamiliar with.http://http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/51-l/docs/events.txt This could cause external stakeholders, including, me, a student, to feel devalued and out of the loop because it wasn’t portrayed to us in a way we could relate. Also, just in general, they did not go into as much depth with the Challenger accident, compared to the Columbia. Another facet of the website concerned with the Challenger was that you were given the opportunity to actually view the accident, which is good because it avoids uncertainty among viewers. They know exactly what happened because they viewed it themselves.
The Columbia accident was more covered within the NASA website. There was an entire page simply dedicated to the Columbia called “Remembering Columbia STS-107. It had links labeled, “Introduction,” “Biographies,” Timelines,” Photo Gallery,” “Documents,” “Columbia Accident Investigation Board,” “Reflections,” and others as well. Although all aspects of this specific page were important, certain links provided more insight and information than others.http://http://history.nasa.gov/columbia/index.html Unlike the Challenger, their communication towards external stakeholders was a lot more clear and concise. The CAIB link gave recommendations for further space shuttles, recognizing what went wrong in Columbia. Lastly, the “Reflections” link gave people a chance to just talk about the accident, a quality of a good communication climate.
Overall, NASA presents itself as having a good overall communication climate. However, it could have described what happened in the Challenger accidents a little more thoroughly so everything was out in the open. I think their mission statement was as follows: “The more we learn about the universe, the more we learn about ourselves. From satellites monitoring our own planet’s resources to orbiting observatories scanning deep space, every NASA mission embodies the spirit of discovery.” I think this shows a lot about the organization’s culture. It is a learning culture, and it’s not afraid to make mistakes because mistakes are a part of the learning process. The culture looks motivated and strong.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Fairly Optimistic Attitude about Future

While skimming over the CAIB report for class on Friday, I was very surprised at the optimistic and positive attitude NASA seems to have after the Columbia disaster. You would think that after two horrific tragedies in a time span of less than twenty years, the organization would be discouraged to say the least and probably not extremely confident about future space explorations. However, in the Implications for the Future of Human Space Flight in the CAIB report, NASA offers encouraging remarks about future space flights and also describes in detail the steps NASA will be taking to avoid another disaster from occuring. For example, the report admits to NASA having at times compromised safety because of organizational and culutral problems and explains how NASA will be making changes to improve the culture and climate in the Human Space Flight Program.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Operation Paperclip

Just did some reading up on Operation Paperclip. I couldn't find a reliable source on how exactly they came up with the name for it, but what I pieced together from a few Google searches was that the German scientists selected in the program to come to America were denoted by attaching a paperclip to their personal files.

Anyone able to confirm that?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

NASA Website Analysis: A Warm Climate

What I found most intriguing about NASA's website, was the abundance of information available. When looking at the history of the Challenger I was very fascinated to read the transcript from the missions voice recorder and see how light hearted the conversation seemed to be before the disaster. Although they talked of technical information you could see that they laughed at each other and joked around, yet still being serious only to have a tragedy occur momentarily.

One thing that stood out to me most about the Columbia disaster was the Interactive Tribute to the Fallen Heroes of Columbia (http://www.nasa.gov/columbia/home/). This stood out to me, because when you clicked on the memories link, it showed cards made by students expressing their condolences. Although there was information on how the disaster happened and recommendations for the problems that occurred, I think this showed a warm, heart felt side of NASA and goes to show that although NASA faced tragedies they dealt with the crises on many levels (which is a different view than what the Tompkins book gave me).

As a result of exploring the website, I realized NASA has put a lot of time into providing education to people. For example, the first thing I noticed when I opened the home page was the links for kids, educators and researchers. I feel as though NASA considers education a very important aspect of their culture and by having a very interactive website people can easily learn about the many parts of NASA.

Friday, October 07, 2005

NASA Website Analysis: I'm not sold.

Because of the Tompkins book, it’s hard to read anything about NASA without thinking about its failures. I find myself looking at each article through a cynical lens, finding it difficult to believe all this “teamwork” talk. Do employees really nominate each other for jobs well done? Is every employee really held to a standard of aligning their goals with the mission of NASA? …Or is NASA just desperate to rebuild its credibility in the public’s eye? Perhaps I would have found the website to be warm and fuzzy before this class, but the culture seems somewhat artificial to me right now.

After reading NASA’s history of the Challenger, all I could think was “what???” Although the passages are extremely detailed (down to the second) of Challenger’s take-off, the language was highly technical…it’s definitely not written for the average Joe. The line warranted a second glance: “cause of explosion was determined to be an O-ring failure in right SRB.” I think our class knows it was a lot more than just an O-ring mishap.

The information provided for Columbia was similar to that of Challenger. A lot of technical information was provided about the accident, but no satisfying information about the causes. Some of it is very nice, as it pays homage to the lives lost....but it's a little too hard for me to find the dirt I'm looking for. I want to see them take responsibility, but it's just not there.

NASA website Analysis: Pleasantly Surprised

History of the Challenger Disaster and Investigation:

The Challenger, in retrospect was a tragedy that very well could have been prevented. I wasn’t sure what to expect from NASA’s website or description of the event when human life and blame is at stake. However I was relived to see that, like President Reagan announced in his Address that night, “We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public.” And for the most part, that’s what this website proved. From the technological explanation for the explosion to the list of outside sources, authors and links to outside reports on the investigation it’s refreshing to see that NASA doesn’t seem to be hiding, especially with the information and summary of Trudy E. Bell’s and Karl Esch’s "The Fatal Flaw in Flight 51-L”. I was also interested in the fact that after reading Tompkins’ book “ Apollo, Challenger, Columbia: The Decline of the Space Program” and chapter two (pg 44)’s remark that astronauts are similar to the explorers and pioneers of the world, President Reagan also compared the brave astronauts to pioneers.


“We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for 25 years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers. There's a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and an historian later said, "He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it." Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.”

History of the Columbia Disaster and Investigation:

I was intrigued with the summary CAIB summarization regarding two organizational reasons the commission found to be the cause of the fatal accident: 1) Pressure to stay on time for launch without having sufficient resources to do so and 2) NASA’s safety level falls short of what is necessary for the shuttle program. One of the first pages I looked at when I started exploring the website what their commitment to safety at the Marshall Center. Now obviously, the website has updated since the report has come out but the commitment to safety throughout the website is interesting to see and the need for NASA to point out what they are doing to ensure safety or at least improve it is apparent. The Marshall Center alone now has five different departments that work together (prime example of systems theory) to promote and improve safety while specializing in one specific area. Hopefully the communication involved between them all and the rest of the organization is also improved otherwise, they may be one more level that gets ignored, or silenced when they are the bearers of bad news.

Organizational Climate and Culture of NASA

What an interesting idea with the 20 Steps for a successful First Day! To see what an organization expects out of their employees and to take the time I’m not sure how much actual time but time none the less) to share with the new employees what they can expect out of their new employer is a very interesting idea! I loved that the list shows not just that the employee will receive a security badge, but they will also receive welcome emails from their colleagues and be invited to participate in meetings immediately. This shows the new employees coming in that they are really a part of the organization and not just a person at a desk pushing papers. I thought this was a great touch and a great way for new employees and the employer to lay out their expectations and set up for success before the first day.

NASA Website Analysis

§ While searching and exploring different articles and press release’s on NASA’s site about the Columbia tragedy, I discovered many things that I did not know. The one that really caught my eye was a press release about the tragedy two months after it happened. Space Shuttle Columbia, which was lost on February 1, 2003 fifteen minutes prior to landing; due to this loss, President Bush signed into law on April 22, 2003, the “Columbia Arbiter Memorial Act.” This allows a memorial to be placed in the Arlington national Cemetery right near the memorial for the crew of the Challenger. It allowed NASA to collect gifts and donations over the next 5 years. The law allows NASA to transfer collected money or property for the fund to the Secretary of the Army to defray expenses.


§ While I was reading about the Challenger disaster I found in ironic that they seemed to focus more on what the orbiter did, as opposed to it being one of the worst tragedies ever. However, I was surprised how accomplished this space shuttle was. Many firsts were accomplished with this orbiter prior to the disaster on January 28, 1986. The Challenger holds the record for the largest crew, 8, ever to fly in space on a single mission. It also was the first spacewalk of the shuttle program, first woman in space and was also the first flight of an African American. After this disaster, only 45% of the orbiter was recovered.

§ Researching the climate and culture of NASA, the site really makes you feel as though anybody can be a part of NASA. They really are inviting of résumé’s and offer many links for applications to apply. Whether you are a student, an adult, or even out of the military, there are links and areas specifically for a diverse group of people. I think that this shows the culture to be very welcoming and inviting, and wanting to advance in our country’s space program. They really focus on the future and new recruitment tools, such as the NASA Stars program to gain people who are the best in these fields.

NASA Website Analysis: Seeing is believing

  • Reading about the Columbia disaster and seeing it are two completely different things. We read about it before every class analyzing NASA and what happened to cause the disaster, and it has always been interesting to me. However, logging onto the website and seeing the pictures of the different items that were recovered from the accident made it more of a reality to me and also made me even more interested. It's upsetting, but that upset is what made me more curious to explore the website and read the different detailed sections. The timeline also made it more real, and it was interesting to read how things changed over the course of a few hours or to see what was going on every few hours.
  • The same thing goes for the Challenger disaster. When I looked at this website the first thing that caught my eye was the Transcript of the disaster. After reading what the communication was from the shuttle to NASA and then having it suddenly stop after an "uh oh" also made it more of a reality. The address that the President made to the nation was there to read, as well as the movie clips, which were disturbing to a degree.
  • The NASA website portrayed a lot about the culture of their organization. The website was set up so that it could easily be looked around in, and the pictures were really good- and are what mostly caught my interest. I liked how there were so many different sections set up on the homepage for everyone from kids (where there were fun games) to different grade levels of students to adults and people that would want to work for NASA. There was also a special media/press section which had NASA's latest doings/findings listed for the public. The website showed a lot about NASA as an organization and portrayed them as a quality organization that knows what they are doing and where they want to be in the future.

NASA Website Analysis: Searching for Humanity at NASA

  • In NASA's Shuttle Mission Archive outlining the Challenger launch, NASA writers broke down, by the second, the events leading up to the explosion and ultimate failure of this launch. They did not seem to qualify these events as failures, however. Rather, it seemed as if NASA was using the fact that they were able to understand exactly what caused the explosion as a way to represent the organization as intelligent. In this case however, it was NASA’s lack of intelligence that lead to the explosion that occurred. I would consider NASA’s message here to be very strategic in preserving NASA’s reputation, or saving face. As a secondary note, and from a spiritual perspective, it was very interesting to me that this launch was delayed 6 times due to weather and other reasons, as if the universe was trying to prevent it from happening.
  • In terms of the way NASA represented the history of the Columbia launch in their website, I thought it was very interesting that the only synopsis of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) Report that NASA gives its online readers is one written by an employee of NASA. This presents a biased view of the incident, as readers are only receiving the information NASA wants them to receive, as opposed to what is actual and should be received. Please note: the actual CAIB Report for this launch is no longer linked through NASA's website.
  • In terms of the organizational culture and climate of NASA, the website makes the organization seem very citizen friendly, as if just anyone has the potential to work at NASA. (I came back into my post today to set up a link to show you the actual print on the NASAJobs website, but mysteriously, that page is not available today, 10/16/05. Maybe NASA has been reading this blog?) This seems like a persuasive tactic to get people to support NASA. I also noticed that no negative NASA incidences were mentioned in any of the organizational pages, a strategic tool known as “omitting.”

*Please note: This blog post was updated on 10/16/05- Cristina Calderaro

NASA Website Analysis:Tragedies and Dreams

The Challenger accident is something that even nearly two decades after it occured, everyone knows about it, or hears about it. But actually seeing it happen is another thing entirely. Its honestly difficult to watch. But I thought it was good that NASA doesn't try to hide or pretend that it never happened, by having the information up on the website.

As for Colombia, the website is definitely more modern and has more of a memorial feel to it than the analytical structure of the Challenger page. I found the timeline pretty interesting here, especially the part that mentioned that NASA noticed the foam striking the wing at liftoff, and decided to email Husband and McCool about it, mentioning there was "absolutely no concern for reentry". Reading things like that, in hindsight, is just chilling.

But as for the culture, and the climate of NASA, it remains a very optimistic organization. They continue to look to the future, not only in what they are attempting to accomplish (such as returning to the Moon and building there), but also towards who they want to attract to the company. After all, on the main page the first two menus on the left side are for Kids and Students. It seems like in spite of the two shuttle disasters, or perhaps even because of them, NASA wants to get back to the glory days of accomplishing impossible dreams.

NASA Website Analysis: Visual Imagery

* History of the Challenger disaster and investigation: I found that the information on NASA's website regarding the Challenger was very detailed, almost to the point where it was hard to read from an outsiders perspective. I found many of the details, especially where they are giving outline of what specifically went on up to the minute of the disaster. That problem aside was semi-shocked to see pictures of the disaster itself. When I clicked on the picture section I was expecting to see images of the crew, days leading up to the launch, and possibly debris. I wasn't expecting to see the disaster itself, i.e. the smoke, explosion,... etc.

*History of the Columbia disaster and investigation: In switching over from the Challenger information to the Columbia section of the website was the organization of the section. There was a specific "Remembering the Columbia" page, whereas the Challenger information was harder to navigate. I really liked the CAIB Fact sheet, it summarized the finding in the CAIB report to make it simpler and easier to understand. It was interesting to see that this summary made a point to note the organizational problems that occurred, as well as the scientific errors that were made. The board pointed out the impact of the budget constraints that NASA was facing at the time of the Columbia tragedy. I new from our reading that this had been one of the problems, however I never realized how much of an impact that it had on the problem.

*organizational Culture and Climate of NASA: After going through different sections on NASA's website I got the impression that NASA has grown into a very supportive climate. They seem to have taken their problems of the past and focused on making the NASA community stronger than ever. The website uses "we" a lot. There are also many pictures and links to exciting things that are going on. The website is also very detailed in who and how you can contact someone within the agency depending on your specific inquiry. I really liked the "meet our team" section. It makes sure to give recognition to NASA employee's that are doing well. I was also impressed that it was in an accessible location rather than deep within the website. The NASA facts on the left side of every page was a nice addition as well.

"NASA Website Analysis: A Changed Organizational Climate and Culture."

History of the Challenger disaster and investigation
After pulling up the homepage for the Challenger disaster, I was immediately impressed by the publication of both the NASA websites, as well as non-NASA websites regarding the tragedy. By doing this, NASA can ensure credibility and trust to the community by incorporating logical outside information. Personally, reading other people’s reflections on the incident often does not convey the tragic emotions of what really happened. As I read the transcript of the Challenger operational recorder voice tape, I had a better feel for the dramatic devastating disaster that occurred. I also learned that there were several warning points NASA could have picked up on, but overlooked them as a normal occurrence.

History of the Columbia disaster and investigation
I was immediately drawn to the photos of the Columbia after the incident occurred. Supplying these visuals helped me have a better understanding of what happened, as well as impacted my understanding the tragic loss that occurred. The foam impact velocity document, aided in my understanding of how the foam damaged the Columbia, as well as provided explicit descriptions for the public to understand the impact of the foam too. This document gave a clear description of what occurred and why.

Organizational culture and climate of NASA
The most important value I noted while reading Tompkins was the highly regarded “hands on experience.” After reviewing NASA’s jobs webpage, I observed that this value was no longer the number one enticement for working at NASA, now it seems its main focus is advertising the adventure and excitement of working in space. Also, Tompkins stressed that NASA was frequently looking for recent college graduates; this value still holds strong today as the website offers motivational courage to become one the team, as well as builds esteem designating recent graduates as the “generation that is going to lead the world.” Interestingly, NASA directly discloses to the public that the missions are risky and there is a possibility of failure- these two ideas are something NASA would have not admitted to the public since its commencement in 1958.

NASA Website Analysis: The Effects of the Challenger and Columbia on NASA Culture and Climate

The Challenger Disaster and Investigation
While researching the Challenger on NASA’s website, I found one posting listed under “Non-NASA sites” that was particularly interesting to me for two reasons. Not only did the author provide organizational related factors to the Challenger disaster, but more importantly, that NASA included these flaws on their website, rather than conceal them, was interesting and very surprising. “The Challenger Shuttle Disaster” by Jack Forrest, identifies key factors of the Challenger accident as not only hardware failures, but as flaws in the decision making, varying priorities, and mismanaged information at NASA. The Challenger was doomed to fail. Forrest explains that there were too many political, commercial, and scientific demands to declare the Challenger as “fully operational”. Premature decisions were made based on immense pressures to satisfy multiple priorities of such a highly publicized subject in the American public (McAuliffe as First Teacher in Space). Even before the launch of the Challenger, the NASA environment was “diseased” and one of low employee morale, conflicts, stress and short cuts.

The Columbia Disaster and Investigation
During the investigation of the Columbia disaster, Senator John McCain made a statement at the first of a series of committee hearings, and addressed that the nature of the manned space program will be examined. He briefly outlined many of the issues needed to be reviewed, including NASA’s management efficiency, or lack there of, and its correlation to the possibility of compromised safety. This was very interesting because unlike the Challenger disaster, an authority figure addressed the topic of organizational factors contributing to the disaster and was open about its investigation. McCain explained that the “accidents forced attention on the broader policy issues that have [been] neglected for too long”. This statement made me think, was he referring to issues that trace back to even before the Challenger, over 17 years before the Columbia explosion?

Organizational Culture and Climate of NASA
My research of the Challenger and Columbia disasters led me to my observations about the culture and climate of NASA. Although there was no mention of the Challenger and Columbia disasters in the brief history section of NASA’s website, which I found very odd due to their large significance, I understand why they would exclude that information in an effort not to boost their flaws. Moreover, I think that NASA has had a shift in culture and climate over years, especially after the Challenger, to becoming an environment more conducive to openness and transparency. This shift is evident in the way officials in the most recent disaster addressed potential management issues as contributing factors. Also, based on the website, there seems to be increased employee morale, compared to the “diseased” environment, with a more a positive and unified goal of leading the world in space exploration. It’s interesting to see how NASA realized a need for overall improvement to prevent such disasters from reoccurring.

NASA Website Analysis: A Different Perspective

Not surprisingly, one of the themes I noticed on NASA’s website was an emphasis on past and future success. Consequently, there were not explicit links to information regarding either the Challenger or Columbia disasters. I ended up using the “search” tool at the top of the site to find relevant information.

I found it interesting that there is a second-by-second break down of what happened to the Challenger, from takeoff to explosion. The “timeline” was in great detail and heavy in scientific terms; so much so that it was completely over my head. I could not help but wonder if this was somewhat purposeful. This way, NASA is explaining what went wrong with the shuttle to the public, but they are doing it in such a way that it is too complicated for the average person to understand, let alone contemplate. In relation to organizational communication, most messages sent regarding the Challenger incident were task-based. Although, to be fair, I must also include that there were press releases available on NASA’s website that were more geared towards remembering the fallen astronauts and their contributions to the space program.

Information on the Columbia disaster was more based on human messages. There is a lot of emphasis placed on remembering the crew. Their profiles and pictures are on the site, as well as several articles and press releases announcing memorials and dedications in their honor. I could not find information regarding what caused the crash and there was no timeline, as in the case with the Challenger disaster. This brought up questions such as: are they handling the investigation from a different perspective? Do they not know what caused the disaster? There seemed to be more of a focus on recovering the shuttle parts than analyzing the cause. One quotation found in an article commenting on the shuttle disaster really struck me as significant: “The IFPTE reported that a combination of budget cuts, workforce downsizing and contracting out key NASA operations negatively affected the safety of NASA’s manned space program, its ability to retain and pass along core technical knowledge, and its oversight of the contractor workforce.” There seems to be a theme that NASA’s failing culture is a result of long-term issues, all of which relate to communication between technical experts and management.

Lastly, NASA’s career websites make the organization seem like a happy family, using a lot of “we” terminology and referencing the famous Dr. Sally Ride. They appear to have an extensive and thorough orientation program, which begins online and continues with onsite training, briefings and management receptions. New employees are provided with an orientation “toolkit” and tips from employees on how to have a successful first day. They seek people who want to accomplish great things, but also realize the risks involved. For example, on the career website the hypothetical question “could we all fail?” was answered with a yes. However, everything is done in a positive manner, portraying NASA as the organization that can accomplish things that no one else can. Everything at NASA seems to be based on its four core values: safety, teamwork, integrity and mission success.

NASA website analysis

First I want to point out that the organization of the NASA website is impeccable. The design is laid out clearly and is very user friendly. It is bright, with many pictures and examples of what NASA does. The website portrays NASA as an optimistic organization and who is proud about the milestones they accomplish. If I were browsing the website, inquiring about a job, I would notice that NASA is giving many opportunities to people and gives many answers to how to get into the organization or programs in general if you know that you want to become apart of their team. Their culture appears to be open and very communicative. They offer many business opportunities and outline the tasks clearly on their website.

When reading about NASA’s next trip to the moon, I found that they were very thorough as to their intentions and what they want to accomplish. They also used pictures and descriptive language to aid the reader in understanding what is going to happen. Each mission they talk about on the website has pictures and links to find out more information about them. It seems as though they want the public to know as much as possible about their missions as they can. It seems they are using this site as a learning tool for those who are in and want to be in the astronautics field.

Another thing I thought was interesting was that they have speeches posted on their website from people in the company on different issues concerning space and NASA in general. They have alerts and breaking news on their website about new developments that they want the public to know about. It seems as though NASA is more open then it was in past years about what is going on in the organization. The last thing I thought was very interesting was that you can create your own account on “mynasa” to search and save articles you find about NASA. You can create your own page, which seems similar to creating ones own website on the internet. This also allows you to use up to date news and information about NASA that you want to post specifically on your page.
moon mission

NASA Website Analysis: A warm climate

What I found most intriguing about NASA's website, was the abundance of information available. When looking at the history of the Challenger I was very fascinated to read the transcript from the missions voice recorder and see how light hearted the conversation seemed to be before the disaster. Although they talked of technical information you could see that they laughed at each other and joked around, yet still being serious.

One thing that stood out to me most about the Columbia disaster was the Interactive Tribute to the Fallen Heroes of Columbia (http://www.nasa.gov/columbia/home/). This stood out to me, because when you clicked on the memories link, it showed cards made by students expressing their condolences. Although there was information on how the disaster happened and recommendations for the problems that occurred, I think this showed a warm, heart felt side of NASA and goes to show that there is more to the NASA website than just information.

As a result of exploring the website, I realized NASA has put a lot of time into providing education to people. For example, the first thing I noticed when I opened the home page was the links for kids, educators and researchers. I feel as though NASA considers education a very important aspect of their culture and by having a very interactive website people can easily learn about the many parts of NASA.

NASA Website Analysis: A Peek at their Organizational Culture

History of the Challenger Disaster and Investigation
NASA's website contained many links filled with information on the Challenger disaster. The thing I found interesting is that debris of the challenger continues to appear on shore 10 years after the disaster occurred. The debris was found by a beach goer in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

History of the Columbia Disaster and Investigation
It was nice to see that this section contained various amount of information for anyone looking for extensive information on the Columbia accident. There are biographies of the astronauts on board that passed away in the disaster. As well as PowerPoint slides that demonstrate the inner parts of the shuttle giving people a clearer image of what failed on February 1, 2003.

Organizational Culture and Climate of NASA
At first glance of NASA's website I could tell it is a diverse organization and proud of it. Their career link has good insight on the variety of employees NASA hires. It also seems that NASA likes to maintain a high employee morale with their "employee of the year" recognition.

NASA website analysis: CAIB press conference

The Columbia Disaster and Investigation
NASA’s website had extensive information on the astronauts and people involved in the Columbia disaster. But what struck me as most interesting was a press conference I came across in which Sean O’Keefe answered questions about the CAIB report on August 27, 2003. The press conference is quite lengthy but is very telling about the organization and its reaction to the findings within the report. A reporter mentioned that O’Keefe told NASA employees that he thought the report would be “ugly”, and then asked O’Keefe if he felt the report was as he thought it would be. The reporter then asked how it would affect company morale (pg. 26 of the press conference report). O’Keefe answered by saying that the organization was looking for a straightforward assessment of what happened, and that is what they got. He added that the information given in the report would be used to strengthen the organization.

The Challenger Disaster and Investigation
While looking through various articles on the Challenger accident, the one that struck me most (perhaps not for its relevance in the organization, but for the human emotion felt in it) was the transcript from the mission’s voice recorder. This document takes you through the entire launch process. At the beginning of the document you can feel the excitement in their voices. In fact the whole transcript is sort of this building excitement, one person saying “wooohoooo” right up until “uhoh”. And then all data is lost. There is just this all-consuming feeling while reading it, like you are right there with them, and then suddenly, there is nothing.

The Culture and Climate of NASA
The “Work for NASA” and “NASAJobs” websites were both helpful in assessing the culture and climate of the organization. By looking at the pictures alone, I got the idea that NASA was very diverse, and that the company seemed to be accepting and inviting. There were many links to explore all the components of the organization. It seems that NASA is very focused on moving forward and putting the past behind them. I found it interesting that when I looked at the brief history of the organization, it did not mention the Challenger or Columbia disasters, both of which were significant events in the organization’s history. Clearly the company is more focused on furthering exploration and moving beyond past expectations and situations. NASA seems very optimistic about “leading the world” in space exploration.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

NASA Website Analysis: NASA's climate

While studying the history of the Challenger disaster and investigation on the NASA website, I was immediately drawn to President Reagan’s eulogy at the memorial service held in Houston. The President’s remarks about each of the seven astronauts onboard Challenger were very personable and he mentioned specific qualities and characteristics that made each astronaut unique. I found the eulogy very heart-wrenching and emotional and I feel that Reagan was successful in giving the incredible and courageous astronauts that died in the disaster a proper mourning.

I found the statement made by former NASA Administrator, Sean O’Keefe, very interesting on the history of the Columbia disaster and investigation website. O’Keefe briefly mentioned the loss of the astronauts and how tragic this disaster is for their families as well as for the entire country. However, I was surprised to find that the focus of the statement was toward solving the investigation instead of mourning the loss of the astronauts who passed away earlier that morning.

After observing the Career link on the NASA website, I got the feeling that the climate at NASA is very supportive and encouraging. Sally Ride is quoted on the Career page and she provides any potential or aspiring NASA employee with suggestions on how to reach their goal. Moreover, Ride explains that NASA hires people with a wide variety of backgrounds which gave me the impression that the climate at NASA is very open and supportive.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

NASA Website Analysis: Challenger Transcript

History of Challenger and Investigation
What I found the most interesting and the most moving was the transcript from the Challenger crew pre-launch up to the point that they lost contact. I thought that it was impressive that NASA shared this information on the internet where anyone could access it. The transcript provides a chilling account of the seconds before the launch, it shows the crew getting excited for their liftoff and then it ends with the ominous last words “uhoh” before they lose contact. It shows that the crew realized something was wrong only seconds before the explosion and up to that point had no idea.

History of Columbia and Investigation
In my search of the Columbia disaster website I came across this statement from Senator McCain in response to the CAIB report. He reminds us that the space program is still in “developmental stages” and that space is still a dangerous and uncharted area. But he specifically talks about how the culture at NASA has changed to include flawed decision making and a “diminished curiosity about the world outside.” He then introduces O’Keefe saying he wants to hear about these cultural changes.

Organizational Culture and Climate of NASA
Looking at the vision for the future of space exploration gave a tone that the culture of NASA is one that is focused on rebuilding go further than ever before. The website discusses the design for the new spacecraft that will be used in lunar missions. The website also stresses the new design to be safe as well as reliable and affordable. I found the video depiction of a future mission using the new spaceship the most interesting. NASA seems to again be in the developmental stages, which creates a culture of new beginnings and the desire to rebuild and succeed.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Website Analysis of NASA

On Friday, students will be posting about their analysis of NASA's website. To correspond with our in-class discussion of NASA's organizational climate and culture, students will be visiting NASA's site and commenting on what they learned in the following areas:

a. History of the Challenger disaster and investigation
b. History of the Columbia disaster and investigation
c. Organizational culture and climate of NASA

Read the full assignment sheet for details.