Sunday, April 09, 2006

Blogging... and NASA?

In the first half of this class, we studied NASA, and its communication flaws that led to the Challenger and Columbia disasters. We learned that as a result of these tragedies, NASA has predictably lost credibility with the public. This is due to a loss of the normalization of risk when the cultural mitosis occurred.

For those who aren't familiar with NASA's history, at one point NASA had a culture entirely devoted to the engineer. Mistakes not only happened, they were expected. People had a common goal in mind, and most were operating on the same level. A cultural mitosis transpired when the Apollo Program became a perogative. The prospect of the Apollo Program doubled the tasks. As a result, the NASA team had to change its organizational structure. It grew by mitosis. There became two cultures: the engineering and the bureaucratic. This split spiraled into two opposing viewpoints and communication standards. The bureaucrats grew in strength and redirected the mission of NASA. It went from focusing on the safety and reliability to the cost and time concerned with each project. This played a large role in the Challenger incident, and years later, the Columbia .

The Columbia happened only 3 years ago. Many of my classmates and I question whether they've really changed since then. When we were asked to examine the NASA website, most of us commented on what we thought appeared to be synthetic sincerity on their site. We were overwhelmed by a barrage of links leading to accomplishments or goals. We were sent there to find NASA's information on the accidents. All of us found it difficult to find. NASA had buried offsite. Good luck finding the link to it on your own (this is a challenge for all of you)!

So, now that I've brought you through some of NASA's past, and their current situation, I pose the question: Would a blog be good for NASA?

Right now, it doesn't appear that NASA even has a main forum board. They have one maintained by a college in their Columbia page, but that's all I've been able to find. Would it benefit NASA's credibility to have a blog?

The person I interviewed, Jeremy, told me there is not one type of company that can blog. Any company can as long as they have the right the right corporate culture, and the right type of person. The right type of person will have honesty, skills, passion and thick skin. Does NASA have the right person/people for the task? Do they even have the right culture? Or, if not, could the blog direct and influence the culture toward an improvement?

I don't have the answers to these questions, but I think it is something worth exploring for NASA. It could potentially renew the public trust. It could also backfire. Perhaps, a forum would be better. Either way, there seems to be a lack of discourse between NASA and the people.