U.S. Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Decision Making Process And Political Dynamics

The Challenger Disaster Case Study Assignment

The Challenger disaster is a classic case study for observing the political frame and the dynamics that create a potentially negative outcome. Sometimes data and other facts are overlooked in the decision-making process to instead deal with political pressures of other groups and/or coalitions. The general public has heard that the root cause of the space Challenger was due to O-ring failure. In the case study, you may have noticed the actual root cause of the Challenger disaster—the push for approval from a “managerial perspective.”

Review this week’s resources, including the Challenger case study in Chapter 7 of the course text, Reframing Organizations. After reading the case on the Challenger disaster, develop your initial post. (Note: Use Exhibit 6.1, “Organizations and Modes of Political Rule,” on p. 153 in the course text, Images of Organization.)

The Challenger Case Study disaster Questions

  • Identify and explain the modes of political influences in the U.S. space shuttle Challenger case study (Chapter 9 in Bolman & Deal).
  • Describe the impact of inter-organizational politics between NASA and Thiokol.
  • Describe the impact to the ecosystem that NASA was operating in at the time of the U.S. space shuttle Challenger disaster.
  • Explain how you think managers could have prevented the failure of the space shuttle Challenger disaster.

U.S. Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Decision Making Process And Political Dynamics – Sample Answer


Decision making in an organization can highly determine the success or the failure of a process in the organization. Effective decision making is highly enhanced by the use of the right and sufficient data. This implies the process of decision making is enhanced by presence of sufficient information and data which should be thoroughly evaluated and considered before a decision is made. Decision made in rash without the consideration of the right data and information may highly result to a number of problems which can be disastrous to some extent. In addition, effective decision making can be influenced by internal organization politics which can easily overlook various important facts, data and information, and influence the process of decision to fit their interest. This paper focuses on evaluating the involvement of politics in challenger disaster case study.

Modes of Political Influence in the U.S. Challenger Case Study

The main issue in the challenger case study was whether to launch the space shuttle first flight on 28th of January or not. The involved engineers raised a last minute alarm on the possible danger in launching the flight as a result of a technique problem that they had a problem with for the last 8 years. However, the management did not heed to the warning since it had already made its preparation in making the launch, and it was not ready to bare the shame associated with the fail. The need to fulfill their goals and not to let down the nation made them ignore the engineers warning. They used various excuses such as there was no such communication on 27th of January and thus, they had not managed to stop their launch mission on time. Engineers lacked power the power to stop the launching, while the management used their power to ignore engineers warning. This eventually resulted to a disaster (Ufuk & Nejat, 2015).

Impact of Inter-Organization Politics between NASA and Thiokol Engineers

The inter-organizational politics between NASA and Thiokol was the main cause of poor decision making in the organization, which eventually resulted to the shuttle accident. NASA had a goal to accomplish which they wanted to attain at whatever cost. They looked forward to the day they would launch their first space shuttle. Thiokol engineers on the other hand were responsible of the construction of the space shuttle and they had for a longtime had a problem with the O-ring. They were still not convinced that the machine was safe enough to be launched. NASA had a deadline to beat and they were not ready to back off. This made NASA ignore the safety warning provided by the engineers. They considered it as a hindrance to attain their goals. NASA enhanced heavy schedule on the shuttle construction which Thiokol engineers disapproved. All these political conflict resulted to wrong decision making which involved launching the shuttle despite the danger involved. This eventually resulted into a disaster that claimed the life of seven people and destruction of the space shuttle (Ufuk & Nejat, 2015).

NASA Ecosystem Impact during the Challenger Disaster

NASA functioned under the U.S. government and also operated with the Thiokol Engineers, Marshall Engineers, and astronauts among others. The incident highly impacted the entire NASA ecosystem where by their effort to make a space shuttle was nullified. A project that had consumed a lot of government resources, engineering knowledge and space flight personnel contribution resulted to a disaster which was quite traumatizing to the space flight center that lost six of their colleagues. It also resulted into a blame game among the involved parties, particularly between the management and the Thiokol engineers. The disaster was a complete demonstration of a failed ecosystem (Matthew et al., 2014).

Managers Ability to Prevent the Disaster

Managers have the duty to make decisions in an organization. This was not an exception, the managers’ main goal was to meet the set goals and the main organization goal was to successful launch the space shuttle.  They were the main decision maker and thus they had the power to prevent the disaster. The manager decision was supposed to be highly based on the engineers’ approval of the machine functionality.

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They were only supposed to set the launch date based on thorough evaluation of the machine operation efficiency and approval of its safety from the necessary individuals. They never had power to authorize anything without engineers’ approval. Engineers had expressed their last minutes fear and being individuals with higher knowledge than managers regarding the machine functionality, managers were supposed to heed to their warning. However they decided not to and launched the flight. This simply means the managers could have prevented this disaster if only they considered adhering to last minute warning (Ufuk & Nejat, 2015).

Application of the Information in an Organization

The information demonstrates the importance of respecting everybody’s contribution in an organization. It act as a warning to the managers not to be drunk with power and to always consider gathering information extensively from  different specialists before making their decisions. Managers should always make their decision based on information and data and not emotionally or driven by their ego to prove their power in an organization.


The challenger disaster is one good example of a failed decision making process. Managers who have the upper hand in making decision in an organization failed in making the right decision by refusing to consider the provided information. Poor decision making can be prevented by basing decisions on available data and information.

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