24 years ago the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated shortly after it was launched. I was 11 going on 12 years old at the time. I was sitting in an English class in 6th grade at the time. I still remember the look of shock the teacher had that day when she told us what happened. I guess it is like you will always remember where you were when you first heard about the World Trade Center on 9/11 or when Kennedy was shot, or where you where when man first stepped in the moon. I didn’t get to see it live, since I was in school and most of my siblings were home sick that day. It was a sad day for Americans, and a sad day for space exploration.
Today, it is used as an engineering and management example of what not to do and how important communication is in an organization. I think most problems stem from communication issues. 9/11? Lack of communication between Federal agencies. Marriages breaking up? Lack of communication between the partners. Mars Lander failure? Lack of communication between the designers for what system of measurements was used. Hurricane Katrina? Lack of communication with FEMA and the inability to warn the residents in timely matter. In this day and age of world wide communication, it is the lack of proper interpersonal skills and clear understanding that gets us.
Unfortunately, this mistake gets repeated over and over and I really don’t know if it will ever be fixed. I think it is really part of human nature. It could be because we evolved to deal with relatively small groups and our genetic heritage just fails us when we pass a certain point of people. Where I work, word of mouth is so much faster than formal e-mails it is not even funny. It was like that at my last job as well. I would be willing to bet it is a pretty common problem not just in American culture, but a world wide phenomenon in corporate culture with companies with over 15 people.
So, in th end, if we just communicated more effectively, a lot more people would be alive right now. Thank you for teaching us an important lesson, flight crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger, but I doubt it will really sink in for a long time.