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When the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28, 1986, millions of Americans became bound together in a single, historic moment. Many still vividly remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard about the tragedy. Diane Vaughan recreates the steps leading up to that fateful decision, contradicting conventional interpretations to prove that what occurred at NASA was not skullduggery or misconduct but a disastrous mistake. Why did NASA managers, who not only had all the information prior to the launch but also were warned against it, decide to proceed? In retelling how the decision unfolded through the eyes of the managers and the engineers, Vaughan uncovers an incremental descent into poor judgment, supported by a culture of high-risk technology. She reveals how and why NASA insiders, when repeatedly faced with evidence that something was wrong, normalized the deviance so that it became acceptable to them. In a new preface, Vaughan reveals the ramifications for this book and for her when a similar decision-making process brought down NASA's Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.
Diane Vaughan reconstructs the Ohio Revco case, an example of Medicaid provider fraud in which a large drugstore chain initiated a computer-generated double billing scheme that cost the state and federal government half a million dollars in Medicaid funds, funds that the company believed were rightfully theirs. Her analysis of this incident—why the crime was committed, how it was detected, and how the case was built—provides a fascinating inside look at computer crime. Vaughan concludes that organizational misconduct could be decreased by less regulation and more sensitive bureaucratic response.
On April 14, 1994, two U.S. Air Force F-15 fighters accidentally shot down two U.S. Army Black Hawk Helicopters over Northern Iraq, killing all twenty-six peacekeepers onboard. In response to this disaster the complete array of military and civilian investigative and judicial procedures ran their course. After almost two years of investigation with virtually unlimited resources, no culprit emerged, no bad guy showed himself, no smoking gun was found. This book attempts to make sense of this tragedy--a tragedy that on its surface makes no sense at all. With almost twenty years in uniform and a Ph.D. in organizational behavior, Lieutenant Colonel Snook writes from a unique perspective. A victim of friendly fire himself, he develops individual, group, organizational, and cross-level accounts of the accident and applies a rigorous analysis based on behavioral science theory to account for critical links in the causal chain of events. By explaining separate pieces of the puzzle, and analyzing each at a different level, the author removes much of the mystery surrounding the shootdown. Based on a grounded theory analysis, Snook offers a dynamic, cross-level mechanism he calls "practical drift"--the slow, steady uncoupling of practice from written procedure--to complete his explanation. His conclusion is disturbing. This accident happened because, or perhaps in spite of everyone behaving just the way we would expect them to behave, just the way theory would predict. The shootdown was a normal accident in a highly reliable organization.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration began its space flight program in October of 1958 by launching the 84-pound Pioneer I space probe. Scarcely a decade later, in July of 1969, NASA amazed the world by landing the first humans on the Moon. In the two decades that followed, however, the agency appeared to lose both its vigor and its creativity. Inside NASA explores how an agency praised for its planetary probes and expeditions to the Moon became noted for the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and a series of other malfunctions. Using archival evidence as well as in-depth interviews with space agency officials, Howard McCurdy investigates the relationship between the performance of the U.S. space program and NASA's organizational culture. He begins by identifying the beliefs, norms, and practices that guided NASA's early successes. Originally, the agency was dominated by the strong technical culture rooted in the research-and-development organizations from which NASA was formed. To launch the expeditions to the Moon, McCurdy explains, this technical culture was linked to an organizational structure borrowed from the Air Force Ballistic Missile Program. Over time, however, changes imposed to accomplish the lunar expedition - as well as the normal aging process and increased bureaucracy in the government as a whole-altered NASA's original culture and eroded its technical strength. McCurdy observes that NASA's early success depended on a number of related characteristics: extensive testing, in-house technical capability, hands-on experience, exceptional people, stoic acceptance of risk and failure, and a frontier mentality. He concludes that, given the conditions ofmodern government, the performance of high-technology agencies like NASA inherently tends to decline. Inside NASA offers a revealing study of both organizational culture and bureaucratic aging.
Originally published in hardcover in 2009.
Revisiting the dominant scientific method, 'coding,' with which investigators from sociology to literary criticism have sampled texts and catalogued their cultural messages, the author demonstrates that the celebrated hard outputs rest on misleading samples and on unfeasible classifying of the texts' meanings.
At 5:02 A.M. on August 29, 2005, Power Went Out in the Superdome. Not long after, wind ripped giant white rubber sheets off the roof and sent huge shards of debris flying toward Uptown. Rivulets of rainwater began finding their way down through the ceiling, dripping and pouring into the stands, the mezzanine, and the football field. Without ventilation, the air began to get gamy with the smell of sweat and garbage. The bathrooms stopped working. Many people slept; others waited, mostly in silence.

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