…And read William Langeweische’s dissection of “Columbia’s Last Flight,” wherein he delineates the (mostly organizational) pressures that lead to the failing of the space shuttle Columbia. You probably won’t learn anything new, but Langeweische’s clear presentation lays out the sequence of events making crystal clear how and where the communication breakdown occurred. Particularly valuable for folks interested in organizational psychology — the NASA bureaucracy did all it could to protect itself, though such actions ironically lead to its ultimate failure and exposure.
It’s funny that in re-reading your page this falls immediately after the “Six Sigma” post. Affiliates of the company I work for have recently started pushing the whole “Six Sigma” bandwagon, which to me looks like TQM and Deming and all of the rest of those waves rehashed yet again. What struck me about this ordering, especially since I’ve recently been doing some soul searching regarding “quality” in my own work, was that those few organizations that take the quality movement truly to heart are less likely to make these sorts of mistakes, but organizations that think “Six Sigma” actually means “we have to get to .000001 failure rate” are more likely to mess up in this way.
This was particularly driven home by Matthew Oliphant’s comment about 1437 people and 8 extra months. If that’s the way your management approaches any quality initiative, then it’s doomed. It happens that that’s how most organizations do approach quality, which is why most quality initiatives are viewed with cynicism and die without helping the companies that start them, but seeing those two entries back to back just seemed wonderfully serendipitous to me.