The Challenger | Case Study

Groupthink is was first introduced by Janis in 1972. It is defined as mode of thinking that people engage in when are deeply involved in a cohesive group and when striving for unity override members’ motivation to realistically apprise alternative courses of action.


Space Shuttle Challenger


Groupthink is present in space shuttle Challenger case. One of the worst space disasters was led by flawed decision making process and decision made a night before the launch. In 1986, Kennedy Space Centre experienced the Challenger explosion killing seven astronauts. 73 seconds after the launch, space shuttle crashed. Launch temperature was well brow the previous temperature at which the shuttle engines had been tested and this resulted in an explosion.


Theory and Evidence


The final meeting took place throughout the day and evening. This was due to the following decision not to launch due to high crosswinds at the launch site. Discussion continued with a help of teleconference technology.


The Level I Flight Readiness Review is the highest level of review prior launch. This involved the highest level management at three space centres and MTI (private supplier of a solid rocket booster engines). MTI engineers recommended not to launch if the temperature of O-ring seals on the rocket was brow 54 degrees (Fahrenheit). This was the lowest temperature of any previous flights. The recommendation was made one day before the launch. Throughout the ensuing discussions, launch decision was made.


Antecedent Conditions


There are three antecedent conditions for the development of groupthink.


1. Cohesive Group


The group worked together for many years. They were familiar with one another, growing together through ranks of the space program.


2. Leader Preference


Top level management actively promoted their pro-lauch opinions in the face of opposition. Several managers at space centres and MTI pushed for the launch, regardless of low temperature that was pointed out by engineers.


3. Insulation from Experts (qualified outside opinion)


MTI engineers made a recommendation early in the evening. Top decision makers knew of their objections but did not meet with them directly to review the data and concerns. 

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