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How Would You Highlight Group Processes in the Teleconference? What Led to Ineffective Handling of the Situation?

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Group Decision Making

Q2.How would you highlight group processes in the Teleconference? What led to ineffective handling of the situation?

Answer-

The group decision making did not work properly between NASA and Morton Thiokol. None of the techniques for decision making were effective since there was a paucity of time and there was a rising pressure from both NASA, media and the government for the launch. Following are some of the highlights that led to ineffective handling of the situation.

  1. Lack of cohesiveness: There was very little cohesiveness between both the groups. Although both of them were working towards the congruent goal of a successful launch there was a lot of uncertainty from Morton Thiokol Inc (MTI) in terms of the performance of the O-ring at lower temperature. On the other hand NASA was not convinced about the claims since enough data was not available with MTI. This led to a dis-satisfaction between both the groups.
  2. Lack of brain storming: It was already very late when the teleconference was convened i.e.13 hours before the launch. As a result, there was very little time for interaction and open discussions and idea generation between the groups.
  3. Lack of time for nominal group technique: With the large group and less time, there was no scope for everyone to write down or express their ideas on the problem. The decision to continue with the launch was largely decided based on the inputs of 2 people viz. Larry Mulloy and George Hardy.
  4. Large group: There was a total of 32 individuals present in 3 locations for the teleconference. With larger groups cohesiveness becomes an issue and there are higher changes of group thinking which happened in this case. The larger group size also affected the behavior of the senior members in the both the teams who were very vocal in expressing their dissatisfaction. Of the 32 people who were on the teleconference, the talking was done by only 4-5 individuals.
  5. Miscommunication and delayed action: Had the issue of the performance of O-rings properly communicated within MTI, it could have been resolved much earlier. There was rising tension between other engineers at MTI and Roger Boisjoly which led to the sarcastic conversation by Joe Kilminister in the MTI cafeteria one year prior to the launch.  
  6. Lack of acceptance: The NASA officials, especially Larry Mulloy was not willing to accept any of the recommendation put forth by MTI. He was refuting all the claims saying that there is no data to support it.
  7. Group think: NASA officials were adamant for the launch the following day since it was already postponed multiple times. They were facing increasing pressure from within the organization as well as from outside. For eg. George Hardy was very vocal towards the end of the Scene 1 teleconference and he agreed with the thinking of Larry Mulloy that there is no need of postponing the launch. He however was not sure since he also mentioned “if MTI recommends not launching I’m certainly not going to override it”. No one within NASA challenged Larry Mulloy or George Hardy.
  8. Conformity: MTI management team wanted to be accepted by NASA. MTI engineering team knew that there is a high risk of recommending a launch when the temperature is less than 53 degree Fahrenheit which was unchartered territory for them. However, the officials at NASA were very disappointed (“appalled” was the word used by George Hardy) with MTI’s last minute recommendation. This made the management team to call for a Caucus and make a decision yes or no decision -  “Take off the engineering hat and put on your management hat”.
  9. Group Shift: MTI had initially recommended against the launch. However during the course of the teleconference and post the Caucus they recommended proceeding with the launch which demonstrated a risky behaviour from MTI as a result of group shift.

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