In January of 1986, along with my coworkers outside of the Kennedy Space Center headquarters building, I watched the space shuttle Challenger catastrophe and was brought to tears. It was an event that I will never forget!
Cues to this national disaster became increasingly evident, with the focus on the faulty O-ring design. Initially, O-ring concerns were not highlighted, but once reported and analyzed, the issues were largely unabated. At one point, engineers pushed back with their concerns, but senior leaders pushed back as well — “let’s launch,” seemed to be what really mattered. Eventually, an O-ring “burn through” occurred and an unforgettable tragedy erupted. At various stages and levels, open communications and relevant actions were constrained by fear.