Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sally Ride, astronaut who supported Boisjoly, passes away

Just yesterday, I posted about the passing of Roger Boisjoly. And today, I read that Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, passed away yesterday. (NY Times obituary here)

At a time when Mr Boisjoly was being shunned by practically everyone because he revealed the truth about Challenger, Ms Ride backed him. According to Boisjoly's obituary in the NY Times, "He [Boisjoly] later said he was sustained by a single gesture of support. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, hugged him after his appearance before the commission.“She was the only one,” he said in a whisper to a Newsday reporter in 1988. “The only one.”

Rest in Peace, Sally Ride. We should all derive inspiration and strength from her example.

(Comments? Email me at cvdhruve (at) gmail.com) 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Rest in Peace, Roger Boisjoly, engineer who battled hard to stop Challenger launch

I've just found out (I know it's rather late) that Roger Boisjoly passed away on the 6th of January this year, aged 73. As someone who's written about the Challenger space shuttle disaster and examined the events closely, I came to respect Mr Boisjoly as a true hero. I'm deeply saddened that he has passed away and it feels like a trusted and dear colleague (though I've never met him) is no more. I've watched several videos in which he's featured, and the strength and courage of his convictions in the face of terrible (both literally and metaphorically) opposition stand out. 

Mr Boisjoly stood up to his managers at Morton Thiokol and NASA the night before the fateful launch. He had also repeatedly warned his bosses that there were problems with the rocket booster O ring seals at cold temperatures.  For stating all this,  he was targeted. According to an obituary in the New York Times, "[H]e paid the stiff price often exacted of whistle-blowers. Thiokol cut him off from space work, and he was shunned by colleagues and managers. A former friend warned him, “If you wreck this company, I’m going to put my kids on your doorstep,” Mr. Boisjoly told The Los Angeles Times in 1987."

"He [Boisjoly] had headaches, double-vision and depression. He yelled at his dog and his daughters and skipped church to avoid people. He filed two suits against Thiokol; both were dismissed."

Imagine the kind of mental trauma - mental torture really - he underwent, all for doing the right thing

Rest in Peace Mr Boisjoly. We will continue your fight. 

Comments? Email me cvdhruve (at) gmail.com

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The "Survival of the Fittest" fallacy in organizations

Here's a quote from an article in Vanity Fair (July 3, 2012) titled, "Microsoft’s Downfall: Inside the Executive E-mails and Cannibalistic Culture That Felled a Tech Giant":

“Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees. ”[Kurt] Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.” [emphasis mine]

In my book, published in 2007, I wrote, "It [survival of the fittest] works fine if you are trying to fight, survive, and win as an individual. But in the organizational context, if everyone is busy fighting, surviving, and trying to win as individuals, will the organization survive and win?" (pages 147-148).

Comments? Email me cvdhruve (at) gmail.com