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"Organization at the Limit: Lessons from the Columbia Disaster"

Preeta M. Banerjee and Joseph T. Mahoney

 

First Author :

Preeta M. Banerjee
Business Administration
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Business
1206 S. Sixth Street
208 Wohlers Hall, MC 706
Champaign, IL 61820
USA

217-333-0694

preetab@uiuc.edu

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Second Author :

Joseph T. Mahoney
Business Administration
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Business
1206 S. Sixth Street
140C Wohlers Hall, MC 706
Champaign, IL 61820
USA

217-244-8257
217-244-7969 (Fax)

josephm@uiuc.edu

http://www.business.uiuc.edu/faculty/mahoney.html

 
 
Abstract :
 
We review William Starbuck and Moshe Farjoun’s Organization at the Limit: Lessons from the Columbia Disaster, a book that provides a unique look at a rare empirical phenomenon: the total failure of a high-risk, high-reward organization. The National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) is a large, elaborate, and mature organization, which operates risky and complex technologies in an environment that emits ambiguous signals. In particular, NASA’s space shuttle, Columbia, disintegrated during re-entry, after completing its 16-day scientific research mission. All seven astronauts on board the Space Shuttle were killed. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB, 2003) stated that this disaster was a product of NASA’s history, cultural traits, and long-term organizational practices. The multiple contributing factors give rise to eighteen chapters of various observers, interpretations, and evaluation criteria.
 
 
Footnotes & Acknowledgements :
 
This paper reviews William Starbuck and Moshe Farjoun (2005) book and is intended to be a supplement for the senior-level Business Policy/ Strategic Management capstone course (BADM 449), which assigns the Harvard Multimedia Business Case: The Columbia’s Last Flight (Edmondson, Roberto and Bohmer, 2005). An abbreviated version of this paper can be found in Banerjee and Mahoney (2007). We thank Jeanne Connell, William Connell, Glenn Hoetker, James Mahoney and Judy Mahoney for helpful comments. The usual disclaimer applies.
 
 
Manuscript Received : 2007
Manuscript Published : 2007
 
 
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