April 2014
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7 Astronauts Died Because NASA Is A Shitty Place to Work

I may only be 30 years old (and a few cards shy of 52), but I don’t remember anybody blaming death on “bad organizational culture” before. We sociologists study organizational culture all the time. Actually, this stuff is also studied by business schools. Anyway, I always figured that people don’t die because of it. Sure, it makes you want to take more coffee breaks and goof off and stuff, and it makes work bearable only in a drunken stupor… Still, I guessed that in important jobs, like working for NASA, you don’t “let things slide” just because your boss is a jerk or they ran out of hot dogs too soon at the company picnic.

Now that “bad organizational culture” is a legitimate excuse for the assignment of blame for death, we may re-interpret history in this framework. Throughout history, bad organizational culture” is to blame for unresponsive government (i.e. Communist China under Mao Tse-Tung), where mutiple layers of bureaucracy makes communication difficult, etc. Bad organizational culture is also to blame for the death of Christ, as Pontius Pilate gave amnesty to only one of the condemned that day because “there can be only one pardon and that’s the law and ain’t nothing gonna change that.”

I plan to blame my recent spurt of goofing off on bad organizational culture at my department. This place sucks in many ways, but now that it’s all due to bad culture, I can goof off until they fix the culture. Of course, this is the is/ought fallacy I was talking ’bout earlier…

I hope that bad organizational culture doesn’t infect hosptials (“the doctor doesn’t FEEL like helping anyone today because someone ate the last lollipop”) or police stations (“sorry, sir, but we can’t investigate that murder because there’s so much darn paperwork to do and we keep running out of toilet paper in the men’s bathroom and when we complain to management about toilet paper absenteeism, management doesn’t seem to CARE”).

One more thing to blame. Just you watch.

2 comments to 7 Astronauts Died Because NASA Is A Shitty Place to Work

  • In addition to the “is/ought” fallacy, this also goes directly to the earlier discussion about personal responsibility. It’s not that people in NASA fucked up and got people killed, it’s because, like you said, it sucks to work for NASA.

    Here’s the basic problem with giving any governmental agency a job or a problem to solve: they just won’t do it because once the job is done, the doer ends up out of work, and nobody wants to be on the dole (unless they can make a comfy living at it). The only reason people go into the vast majority of government jobs is because it’s work requiring minimal effort for a fixed pay scale that can only go up as you continue to exist.

    My favorite part of the article was this one, which is one of the reasons NASA cited that contributed to the horrible deaths of 7 people:

    “The evolution of an informal chain of command of decision-making processes that operated outside the organization’s rules.”

    Sounds like the whole place was run by the NASA Director’s wife: “We’ll re-schedule the next shuttle launch for tomorrow. The missus is having a bad hair day and that shit sure kicks up a lot of wind, I’ll tell you what.”

    And if the cops would just use arrest forms for toilet paper, then that paperwork/lavatory paper problem would be solved.

  • Paul

    Excuse me but how can NASA be shitty when they have landed men on the moon and recently sent a robot to mars. NASA have now launched nearly 120 space shuttles and numerous other rockets and only two have gone badly wrong. These astronauts know of the danger, they dont strap themselves to tons of liquid oxygen and launch themselves at thousands of miles per hour into a completely inhospitable area and everything to be a walk in the park every time. Maybe you should stop spending your time moaning about “organizational structures” and rememeber the astronauts who died doing what they love doing. Any one of those astronauts would of said that they knew of the risks. So stop being one of those sad individuals who spend all their time moaning instead of going out and fulfilling their own dreams and remember everything that NASA and its workers have achieved.

    Sorry to be so frank but its something ive had enough of.