Wednesday, August 27, 2003

NASA - Culture kills? No, denial does.

NASA's culture has been blamed for the shuttle disaster. Things like conflicting goals, the discouragement of - dissent, being driven by schedules, the relaxation of safety vigilance, poor communication, and so on are pointed to as indicators of failures in the NASA culture.

Culture? It seems to me that these are all simply failures of management and failures of leadership. Why is it that we so often blame "culture" instead of singling out the individuals who are responsible for bad decisions, poor policy, inadequate enforcement? We see this deflection in business, we see it in government, and it is part of everyday life (criminals are really victims of their culture). Maybe it is part of the growing American obsession with euphemizing the warts in the world, but to me that's just another form of denial. "Culture" is a scapegoat that makes nobody accountable. And if nobody is accountable, the problems will not get fixed.

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