The Challenger disaster cannot be accounted for by reductionist explanations that direct attention only toward individual actors, nor by theories that focus solely on communication failure or the social psychological dynamics of the infamous eve-of-launch teleconference. The cause of the tragedy was rooted in historic organizational and environmental contingencies that preceded the launch decision. By tracing the connection between top policy decisions and decisions by engineers and managers assigned to do risky work, this analysis contradicts conventional understandings about what happened at NASA. As a consequence, this case contains new lessons for both managers and students of organizations.
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