The following are excerpts from the message NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin sent to agency employees Jan. 28, 2008 to discuss how the agency can prevent another fatality like those that occurred during the Apollo 1 launch pad fire in 1967 that killed three astronauts; the Challenger accident on Jan. 28, 1986 that killed all seven crew members 73 seconds after liftoff and the destruction of the shuttle Columbia during re-entry Feb. 1 2003, an event that also claimed the lives of seven crew members:
“We employ the organizational hierarchy and its accompanying flow of authority and responsibility to serve us, not to tie our hands. A healthy organization allows information to move up, down, and sideways, and pushes decisions, and trust in those decisions, down to the place where they can best be made. An unhealthy organization prevents needed information from flowing to those who must determine where that place is. But no amorphous ‘organization’ does these things. For good or ill, it is the people in NASA who do, or do not do, what is needed. So, if you find yourself with a concern that you are reluctant to speak about to your supervisor or to have a conversation about outside your ‘chain of command,’ think about what that can cost. If you’re the one hearing a concern, think about whether you’re really listening, or just waiting politely until the speaker is done talking, and think about what that can cost
“In either case, think about whether you’re working in the right kind of organization to meet the exacting demands of what it is that we do. Don’t leave for a better organization – that’s not the right answer. Help us make NASA what it needs to be.
“The authority to provide direction lies in the chain of command, and belongs there. But to require the “chain of command” to be coincident with the “chain of communication” produces only dysfunction. The information that provides the situational awareness to allow good leadership, and good followership, belongs to us all.
Remember that the next time you are reluctant to speak, or impatient with listening, and remember the real reasons that we have a Day of Remembrance. The more we remember those real reasons, the longer it will be before we have another cause for mourning.”