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NASA and Its Strategic Goals in a Restructured CultureCase Study

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The Context of NASA's Strategic Goals for the Design of Its Organization Structure

The disappearance of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its seven-man crew on February 1, 2013 led to the formation of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board or CAIB of high-level experts to thoroughly investigate the disaster (BST, 2004). CAIB reported on issues in three major areas of systemic safety cultural and organization, requirements for safe return, and technical excellence. It concluded that NASA's culture and history itself had a lot to do with the occurrence besides technical reasons. It recommended a complete overhaul of the organizational and safety culture of the organization (BST).

The CAIB submitted a detailed report on the major organizational causes, which led to the accident (BST, 2004). These included initial compromises needed to get the approval for the shuttle program, resource constraints in succeeding years, changing priorities, tight schedules, inaccuracy in characterizing the Shuttle as operation instead of developmental, and a lack of a common national perception of the project, and a lack of a common vision. The Board also listed cultural traits and detrimental organizational practices to safety, such as substituting past successes to sound engineering procedures, barriers to communication regarding safety, differences in professional opinion, absence of integrated management and the informal chain of command and decision-making beyond stated organizational rules. The Board also pointed to gaps in leadership practices on safety, mainly the failure to follow NASA procedures, the requirement to prove that a problem existed instead of assuming it, and the perception that the pressure of schedule was critical to the program. Administrator Sean O'Keefe appointed a team to review the report and submit recommendations, observations and findings. The team was led by Goddard Center Director Al Diaz. The Diaz team focused its output on the organizational causes, namely leadership, learning, communication, processes and rules, technical capabilities, organizational structure and risk management. It acknowledged its oversight of cultural aspects, but explained that the proposed goals were only a first step in the solution process. Administrator O'Keefe in late 2003 identified the five guiding principles in remaking NASA's culture. These would embody the key attributes of a culture of excellence in safety and success in its missions. These guiding principles were the encouragement and modeling of open communication; strict and thoroughly informed judgment as the only basis for making decisions; personal responsibility in every person; a common value of integrated technical competence; and a high-level of individual accountability (BST).

2. The Context of NASA's External Environment for Both its Strategic Goals and the Design of its Organization Structure

It has been he traditional practice of NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee

for Aeronautics or NACA, to seek the independent and expert advice and guidance of seasoned professionals and citizens for its programs and policies (NASA, 2015). Its advisory committee was appointed by the President of the United States. It headed a group of advisory committees, which provided guidance to its research activities. This tradition of seeking expert and independent advice and direction from these individuals persisted when NASA replaced NACA in 1958. For almost half a century since, NASA sustained the works of these committees in their activities. These include aeronautics, space technology, space science and applications, earth science, and human spaceflight. At present, the four advisory groups of these esteemed individuals of NASA's programs are the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, the NASA Advisory Council, the National Research Council of the National Academies, and the National Academy of Public Administration (NASA).

Other external partners for progress are stakeholders from industry, from academic institutions, federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and international organizations (NASA, 2015). They have likewise extended support to the work of NASA. It intends not only to maintain but also to expand these partnerships for its needs. These partnerships provide NASA with access to various technologies, skills and services which it can use for its operations, time use, and budgetary limits. At the same time, these partners benefit from the relationship by taking advantage of NASA's technologies and services for their own launch services, as in the case of satellite communications companies. The cooperation energizes the commercial space industry as it contributes to the achievement of NASA's Vision for Space Exploration (NASA).

Its external environment also consists of federal agency partnerships, international partnerships, private sector partnerships, and academic partnerships (NASA, 2015). They provide NASA with not only the necessary but also excellent feedback on its programs and their impact. That way, NASA can gauge the consistency of these programs with its own stated strategic goals and outcomes (McCuddy, 2006). Furthermore, NASA is able to use the Program Assessment Rating Tool of Office of the Management and Budget or OMB. NASA submits a third of its program, called Themes, to OMB every year so that assessment proceeds every three years. At present, 17 program assessments have been conducted of NASA's programs, representing 80% of NASA's current programs. NASA considers OMB's findings on its program performance consistent with its own annual performance plan, performance and accountability report (NASA).

3. A Network or Lattice Organization and Its Difference from Traditional Organizational Structures

A lattice or network organization is characterized by careers that are suited to the needs of employees, flexible work schedule for greater work-life balance or adjusted responsibility, and full participation (Magloff, 2015). Under this set, employees are able to contribute their ideas and suggestions to management. It allows them to work flexibly and strike that balance between their work and individual lives. A network or lattice organization likewise makes possible the performance of multiple work and pursuit of multiple career paths. It is unlike the traditional organization where the hierarchy of authority is from the top going down. Employees in a lattice or network organizations can move sideways, change their positions in order to gain more knowledge and skills in all aspects of company operations. This does not happen in the traditional type of organization (Magloff).

4. The Origin and Rationale of a Lattice Organization

This concept was first used in 2005 at Deloitte when the management sought mass career customization in lieu of flexible work setup (Magloff, 2015). The workers at Deloitte could organize and adjust their level of work responsibility with their personal needs. Those who needed to reduce their work responsibility could do so and then decide to increase it again and move up. The company found it so effective and stimulating that they shared and recommended the concept to clients (Magloff). But it was the actual brainchild of W.I. Gore and Associates who thought that the concept would be more effective than the traditional type with these characteristics (Mayhew, 2015)

5. How the Network or Lattice Organization Relate to NASA's Organization Design of Four Mission Directorates with NASA Centers and Mission Support Offices

NASA's mission directorates and centers cooperate and collaborate in the most affordable and suitable strategy in achieving its strategic goals (NASA, 2015). These four directorates -- science mission, space operation mission, exploration system mission, and aeronautics mission -- and centers have their respective functions. The Science Mission Directorate will continue collecting important data through robotic missions and space observations and obtain images of galaxies ad planets in the solar system. The Space Operations Mission Directorate will continue to serve as a space outpost and laboratory through the use of space shuttle and the international space station. The Exploratory Systems Mission Directorate will likewise proceed with developing transportation systems and technologies, which would bring human being to space. And the Aeronautics Mission Directorate pledges to restore established capabilities and competencies in subsonic, supersonic, and hypersonic flight (NASA).

In 2004, the U.S. President mandated NASA with the responsibility to plan, implement and integrate a long-term program on robotic and human exploration. Congress sustained and endorsed the directive with appropriations and the NASA Authorization Act. These six major strategic goals will remain NASA's vision for the next decade. The goal is to spread human presence through the solar system, along with the development of more innovative technologies and to attract more international and commercial participation in exploration in extending and expanding the scientific, security and economic interests of the United States (NASA).

The four directorates and their centers are well-ordered in a hierarchy and their functions are well-defined. There can be no accidental shifts or exchange of function. Thus, the lattice system of organization cannot be adopted. Furthermore, the President's high-level mandate to NASA can only be accomplished in a tight and well-structured hierarchy. There will be continuous top-down and down-top feedback and accountability. Only the traditional form of organization can work in this flow of responsibilities and goals.

6. Advantages and Disadvantages of a Network or Lattice Organization

An advantage is that it allows companies greater flexibility and capacity to adapt faster to changing market conditions (Magloff, 2015). Their talent pool makes this possible. Lattice companies found that by giving greater responsibilities to employees and the chance to change their work patterns in order to achieve greater balance between work… [END OF PREVIEW]

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