Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More life-and-death Agility

The Rogers Commission found that NASA's organizational culture and decision-making processes had been a key contributing factor to the accident. NASA managers had known that contractor Morton Thiokol's design of the SRBs contained a potentially catastrophic flaw in the O-rings since 1977, but they failed to address it properly. They also disregarded warnings from engineers about the dangers of launching posed by the low temperatures of that morning and had failed to adequately report these technical concerns to their superiors. The Rogers Commission offered NASA nine recommendations that were to be implemented before shuttle flights resumed.

-- from Space Shuttle Challenger disaster - my emphasis.

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools  - if Agile principles had been applied, the Challenger might be flying today.   This makes the quote in my previous post even more hypocritical.

(Thanks to Sasha and Andy at Pathfinder for reminding me of this.)


  1. This shows the double-edged sword of the "demand in the impossible" management style. When you give a person an unrealistic goal and make his career depend on it, you can achieve greatness, but sometimes, you kill people. I suppose we can never know whether we get /better/ results this way compared to not demanding the impossible of people.

  2. That's a good point that hadn't occurred to me.

    I was thinking in terms of "information wants to be free (as in speech)" and how rigid hierarchical organizations require suppression of the free flow of information almost by definition. Waterfall methodologies respect the hierarchy - BDUF is not to be questioned. The essence of Agile practices, especially of XP, is facilitating that flow in every way possible.

    You could say that "demanding the impossible" is just one more way to stifle the flow.