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Saturday, October 16, 2004

Dissent is crucial to the success of an organization. That's something I gleaned from a William Langewiesche article in The Atlantic. He dissects the Columbia shuttle disaster from the management standpoint. One of the investigators asked the top NASA administrator what mechanism or strategy she had in place for assuring that dissent would reach the top. Her reply was that they could just tell her. Obviously none of the low-hierarchy engineers bothered to relay concerns abot the foam that fell off and hit the wing ultimately causing the disaster. The lesson appears to be that a succesful bureaucracy requires a formal process for encouraging dissent and disagreement. Another recent book (haven't finished it yet) called The Wisdom of Crowds makes a similar point. It's crucial that people who aren't part of the normal structure and process be included in decision-making. The results are always better than when decisions are made by experts or individuals operating in a vacuum.
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