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Critical perspectives on Management (Essay Sample)


The task was about discussing the concept of Groupthink in the Challenger disaster.


Groupthink is a psychological occurrence that happens within a group of individuals. People engage in groupthink when they are involved in an organized faction in which the members’ harmony outweighs their motivation to evaluate alternative developments of action. Incorrect decision-making strategies and results generate the desire for harmony or conformity in the group. As a result, group members try to reduce conflict and reach a negotiable decision without critical assessment of alternative ideas. Group's allegiance requires people to stop raising contentious issues or alternative resolutions and there is the loss of individual inspiration, uniqueness and freethinking. This means that people are always creative when they enjoy privacy and liberty from disruption. The space shuttle challenger disaster happened when NASA’s rocket broke apart before its flight. This led to the death of seven crewmembers because the spacecraft collapsed over the Atlantic Ocean (Janis, 1972, p. 13). Groupthink was instrumental in the Challenger space shuttle because the managers’ decisions ignored the engineer’s recommendations and no one was able to ensure that the choices made were safe. There should have been other systems at work to question that decision and ensure that it was the correct choice.
Janis’s theory about groupthink
According to Janis (1982, p. 197), groupthink is the decline in mental competence, reality testing and moral decisions that emerge because of group pressures. He suggests that the principle of groupthink lies in the team spirit among the members of a policy-making in-group. This result in illogical and dehumanizing actions directed against out-groups. Janis assumed that groupthink occurred in unified groups, isolated from conflicting views and ruled by directive manager who makes personal decisions identified (Romzek & Dubnick, 2007, p. 227-238). The negative outcome of such tendencies is that the group limits its deliberation to only a few options. Similarly, the solutions previously preferred by most members are not reviewed to seek out less clear drawbacks. The others because the group fails to reconsider those options initially not support this and expert opinion, not sought (Janis, 1972, p. 205). It is also apparent that the group is highly selective in collecting available information that it does not consider possibility procedures. Janis also states that groupthink causes members to strive for a quick and painless unanimity on the issues that the group has to tackle (Whyte, 2005, p. 185-209). This implies that group member suppress personal doubts, silence dissenters and follow the leader’s suggestions. The results are devastating because it contributes to a distorted view of reality and excessive optimism that produces hasty and irresponsible policies. The combination of these deficiencies makes these groups vulnerable to initiate or sustain projects that turn out to be policy fiascos (Hughes & White, 2010, p. 63-70). Considering this, the decision to launch the Challenger consisted of a series of negotiations in the top management organ (Janis, 1982, p. 65). A report released by the organization states that the contractor responsible for building the rocket booster had opposed the launching of the space shuttle. Conversely, their management did not heed that warning. It was evident that while the O-ring failure was the direct cause of the problem, a defective executive process was an equal feature. For instance, the organization failed to use a well-structured system that emphasized safety concerning the rising doubts of the Rocket Booster joint seal. The decision-making was only conducted at the top management, ignoring other departments that had significant information (Hughes & White, 2010, p. 63-70). The engineers had warned of challenges in launching the rocket, but the management insisted despite the cautions. The problem started with decisions made in the design of the joint and in the failure by both Thiokol and NASA’s solid booster plan office to recognize and respond to the evidences available during testing. Upon receiving reports from the concerned engineers, several conferences were held to discuss the problem. The decision to proceed with the launch was taken despite the group detecting symptoms of groupthink (Janis, 1982, p. 73). Their aim was to meet the deadline of launching the rocket, which ended up being a disastrous fault. They also suffered from resistance, feelings that rendered NASA an insecure organization. They were also unsuccessful to examine the threats of their judgment since they played it off as nothing significant. Another aspect that had suppressed the few engineers who were against the mission and warned the management was that the attention was on NASA immediately launch space shuttle (Hart, 2004, p. 15). Similarly, Congress was seeking to reserve maximum funding to NASA because of the wide publicity on the Teacher in Space program (Janis, 1982, p. 80). These errors led to the disastrous loss of several spacemen, and a bad black mark on NASA’s near faultless security record.
Other scholars like Fredrick Taylor developed scientific theories that determine the working relations in organizations. In his theory, Taylor wanted to establish ways that workers could be protected in their workstations. The study suggests that hard work is not enough to increase workers’ productivity (Nelson & Taylor, 2000, p. 45). As a result, Taylor introduced simplification and specialization of duties in order to improve the output of each individual. It was also vital to standardize chores and work for cooperation between managers and workers. The concept of incentive was also not a motivating aspect without mutual relationships between individuals in organizations. The scholar turned to scientific approaches to design a comprehensive formula where workers could operate without the financial incentive, and still increase their productivity (Nelson & Taylor, 2000, p. 53). The design involved the introduction of common sense, specialization of workers and allocation of work between workers. The results indicated that the scientific method was effective in boosting the confidence and morale of individuals while at the workstations. Another aspect was the collective responsibility of teamwork and the formation of social groups. The workers feel better when operating under social settings than working under strict formal directives. Management decisions should not ignore the relevance of social groups and their participation in policymaking procedures (Wrege & Greenwood, 1991, p. 103). The theory emphasizes on motivation through equal representation and participation of workers in the administration of affairs. The scientific approach in organizational management facilitates efficiency and productivity among employees who feel recognized in social groups.
Janis’ Symptoms of groupthink
Janis established symptoms that indicated the presence of groupthink. The symptoms included, illusion of invulnerability, which forms excessive optimism that promotes taking extreme risks. This symptom enables the management to undertake risky initiatives that can generate high returns. The impression is that decisions should aim at improving the performance of a business if it exposes risks that other firms are afraid to execute.
Collective reasoning is another symptom in which members allow notices and do not review their assumptions. The symptom allows views from members and their consequences, but ignores the assumption that might emerge. It is closed-minded because the cautions are meant to challenge the group’s assumptions to avoid future errors (Janis, 1972, p. 77).
Belief in natural standards symptom is where members believe in the suitability of their cause and disregard the principled or moral concerns of their decisions. This implies that a person’s specialty or profession determines the decisions made by others. It is essential for decision makers to ensure that their roles do not jeopardize the operations of the firm. It is good to have confidence in one’s work, but workers should also consider the morality of their decisions (Janis, 1972, p. 78).
It is also common that groupthink is indicated by stereotyped opinions of out-groups. This represents the negative views of other people considered enemies of development. The negative views of this group make effective reactions to conflict with the ideas of the leaders. This is instrumental because it introduces new ideas from divergent areas (Janis, 1972, p. 80).
Similarly, direct pressure on insurgents emerges when members are under tension not to convey arguments against any of the group’s views. During groupthink, members believe that their ideas are always correct and other rivals are under pressure not to dispute the decisions. This affects the credibility of the decisions because others are not allowed to air contrary opinions that may reveal discrepancies (Sims & Sauser, 2013, p. 75-90). For instance, the NASA managers ignored the warning of the Thiokol engineers because they exerted the deadline pressures on the workers. This is attributed to self-censorship where fears and deviations from the perceived group (engineers) consensus were not expressed (Janis, 1982, p. 120). The management believed that the engineers wanted to sabotage the project by postponing the launching date despite the deadline date.
Another significant symptom of groupthink is the illusion of unison where the majority views are assumed unanimous. Decisions made comprise of the majority opinions forwarded by most workers. It appears that the few divergent views of others do not add value...
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