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A project manager should be vigilant against certain types of behavior that can lead to a project failure.

In this video clip, science journalist and space historian Andrew Chaikin discusses three roadblocks to successful missions at NASA. Closed mindsets, false perceptions of risk, and groupthink are all “failure ingredients” that can lead to horrible mishaps and endanger lives. Chaikin explains how a mix of these behaviors all contributed to the Apollo I, Challenger, and Columbia disasters.

Video key learning points:

  1. 1.

    A closed mindset is a danger in a technical organization. A project team must remain open minded to information even if it that conflicts with their viewpoint.

  2. 2.

    A false perception of risk is behavior that ignores or refuses to look at known risks because they haven’t caused an issue yet. “It hasn’t bitten us yet so it must be okay” is language that encapsulates this dangerous behavior. The pressures of project schedule and budget can push people to ignore known risks.

  3. 3.

    Groupthink is a behavior that can prohibit dissenting opinions from being expressed. Project team members may defer to a larger group and hold back their own contrary opinions. They believe that if the larger group all agrees then the group must be correct. Project leaders should strive to create an environment that allows individuals to express dissenting opinions freely.


Related Resources

Organizational Silence Panel

APPEL KS Article: The Why of Leadership

APPEL KS Article – Critical Knowledge inSight: Psychological Safety for Effective Team Communication

APPEL KS Courses: Building and Leading NASA Teams

APPEL KS Article: Mitigating Cognitive Bias in Engineering Decision-Making


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