Wed, Feb 12, 2003
"There is a tendency to play 'NASA Chicken' within
the aerospace industry, which is to wait to address safety issues
that might delay the development project, in hopes that someone
else from another division or another company might bring up
something else that might push the project past its deadline,"
according to Joseph Grenny, best- selling author of Crucial
Conversations, Tools for Talking When Stakes are High and
organizational consultant to several aerospace companies.
"We first heard the term 'NASA Chicken' at a company we work
with," states Grenny. "Someone is afraid to 'Push the Red Button,'
a figurative term to describe the process to stop or delay the
project, because they hope that someone else from another team will
push the button first and thereby avoid the political and economic
risks that would come from stopping the project. As the project
deadline gets closer and closer, you have a bunch of people waiting
and delaying to push the button, hoping someone else will push it
first, becoming like a game of Chicken, saying, 'Who will push it
first so I don't have to?'
"There's a vicious cycle here. Farther from the
deadline, it's easy to delay raising concerns and hope other
organizations will admit to their own problems first. But then
the closer you get to the deadline, the harder it gets to
push the button, so to speak, because the delay is much
more disruptive and more pressure is on you to make the date. It's
an ugly, dangerous, but all too common game," explains Joseph
"We have no information that this has been the case in this
Columbia disaster. But we often hear from people that we
consult within the aerospace industry that the pressures to meet
deadlines are intense and that they often feel like they need to
suppress safety concerns," concludes Grenny.
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