Philip Tompkins’ Organizational Communicatin ImperativesINTRODUCTIONIn the book Organizational Communication Imperatives, by Philip K. Tompkins, we are introduced to a chapter that deals with an organization that isheld under high prestige by not only those who are employed by it, but by acountry as well. This American organization is NASA, (National AeronauticalSpace Administration), and although a very prestigious place to work, it is notfree of its share of wrongdoing and counter productive ways. Ten years ago(1986), NASA was faced with its biggest catastrophe, The Challenger Explosion. This preventable event , which claimed the life of a crew of seven, left manyquestioning the ability of communication throughout NASA.
The idea that acrucial element of the space shuttle, O-Rings, would pass inspection, althoughmany scientists doubted the success of these, would be the ultimate cause of thecrew’s demise shortly after lift off. It seems these scientists’ doubts wereoverlooked by a higher authority who gave the go ahead knowing the risk atstake. The United States Army, well known for its maintaining of order andconduct, has fallen into a most peculiar and shameful predicament due to lack ofcommunication. The New York Times brought its readers to the attention that allwas not right in the military. An organization that shares a similar prestigeto that of NASA, an organization who has exemplified its leadership time andtime again by becoming a force, so powerful, that it is sometimes considered topolice the world, has fallen into a sex abuse scandal.
It seems that severalwomen have come forward to proclaim their mistreatment from various acts rangingfrom rape to verbal harassment instilled upon them by members of the military. These women feel, had there been a genuine form of organizational communication,the study of sending and receiving messages, they would not have fell victims’to such hideous crimes. Senator Barbara Boxer stated (New York Times 11/96)that the complaints made by the women who came forward immediately were lostsomewhere along the line in an attempt to reach a higher authority, signifying aneed for some type of restructure. STRENGTHSIn the minds of many people today the United States Army Is consideredto have one of the best structured organizational communication networks. Thisis based upon the specified code of conduct that the Army is underlyingly ruledby. This is upheld by the specific chain of command which is easilydistinguished by rank and uniform.
Strict punishment is carried out upon thosewho violate rules and conduct, commonly accepted by this organization. Theauthority figures, in the Army, set tasks, and relay a common purpose to allsubordinates down to the lowest level in the organization. They also overseethat actions and conduct are carried out in line with the organization ideology. Luckily for NASA, during Werner Von Braun’s tenure at the helm, therewere many strengths in this company’s organizational communication structure.
Amore than adequate system of communication was established and overseen by VonBraun that centered upon the theory of upward communication. This theory wasdesigned around the principle, that workers closest to the problem had a large”hand in” the decision making. The term, penetration, was key for thisorganizations checks and balances. It established extensive contact betweencontractors and NASA officials at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Von Braun’ssystem of the “Monday Notes,” kept communication between each level of thisorganization at an informed stature This was a two-way direct form ofcommunication where feedback was present in both parties. The high level ofredundancy in this organization can be attributed to the success of the MondayNotes in the communication process.
NASA’s lateral function kept different labsup to date upon each other, and its workers possessed a “willingness to serve,”a principle where workers had the necessary skills and training to perform theirjobs. WEAKNESSESBelieve it or not, the Army, as strong as it may appear, containsseveral weaknesses to coincide with its strengths. This can be attributed tothe Army’s system of downward communication. This system is based upon thegiving and taking of orders, with an understanding that no questions shall beasked of authority. The lack of checks and balances in the Army leads toenormous amounts of discretion held by any officer with a considerable amount ofpower and prestige.
This can sometimes lead to hostility and moral masochism,the act of abuse and overextension of power towards subordinates. Feelings ofpersecution, fear, and intimidation of superiors are