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Apollo 13 Decision Making Analysis

Autor:   •  November 9, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,383 Words (6 Pages)  •  3,096 Views

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Ron Howard's epic film, Apollo 13, presents distinct examples of the decision making and problem solving processes. Throughout the movie, the characters are presented with both routine and extraordinary trials to overcome. Many of these challenges can be classified using Peter Drucker's technique of separating decisions into truly generic and truly unique categories. Other choices in the film can be grouped into the four decision contexts recognized by Snowden and Boone: simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic. Watching this film with the purpose of analyzing decisions instead of simply enjoying its entertaining content can lead to an enhanced understanding of the decision making process.

Management guru Peter Drucker identifies two main categories of decisions in his book, The Effective Executive. Drucker says that all decisions are of either a truly generic or a truly unique nature. In Apollo 13, the decision to launch the spacecraft is an example of a truly generic decision. According to Drucker, a generic decision is one that happens often and can be answered through a rule or principle. While a space shuttle launch is an exciting event, it is something that occurs on a regular basis. As the NASA personnel prepare to launch, they follow specific checklists to ensure that all components are operational in each functional area of the shuttle and mission control. If there are any anomalies during the launch sequence, the launch is aborted and the problem must be researched and corrected, if possible. This type of decision does not require creative thinking or problem solving as each area simply responds with a "go" or "no go" to acknowledge their status. By following the established rules for the launch sequence, NASA minimizes the chance for a catastrophic failure during this stage of the mission. In the event that something does go wrong, they can adapt the checklist to accommodate this new information for future launches. The majority of decisions fall into this generic category, however, sometimes a problem occurs that is exceptional and must be addressed as such.

As the space shuttle prepared for re-entry into the earth's atmosphere, the astronauts and mission support staff were faced with the problem of how to power up the command module in flight. Drucker describes a truly unique decision as an exceptional problem, unlikely to occur again that must be addressed on a case-by-case basis. The command module was designed to be turned on while on the ground and connected to external power sources. NASA had no procedure on how to apply power to the module in flight so the mission support staff had to figure out a way to safely accomplish the procedure. They had the additional constraint of limited power due to the issues that occurred earlier in the mission. Pilot Ken Mattingly had to use creative problem solving and attempt numerous configurations before finally


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