The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

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RISK CASE STUDY – ASSIGNEMENT 2

August 3, 20111

THE SPACE SHUTTLE CHALLENGER DISASTER

Risk Management Plan
1. Risk management plan summarizes risk management approach, list methodologies and processes, defines everyone’s role – definition of risk management plan. NASA was using for the most part qualitative risk assessment process. Launch of the shuttle was allowed as long as aggregate risk remained acceptable. Quantitive method was applied for risk assessment because if the complex procedures (like data gathering) were in place NASA would be buried with paperwork. NASA’s culture was flying with acceptable risk.

There was Risk Management Plan in place for NASA because there was risk assessment and protocols in place but due to excessive nature of most of NASA’ projects waivers became a way of conducting business. As described in the NASA Handbook, hazards (risks) were analyzed and overseen by the Senior Safety Review Board. Each identified risk was classified by an established system, based on both the risk’s level of criticality on a scale of one to three (C1, C1R, C2, C2R, and C3). However, their review process contended that no single risk or combination of risks would be enough to prevent a launch, as long as the aggregate risk remained at an acceptable level. 2. The Risk Management Plan was not followed. Methods used to gather data to assess risk were expensive and labour intensive and so were the procedures (Flight Readiness Reviews. To keep up with mission manifest schedule – 16 flights per year any) issues had to be resolved fast (waivers). Once a risk was declared acceptable, it was overlooked during future mission planning sessions. Additionally, they didn’t have proper procedures for evaluating the impact of unknown risks (i.e. the ice problem). Lastly, protocol stated that one risk or one person’s concern was not enough to cancel the launch. A no launch recommendation by one party could have been overruled by the launch director.

3. Differences:
a. Risk Management Plan is the outcome of Plan Risk Management Process and describes how risk management is structured and performed. It includes methodology (approach, tools, data source), roles and responsibilities (lead, support), budget (resources, protocol for contingency resource), timing (when and how often process is performed), risk categories (RBS), definition of risk probability and impact (high, medium, low), probability and impact matrix, risk stakeholders’ tolerance. b. Quality Assurance Plan describes how quality assurance will be performed within project to allow for reducing “waste” and eliminating processes that do not add value. It is meant to increase level of efficiency. c. Safety Plan A safety plan is an organized system of rules and guidelines used to maintain safe work environment.

4. Pressure to meet schedule – sixteen flights a year in 1986 meant that all involved will have to face paperwork constraints related to flight readiness assessment. Personnel and contractors were working overtime already trying to fill out all necessary paperwork related to problem solving, investigations and last flight updates. Waivers were part of NASA protocols to bypass all of this plus they were a way to indicated that risk was acceptable. Number of flight per year was critical to designing risk management plan because of all similarities between flights like temperature; launch condition could become predictable factors to determine acceptable risk.

Risk Identification

5. Risk is uncertain event associated with work, it is a loss multiplied by likelihood that may have impact on the project. There are three common categories of risks: controllable knowns, uncontrollable knowns, and unknowns. Anomaly is a deviation from the standard. Project manager and team define a baseline and decide the difference based on definition of anomaly provided by subject matter experts (engineers).

6. NASA had Flight...
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