Julianne G. Mahler, Associate Professor of Government and Politics
Organizational Learning at NASA: The Challenger and Columbia Accidents (Georgetown University Press, April 2009) thoroughly examines NASA’s loss of the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia. After offering an account of the processes that constitute organizational learning, Mahler focuses on what NASA did to address problems revealed by Challenger and its uneven efforts to institutionalize its own findings. According to the commissions that probed the accidents, the causes included deficiencies in the command structure and safety monitoring systems, excessive external political and budgetary pressures, and an obstructive organizational culture. The book concludes with a set of propositions about learning in public organizations.