Philip Tompkins\' Organizational Communicatin Imperatives

INTRODUCTION

In the book Organizational Communication Imperatives, by Philip K.
Tompkins, we are introduced to a chapter that deals with an organization that is
held under high prestige by not only those who are employed by it, but by a
country as well. This American organization is NASA, (National Aeronautical
Space Administration), and although a very prestigious place to work, it is not
free 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 many
questioning the ability of communication throughout NASA. The idea that a
crucial element of the space shuttle, O-Rings, would pass inspection, although
many scientists doubted the success of these, would be the ultimate cause of the
crew\'s demise shortly after lift off. It seems these scientists\' doubts were
overlooked by a higher authority who gave the go ahead knowing the risk at
stake.
The United States Army, well known for its maintaining of order and
conduct, has fallen into a most peculiar and shameful predicament due to lack of
communication. The New York Times brought its readers to the attention that all
was not right in the military. An organization that shares a similar prestige
to that of NASA, an organization who has exemplified its leadership time and
time again by becoming a force, so powerful, that it is sometimes considered to
police the world, has fallen into a sex abuse scandal. It seems that several
women have come forward to proclaim their mistreatment from various acts ranging
from 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 lost
somewhere along the line in an attempt to reach a higher authority, signifying a
need for some type of restructure.

STRENGTHS

In the minds of many people today the United States Army Is considered
to have one of the best structured organizational communication networks. This
is based upon the specified code of conduct that the Army is underlyingly ruled
by. This is upheld by the specific chain of command which is easily
distinguished by rank and uniform. Strict punishment is carried out upon those
who violate rules and conduct, commonly accepted by this organization. The
authority figures, in the Army, set tasks, and relay a common purpose to all
subordinates down to the lowest level in the organization. They also oversee
that actions and conduct are carried out in line with the organization ideology.

Luckily for NASA, during Werner Von Braun\'s tenure at the helm, there
were many strengths in this company\'s organizational communication structure. A
more than adequate system of communication was established and overseen by Von
Braun that centered upon the theory of upward communication. This theory was
designed around the principle, that workers closest to the problem had a large
"hand in" the decision making. The term, penetration, was key for this
organizations checks and balances. It established extensive contact between
contractors and NASA officials at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Von Braun\'s
system of the "Monday Notes," kept communication between each level of this
organization at an informed stature This was a two-way direct form of
communication where feedback was present in both parties. The high level of
redundancy in this organization can be attributed to the success of the Monday
Notes in the communication process. NASA\'s lateral function kept different labs
up 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 their
jobs.

WEAKNESSES

Believe it or not, the Army, as strong as it may appear, contains
several weaknesses to coincide with its strengths. This can be attributed to
the Army\'s system of downward communication. This system is based upon the
giving and taking of orders, with an understanding that no questions shall be
asked of authority. The lack of checks and balances in the Army leads to
enormous amounts of discretion held by any officer with a considerable amount of
power and prestige. This can sometimes lead to hostility and moral masochism,
the act of abuse and overextension of power towards subordinates. Feelings of
persecution, fear, and intimidation of superiors are associated with this trend
as stated by the New York Times. (November 8, 1996) These feelings