Thursday May 06, 2021
Thursday May 06, 2021
In the first part of this two-part episode of The Idealcast, Gene Kim speaks with Dr. Ron Westrum, Emeritus Professor of sociology at Eastern Michigan University. His work on organizational culture and his contribution of the Westrum organizational typology model have been instrumental in understanding what makes a high-performing organization across industries. For decades, he has studied complex organizations from medicine to aviation to the nuclear industry.
In part one of their conversation, Kim and Westrum talk about the stark contrast between NASA’s highly experimental culture of the Apollo space program versus the highly compliance-driven culture of the US Space Shuttle program, and Westrum’s opinions on how to bring that experimental culture back. They also discuss the origins of the Westrum organizational typology model and some of the insights that led to it. Finally, Westrum shares what organizations should do when things go wrong in complex systems.
ABOUT THE GUEST
Dr. Ron Westrum is Emeritus Professor of sociology at Eastern Michigan University. He holds a B.A. (honors) from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago.
Dr. Westrum is a specialist in the sociology of science and technology and complex organizations. He has written three books, Complex Organizations: Growth, Development and Change; Technologies and Society: The Shaping of People and Things, and Sidewinder: Creative Missile Design at China Lake. He has also written about fifty articles and book chapters. His work on organizational culture has been valuable for the aviation industry and to medical safety, as well as to other areas of endeavor. He has been a consultant to NASA, the National Research Council, and the Resilience Core Group. He is currently at work on a book on information flow cultures.
YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT
- Why much of the body of knowledge around safety culture came from sociology as opposed to psychology.
- How Westrum views the stark contrast in NASA between the highly experimental culture of the Apollo space program versus what has been characterized as a highly compliance-driven culture of the US Space Shuttle program.
- Insightful and useful opinions on what would be required to bring that experimental culture back in NASA.
- The origins of the Westrum organization typology model and some of the insights that led to it.
- Why Westrum views the notion of a technical maestro important to get the desired outcomes.
- What Westrum thinks should ideally happen when things go wrong in complex systems.
- State of DevOps Reports
- Westrum organizational culture
- The study of information flow: A personal journey by Ron Westrum
- Sidewinder: Creative Missile Design at China Lake by Ron Westrum
- Complex Organizations: Growth, Development and Change by Ron Westrum
- Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies by Charles Perrow
- Crew resource management or cockpit resource management (CRM)
- The Human Factor in Aircraft Accidents by David Beaty
- Naked Pilot: The Human Factor in Aircraft Accidents by David Beaty
- United Airlines Flight 232
- Cockpit Voice Recorder Database
- Captain Al Haynes' 1991 lecture at NASA Ames Research Center
- It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Michael Abrashoff
- Apollo 13
- Space Shuttle Challenger disaster
- Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
- CBS News article: "Readdy says 'no rationale' for spy satellite inspection"
- Apollo 13 (1995) - Square Peg in a Round Hole Scene
- Health inequalities among British civil servants: the Whitehall II study by Jane Ferrie, Martin J Shipley, George Davey Smith, Stephen A Stansfeld and Michael G Marmot
- Facing Ambiguous Threats by Michael Roberto, Richard M.J. Bohmer, and Amy C. Edmondson
- DevOps Enterprise Summit Virtual
- Nasa Cut or Delayed Safety Spending by Stuart Diamond
- Mars Curiosity Rover Landing Space 2015
- How Apple Is Organized for Innovation by Joel M. Podolny and Morten T. Hansen
- Arthur Squires
- The Tender Ship: Governmental Management of Technological Change by Arthur Squires
- Jacob Rabinow
- Federal Research and Development Expenditures and the National Economy: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Domestic and International Scientific Planning and Analysis of the Committee on Science and Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Ninety-fourth Congress, Second Session
- Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet
- Excellence in the Surface Navy by Gregg G. Gullickson
- Excellence in the Surface Navy by Gregg G. Gullickson, Richard D. Chenette and Reuben T. Harris
- How NASA Builds Teams: Mission Critical Soft Skills for Scientists, Engineers, and Project Teams by Charles J. Pellerin
- The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today by Thomas E. Ricks
- George C. Marshall: Four (4) Volumes - Education of a General, 1880-1939; Ordeal and Hope, 1939-1943; Organizer of Victory, 1943-1945; Statesman, 1945-1959 by Forrest C. Pogue
- Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley A. McChrystal with Chris Fussell, David Silverman, Tantum Collins
- Forge of Democracy by Neil MacNeil
- Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II by Arthur Herman
- Email Ron Westrum
[04:01] Meet Ron Westrum
[07:19] Why prominent figures in the safety field come from sociology
[08:38] Observations about the work on airline safety
[11:17] How Ron’s work is relevant and why culture is important
[16:56] Apollo 13 and Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
[23:15] Westrum organization typology model
[24:38] United Airlines Flight 232
[34:45] Understanding the dynamics of generative organizations
[41:57] Three western typologies beyond the table
[50:16] The Whitehall II study
[53:05] What the word generative means to Ron
[55:31] The two NASAs and how he would drive out fear
[58:44] LaunchDarkly and DevOps Enterprise Summit Virtual
[1:00:37] What Ron imagines would cause a different outcome as NASA
[1:08:40] It matters who’s at the top
[1:12:18] The technological maestro concept
[1:16:38] How the technological maestro concept applies
[1:26:20] How these characteristics can be learned
[1:28:51] Building a community of good judgment
[1:33:39] The role of CNO
[1:35:27] How organizations learn and adapt generative capabilities
[1:42:01] What should ideally happen when something goes wrong
[1:45:41] Information flow, organization’s nervous system, and management
[1:48:01] Contacting Admiral Richardson