In July 1989, United Airlines Flight 232 crashed in Sioux City, Iowa. One hundred and eleven people lost their lives and numerous others were seriously injured.The accident was initiated by a small metallurgical defect in an engine rotating part. That engine was manufactured by General Electric Aircraft Engines.
When Fred Herzner learned of the fateful crash, he immediately had a suspicion that a problem he had been working on as a member of the GE engineering team may have initiated the event. When it was confirmed, Herzner questioned what he and the others might have done to break the chain of events that led to the accident. This led him on a quest to understand how decisions get made in large organizations and develop principles which could be used to help large organizations avoid being involved in events which might threaten people’s lives and have grave consequences for both the organization and the people inthem.
In What Did We Know? What Did We Do? Making decisions in large organizations, Herzner shares his personal experience and uses other major disasters, such as the BP oil spill and Flint, Michigan water crisis as a means to benchmark his principles. He explains how values and culture influence the decision process and how individuals interact with the organization, and vice versa.
And, Herzner challenges readers to learn from these painful lessons and implement a new set of behaviors which, hopefully, will keep such devastating events from happening again.