Roger Boisjoly, "Engineering Ethics: Constructive Responses to Difficult Situations”

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PRESENTER: Thank you very much. It's a pleasure and an honor to be here. And we all look forward very much to the discussion that we are about to have. Our speaker today is Mr. Roger Boisjoly. He tells me that I should introduce him by saying that for 27 years, he has been active in mechanical design and structural engineering in the aerospace industry.

He has worked for some 14 companies, of which at least one you must be familiar with. And he did not mention this, but I will. In 1988, the American Association for the Advancement of Science awarded him the prize for ethical behavior as a result of his activities which followed the Challenger accident that most of you are familiar with. He will talk to us about engineering ethics, constructive responses to difficult situations.

And we have asked a number of friends and colleagues to comment on his remarks and to give their-- testify to their experience, bear witness with their experiences, in issues of the sort. We have three panelists. Miss Freada Klein who is the president of Klein associates, a consulting firm which deals with-- which advises corporations on the ways in which one adjusts, in an ethical and proper way, relationships between employees and employers.

Professor Melcher who is professor of electrical engineering and computer science. And he has been active in electrostatics and a number of other interesting fields. He has also been active in worrying about the role-- the connection between the academic community and the Strategic Defense Initiative, and thinking about this has brought home to him a number of questions that we all need to worry about.

And Professor David Marks, who is the professor of and head of the civil engineering department, and his region-- his area of activity is environmental engineering and management and control, primarily the public sector thereof, which raises, again, a substantial number of interesting ethical questions.

I think the way to proceed is going to be for Mr. Boisjoly to give us his remarks. We will then let the panelists make their comments and then have a general discussion. Mr. Boisjoly, we are honored to hear from you.

BOISJOLY: Thank you very much. This talk is based on my 27 years experience in the aerospace industry at 14 companies. I'm going to recommend to you, some of the methods I used to secure a productive and satisfying career.

I will suggest how to select your entry-level employer, explain the task of getting settled in a new position, and how to recognize and deal with real organizational trouble. I will give you some examples of my career confrontations with lessons learned and summarize with a few challenges to you.

How to select your entry-level employer is what I'll deal with first. Seek employment with a company that has a large commercial mix of business rather than a government dependent military or aerospace base. There are two reasons for this. First, a mixed commercial business, even if combined with some government business, will provide a better opportunity for long-term stability.

And second, the company is more likely to be responsive to conduct business on a higher ethical plane due to the inherent commercial marketplace accountability that exists. Commercial marketplace accountability has the effect of placing management at business risk for future of their company as opposed to a government contractor company that essentially has zero business risk or accountability, even if caught conducting unethical or fraudulent business practices.

The evidence to support this condition abounds in the media with many examples of wrongdoing by many of the government contractors, without any of them ever losing their contractor certification to bid on those contracts. Their fines after being caught are almost laughable if it weren't for the seriousness of the situation. Since they are delivering faulty hardware that doesn't come close to meeting specifications and are having huge profits without accountability.

An ideal company has approximately 1,000 employees reporting to one general manager at one physical location. This number is not cast in concrete but is a good starting point. This size limitation is very important, since it determines how well a company or division can be managed as well as its operating philosophy. Read the book titled In Search of Excellence for a detailed rationale of why this size limitation is important.

My 27 years experience mirrors the position stated in that book, and I heartily subscribe to the small size, family type atmosphere organization that provides the best career opportunity and environment over all others. Interviews, especially at the entry level, seem totally one-sided, with the company doing its best to sell itself, and their organization-- that their organization offers the best opportunity for a professional career.

They're one-sided simply because students generally allow it to become one-sided for fear of not obtaining a job and a good quality interview. And this is quite normal, but you have an obligation to yourself to ascertain more about the company than they will just tell you. You must attempt to find out about their management philosophy and organizational structure, so you can evaluate if they match your minimum ideals.

For example, ask to whom the quality control manager reports. Also, ask if they have an ombudsman program and to whom that ombudsman reports. The answers to these two questions alone will provide great insight to their management and operating philosophy. It will not guarantee anything, but it will provide significant insight.

For example, if neither the quality control manager or the ombudsman reports to the top executive at that facility, then this is a red flag of caution because this may be a deliberate management flaw in the organization to promote the ability of other line organizations to extract cooperation with their agenda by intimidation of the quality control manager or the ombudsman.

And I can tell you as a sidelight, if the ombudsman reports to the personnel department, that's two red flags of caution. I assure you that this type of management organization creates the ideal climate for unethical misuse of line organization power to meet the goals of short-term profits and delivery schedules, and keep top management segregated from the real day-to-day operations, but very happy with the results provided.

Another important question to ask is, does a top executive hold at least a yearly meeting to give a sort of state of the company status review to its employees. Well-managed companies generally tend towards this type of communication from the top. It is a very motivating time. And the results are usually recognized by these companies that do it.

I believe that the most important request you can make during any interview is to ask to speak in private to your future peer group in the departments which you are being considered for employment and ask the following questions as a minimum. What do you like or dislike about this company? Would you recommend coming to work here at this time?

Do you like working in this department? Or would you prefer working in another department? Is your supervisor and manager a strong, but supportive and fair individual? Are you required to work excessive overtime with or without compensation at the whim of supervision, whether it is needed or not?

You will be amazed at the candid answers that you will receive. But be sure to talk to more than one person to minimize the possibility of talking only to a disgruntled employee. Also, be prepared to answer some questions about why you are asking such questions.

I hope you have concluded by now, that all this requires some detailed preparation so you can present yourself in a smooth, relaxed, and sincere manner. Practice with your fellow job-seeking peers and always remember that companies are seeking the best employees for their organizations, and you have your talents to offer in exchange for a good ethical work environment and career opportunity.

I sincerely believe that many companies have come full circle and realize that their employees are their number one asset. And they've completed or are in the process of shedding their form of business as usual mode of operation in favor of organizational changes which will provide open, objective discussion of problems.

Now, that you've had a chance to get a entry-level position. Let's talk about the task of getting settled in that profession that you've selected. Companies generally use two methods to introduce you to their organization. One is to assign you to read what seems to be a never-ending stack of policies and procedures manuals. And the other is to give you a short synopsis of the contents of those manuals and assign an informal mentor who will help you get acquainted with their procedures.

If you are unlucky enough to get the form a method, then a word of advice is appropriate, don't waste your time reading in detail because the day-to-day operations of almost every company has no resemblance to what's written in the manuals. Be an attentive observer of who and how things get done, and take every opportunity to attend meetings, and ask to do so if not invited to do so. You can assess-- so you can assess the players quickly.

At first, be happy with your role as observer, and be attentive to who is participating in the discussions. Identify the managers and who is controlling the meeting, and if the discussions appear to be objective with factual depth, or just bland rhetoric. It is very important to assess as quickly as possible, if meeting content is almost totally controlled by management, or if technical subordinates are allowed to engage in wide-open discussion of problems.

One surefire way to make this assessment is to observe the person with the highest authority at any meeting. If that person is usually quiet until near the end of the meeting, then it means he is truly interested in problem resolution. But if that person usually speaks first about technical content, then he is using the meeting for his own personal agenda, and little meaningful problem resolution discussion will ensue.

Spend as much time as possible outside your assigned area talking with people from other departments, and soliciting their help, and offering yours. Be sincere about this because it will become a very important asset for you in the future. I use this very method to develop name, competency, and productivity recognition by others, especially those in management positions.

And this was a key element for me in any organization, with the sole exception of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right mentor, and that never happened to me. Don't ever be afraid to speak out in support of a technical position you have confidence with. But also don't be afraid to say, I don't know the answer to that question, instead of trying to bluff an answer to, and lose your precious integrity, which will result in long-term damages to your career.

It will take approximately six to nine months to feel comfortable within the organization. And then it is time to start the serious documentation of your work product by writing memos, which are carefully prepared to catch the eye of your peers and management. All memos must contain three basic features. First, the subject of the memo must be clear and concise. It sounds very simple, but oftentimes, this is one of the most brutalized aspect of a memo.

Second, the memo must contain a complete executive summary stating the problem, solution, recommendations, and a conclusion in a maximum of one page. I don't mean executive summary plus introduction spills over into second page. One physical page is the maximum that an executive summary should be contained in. It should never spill to the second page ever.

Third, the detailed discussion containing a much expanded version of the executive summary with all the supporting data deemed necessary to complete the documentation of your work output. This memo format is very important because it lets you send it to upper management, within and outside your department, with a high probability that they will read the short executive summary, and the whole memo if the executive summary piques their interest.

I highly recommend the method stated thus far, but only, only, and I emphasize only, if you are genuinely interested in receiving recognition, and are willing to participate in an accelerated and increased portion of productivity output. Now, that we're settled, how do we go about spotting real and serious organizational trouble, and what to do about it?

You will learn from experience that very few projects run smooth and trouble-free, regardless of the amount of talent assembled to solve the problems, because people always have different levels of ego, competence, self-esteem, et cetera. I define real trouble as a recognized deficiency in a product, which has a reasonable probability of causing a serious problem to the end-user, but is not acknowledged by management to be a serious problem that needs fixing.

The mode of operation that usually precedes this definition is one that I have already mentioned, when the person with the highest level authority controls the technical meetings, and also exercises absolute control on how presentations are prepared and presented, both internally and to customers.

This type of organizational misconduct places the technical professional in a very difficult position between the company management and the customer, especially when the technical people are expected to defend the management position, whether technically correct or not.

Another clue to look for is the lack of personal recognition for exceptionally good work and a high level of productivity at merit review time. This is usually a subtle, but highly visible, message being sent to you by someone in management that you do not fit their definition of a team player.

If you receive two non-deserved bad merit reviews in a row, this is more than a subtle suggestion of your fall from favor with the hierarchy. This is one of the least adversarial and most effective management tools used to crush a person's ethical fiber and is used often as a tool to encourage people to leave voluntarily.

The most serious trouble of all comes when meeting schedules supersedes everything else, especially the requirements of safety and quality. This is the toughest category of serious trouble to contest because shipments produce revenue, which maintain short-term profits, and keep executive management very happy indeed.

Be advised that there is no way for an individual to ever win or force change of operation in this category of trouble without committing sure and swift career suicide, unless you are able to gather colleague support for your position. If technical support is received from your colleagues, then attempt to obtain their backing and cooperation, and meet with management to discuss the problem and proposed solution.

You have a loyalty to the company you work for to first seek problem resolutions through your organizational chain of command. Don't ever go outside without first giving them a chance to correct the situation. If management is not receptive, then attempt to publish a position paper with the support of as many colleagues as possible, and send it up through the management organization. You may find that when you put things on paper, some of that support will diminish.

If management also rejects this approach, it is now becomes personal decision time, and three distinct options exist, which are most effectively stated in Albert Hirschman's book titled Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. At this point of confrontation, the individual decisions are tough because your career and peace of mind are at stake. I cannot tell you what to do, but I can assure you of an intense struggle from within, and difficulty with restless sleep if you are a person of conscience.

I do have some advice that should be followed if you decide to write memos, like I did at Morton-Thiokol in 1985. You must first gather all the written evidence possible in the form of memos, reports, drawings, et cetera, to support your position, and transport them to a safe place away from the company or your home, prior to writing your first memo.

The serious memo writing can now commence, and should inform management in the clear and simple language about your concerns, so management cannot, excuse me, claim a misunderstanding at a later date. I was very lucky at Morton-Thiokol that my files were not purged by the company before I had an opportunity to give my information to the Presidential Commission investigating the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

I've thought long and hard about the methods I used to expose the truth about Challenger. And I have concluded that I would do everything the same, except I would protect all the documentation well in advance to avoid a lack of evidence at a later date. Now, I'd like to share some personal examples of my career confrontations. The following examples are in chronological order to demonstrate how the magnitude of confrontations increase in both severity and frequency with years of experience.

In 1960, I was at my first job at Hamilton Standard in Broad Brook, Connecticut. A project engineer was reviewing a rather extensive set of gear train actuate calculations with me. And I noticed an error in an equation, right at the very beginning of the calculation, but said nothing, and let him continue.

As time passed, I could no longer contain myself, and I blurted out that the results were wrong due to an error at the beginning of the analysis. He was shocked and quickly challenged me to show him the error. And he became angry with me. So I apologized to him for the delay in acknowledging that error.

He composed himself quickly, since he was not angry for me for finding the error, but angry that I took so long to inform him of it. We became somewhat friendly after this encounter. The lesson I learned from this was to never delay bringing up bad news to anyone because the delay causes more discord and really throws an immense amount of suspicion on your integrity.

In 1963, I was at my third job at Autonetics in California. I was hired to perform stress analysis with the title of design engineer, and subsequently attempted to obtain a transfer to the official structures group to enhance my analysis opportunities and capabilities. But my supervisor denied the request to transfer.

Upon hearing of layoffs, and witnessing those layoffs taking place at the company of approximately 40,000 people at that division at the time, I immediately sought a position at another company because I feared that my request for transfer had damaged my relationship with that supervisor. I accepted another position and submitted my resignation, and my supervisor was shocked. And he tried very, very hard to convince me to stay, but I told him I had already agreed and gave my word, and I left.

The lesson I learned was to always participate in open discussion about your position, especially if you feel it's in jeopardy. In the example I just gave, before accepting other employ, I was very happy there. But I thought I didn't stand a prayer of staying there with those massive layoffs that were coming on, and just don't make the mistakes that I've made.

In 1965, I found myself at my sixth job at Hamilton Standard Aerospace division-- totally different division and a different physical location although it was the same corporation. My position was design engineer on the Apollo Lunar Lander environmental control system. And I refused to sign off on a discrepant part as I was being pressured by a project engineer to do so.

A quality control manager had observed the confrontation. And he approached me afterwards with support and the following advice. He told me to ask myself the following question when faced with a tough decision of whether a product was acceptable or not, would you allow your wife or children to use the product without any reservations? If I could not answer that question with an unqualified yes, he said, I should not sign off on that product for others to use.

I have always used this as a surefire method to defuse an ethical dilemma concerning the safety of a product. And I've realized that it is really a direct application and simple application of the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The lesson learned was to always practice personal and professional ethical behavior, and you'll go far in your career for doing so.

In the 1967 to '73 time frame, I was at my eighth job at a company called Celesco Industry. It was formerly a West Coast Defense division of Atlantic Research Corporation that had been spun off to Susquehanna. As a senior stress engineer, I was selected as the engineering representative to inspect the assembly of several Athena missiles at the launchpad to assure compliance to structural design requirements.

During one of my inspections, I found a payload cable retention bolt was loaded and bending across its threads, which is a no-no, due to improperly aligned mounting surfaces. The failure of this bolt would destroy the nose cone and ruin all chances for a successful research and development flight. So I reported my concerns to the project manager with my recommendation to replace the hardware with properly designed surfaces.

He refused to take action for fear of delaying the launch. So I told him that I would call the Air Force colonel myself and report my findings. And he knew I meant it, so he placed the call. The Air Force agreed with me, and immediately obtained a high priority work authorization at a local machine shop. And the work was completed during the weekend without delaying the launch. The colonel thanked me, and I eventually received company support because the customer was pleased with my performance.

Another incident on the same program at a later date involved a design mistake in a tongue and groove joint on a heat shield, which continually failed in testing. A customer interface meeting was convened to discuss the problem, and as the discussion continued for several hours, I discovered what the cause of the problem was while tinkering with several small parts on my lap.

I was confident with my findings, and frustrated with the superficial level of problem discussion, which was wasting everyone's time. And I remember thinking that no one wanted to say or do anything significant because it was Friday afternoon, and to bring up a problem at that late day would mean we'd probably have to work through the weekend.

From sheer frustration about my time being wasted and knowing that I was going to be the one working the problem anyways, I spoke up and interrupted the meeting, used a simple demonstration with the parts to show what was wrong, and suggested how to fix it. I was right. We worked the weekend. But we fixed the design, and were back by testing by midweek, and it worked just fine.

My immediate supervision was very pleased with my efforts. But the chief engineer was not pleased at all for me exposing the problem at the meeting in front of the customer. Approximately a year later, the same chief engineer tried in vain to order me to give a slanted technical presentation to the Air Force on the same missile structure.

I refused to do so. And the chief engineer gave the presentation himself, with me in the room, knowing full well that if I was asked any detailed questions about my analysis, that I would have shot him down in flames. I have never seen anybody sweat so much in all my life as that man did during his presentation.

I'm positive that that confrontation and refusal to make that presentation cost me a supervisor's position at a later date because he knew he could not manipulate me as he was accustomed to doing with others. The lessons learned from these experiences at Celesco was the opportunity to practice past lessons learned and to reinforce my ethical professional behavior.

In 1977, I found myself at my 11th job at Garrett AiResearch in Torrance, California. While working as a contract engineer-- and some of you may know that term as a job shopper, where a company actually shops you in to a parent company that needs some temporary expert help.

While going in there as a contract engineer, I discovered after approximately one month that a structural beam designed to support a 50,000 pound heat exchanger would fail in lateral instability if loaded during assembly, and could cause loss of life to those that were involved in the assembling. I was aware that the equipment had been designed and analyzed during the preceding 1 and 1/2 years, by engineers with advanced degrees, and was in the final detail drawing phase prior to fabrication.

I told my supervisor about my analysis predicting failure, but he was somewhat skeptical. And so I thought, oh, no, here I go again-- another confrontation. I arrived for work the next day, and had barely sat down at my desk, when my supervisor asked me to go with him to the chief engineer's office. I was surprised and, initially, pleased to find that the prior evening, they had built a balsa wood beam, scale model beam, but disappointed to learn that its purpose was to prove me, the outsider, wrong.

We loaded the beam in the lab and plotted deflection versus load curves as the beam was incrementally loaded. And as soon as the critical load was reached, the beam started to roll and deflect laterally-- much to the astonishment of my supervisor and chief engineer. They quickly asked me for my recommendations for fixing the beam.

And I responded the fix was simply to place a closure plate on the open side of the beam on the compression side. And this would prevent the lateral instability action from occurring. A strip of balsa wood simulating that closure plate was glued in place and allowed to dry. The beam was again loaded in the same load sequence as before to approximately twice the load, without any signs of lateral instability.

I was thanked for finding and correcting the problem and, about a week later, offered a chance to go work direct for Garrett Corporation after my contract expired with the job shop. The offer of direct employment is very significant to this example in experience, since the engineering department was primarily composed of PhDs, with only a few holding master's degrees, and to my knowledge, no one in the engineering department had a Bachelor of Science degree.

When I went to personnel with my completed application form and resume and asked to be processed into the company, the man became very upset about three things. First, according to him, I had held 10 jobs before, and he called me a transient employee. Second, he scoffed at me for having a Bachelor of Science degree.

And third, there was no outstanding requisition in the engineering department for a new hire. He told me point-blank that had I applied for employment through the front door, my resume would have been swiftly discarded without any chance of getting an interview. At that point, I began to resent his attitude towards me, and told him to either process me in, or I would-- directly, or I would return to the chief engineer, and tell him he was abusing me.

And since he didn't want-- and I assumed, he didn't want me to do that. After my statement, he never spoke another word. And I probably hold the record for the shortest time to process a new hire into Garrett Corporation. Lessons learned from this action was that the good guys do win, occasionally, when managers have the courage to listen and act upon the facts.

And they did. Even though they were trying to prove me wrong, they at least listened, and took the time to find out if there was something wrong. And the other lesson I learned is job shopping is an absolutely fantastic way to find a job. But you can only do that after you have about five years experience, unfortunately.

In July 1980, I found myself at my 14th and planned last industrial job at Morton-Thiokol. This was planned to be my retirement position, since we moved to a beautiful, but rather remote, area of northern Utah. If you didn't work for Thiokol in engineering, you didn't work at all. It was that simple.

The major point I want to convey to you is my conduct on the job, predating my deep involvement with the escalation of the space shuttle booster joint O-ring problems. I conducted myself as I had always done in the past. And I soon found myself involved in many of Thiokol's problems, both on and off the shuttle program. I talked with many people about known problems, and provided recommendations for hardware modifications, process changes, quality inspection techniques, analysis methods, and so forth.

But I met with totally unexpected resistance, and was told straight out, that they all knew best how to do things, since they had been doing it the same way for 20 years. I sometimes replied from pure frustration that their methods were based on two years experience multiplied 10 times, and that they were 20 years behind the rest of the industrialized world.

Since no one will listen to my verbal recommendations, I started writing memos, and followed the same procedures I have already outlined for you. I soon became recognized by management as a doer, and became somewhat of a resident expert on fasteners, material selection, ground support equipment, and failure analysis. So managers outside the shuttle program sought my help with their problems.

My relationship within the shuttle program still remained somewhat adversarial, especially with the director of the engineering department. I had gone to that director many, many times with good recommendations, which he acknowledged as good, but then he always took the business as usual side against me.

Approximately 3 and 1/2 years into that mode of operation, I was given a promotion to project engineering manager on the shuttle booster case structure. This is very significant because I leaped over several supervisors who had been with Thiokol over 20 years. And it demonstrates that the principles of professionalism and ethical conduct that I've been explaining to you can indeed be rewarded.

I hope this mix of my personal experiences demonstrates to all of you, both within and outside of engineering, that a rewarding career is possible to attain within the framework of ethical professionalism, even when employed by organizations that conduct themselves in a somewhat unethical manner. Remember, as long as management can use your expertise, and still control their overall agenda, there is little danger of serious retribution, unless you pin them in a corner like I did during the Challenger investigation.

I also hope you realize that all your future decisions will primarily be based upon the character of your previous decisions on small and relatively unimportant matters during your careers up to that point. By way of example, and with absolutely no intent towards malice, I wasn't surprised when the vice president of engineering at Morton-Thiokol capitulated to the general manager's directive to take off his engineering hat and put on his management hat at the meeting prior to the Challenger launch.

I had observed this man in several different organizational positions for 5 and 1/2 years conduct himself in a manner to always side with the business as usual management philosophy. I wasn't surprised. But I sure as hell was angry with him for not standing up for what he knew was technically correct, as evidenced by his own conclusions and recommendations chart that he presented in the first part of that telecon.

My closing remarks are very simple. I implore all of you who are pursuing engineering careers, to please set a goal, and take, and pass the engineering in training exam prior to graduation. Then after five years of engineering experience, take the P exam and become a licensed professional engineer, whether your chosen field requires it or not.

I do not say these things lightly. I did it the hard way. 30 years out of school last October, I took the EIT exam on Thursday, and the P exam on Friday. And if I can do it, and I passed them, at this institution with the quality of education you are getting, it ought to be a piece of cake for you people.

Join and become an active participant in a professional society, and start a movement to change the societies towards support for their members, as opposed to supporting the industry agenda of using employees as a renewable resource. Please don't join the business as usual gang. And always remember, you have three choices-- exit, voice, and loyalty. But I hope you won't subjectively choose loyalty to preserve your status quo. Thank you very much.



MODERATOR: OK, we'll have brief remarks from each of the panelists, and then we'll have open discussion. You'll notice there's-- there are mics on the floor. Our first speaker will be Freada Klein.

KLEIN: I want to comment on a few of the things that Roger talked about in terms of how to evaluate a company's ethical practices, approaches to ethical issues. I think he focused on issues of-- related to safety, related to health, related to possible dire consequences for the end-user. I think there are also other kinds of ethical dilemmas that arise in day-to-day work lives of scientists and engineers. Some of those have to do with how employees are treated and how employees treat each other as well.

There are two categories of ethical issues that I think are important to distinguish. One is ethical issues which are those of omission, where information is left out, or where people, or where groups are excluded. And the other would be ethical issues which are [? commission, ?] where there are actual fraud or problems committed.

When looking at a company, I think Roger's point about looking at where the QC manager reports, and whether or not there's a ombuds is very important, and where they report. There ought to, also, be an array of complaint mechanisms. There ought to be formal complaint mechanisms that have a peer review component. And there ought to be informal complaint structures that assure confidentiality.

I think it's also worth asking about the folklore. What are people rewarded for in that organization? Who are the heroes? Who are the heroines? What are the heroic acts in recent memory in the organization? Will tell you a lot about what's valued-- if there's an open door policy, for example.

Many IBM employees will tell you that the open door hits you in the rear on the way out. One local high tech company has a phrase well known amongst its employees called CLMs, Career Limiting Moves. Any place has part of an informal culture that will tell you about its values. And those are worth finding out before signing on.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Freada. Jim, would you like to speak? Jim Melcher from electrical engineering.

MELCHER: Yes, I'm not sure I have so much in mind here, giving any kind of presentation, so much as asking some questions. I had the good fortune yesterday of spending a couple of hours in Carolyn's home with Roger. And I'd like to, I think, maybe get some reactions from you on some points. One of these has to do with the continued theme that came across of your pride, and your professionalism, your ability to be a good engineer.

Let me put this in our context. In this room, in a faculty meeting last spring, I guess, now, we had a wide ranging debate on the subject of pass-fail. And you could imagine, this is a grading system for freshmen. And it has all sorts of sides to it, but you'd find that perhaps half of the engineering community was very much in favor of seeing it dropped.

They regarded it as a mechanism of compromising the expertise of our students. Now, out of that, I would gather they probably didn't succeed, really, in making their point. But that the point was, as I saw it, that if a person were going to take a strong position, as you have many times, it had to be based on being very good at what you did. You, I gather, feel somewhat along those lines?

BOISJOLY: I think so. And I-- I guess, the best thing I can use as an example-- when I filed my lawsuits against Morton-Thiokol, they came down on me very, very hard, trying to discredit me in every possible manner that you can imagine. And my simple answer to some of the things, to counter their whole activity, was simply to say that it must be a horrible reflection on them because I was within $1,000 dollars of doubling my salary between 1980 and the summer of 1986.

And so I rested my case. I said, if I was a lousy engineer, a disgruntled engineer, a know-nothing engineer, then what does that make them for doubling my salary? And I also have to add to that, I went through school with a solid C, not that I'm proud of that. If I had to do it all over again, I'd do it much differently. But I had a very high level of interest in playing tennis, skiing, and playing hockey.

And I did do my very best to keep my grades going. But I did not hit my stride and hit the Dean's List until my senior year. And as a result, when you've already had two years of solid C work, it's very hard to pick up your grade point average. And I probably wouldn't have been allowed in most universities today, if I'd done that same type of thing today.

But it doesn't-- the grades are not in-- I address this relative to your pass-fail comments. The grades don't necessarily mean you're going to be a good engineer. Grades don't necessarily mean you're going to be a person of integrity, to speak up, and do what's right.

And I use myself as the example. I have had no trouble whatsoever. I graduated from Lowell Technological Institute, had 168 credit hours of course study, and where most of my fellow students coming out of the other universities had between 125 and 135. And I've never had any problem whatsoever facing up and matching up across the industry with anybody.

And I'll tell you straight out, there's a lot of theoretical stuff I can't solve. But I let the guys with the PhDs do that. There's a lot of things they can't do in putting a product out the door either, but I can do that. So together, we can put out a heck of a product. And that's what it really takes. It takes both types of people to really integrate, and make a company go, and put out a fantastic product.

MELCHER: Let me try and get a bit more of the sharing of the experiences you've been through, maybe following a different direction. You perhaps could make an analogy to some of the situations that you've had with something I saw on 60 Minutes this last Sunday. Some of you may have seen this.

They were interviewing people whose children had essentially drowned, and then recovered because doctors had done a little bit too good a job, and then been permanently unable to function. And they were interviewing a couple of the mothers who were in crucial roles in this. And looking back, these were mothers who blamed, in a way, the doctor for having kept their child alive when, in retrospect, they would have preferred, really, albeit a wrenching thing, that the child had been allowed to die.

Now, we make it sound as though this decision process-- for example, the one you went through in only a few days around the Challenger incident-- was a very logical progression. And I would imagine that there are events in there where you were reacting, just reacting. That you were drawing upon these previous experiences, you mentioned, but-- and your religion, your ethical view of things, which I wish we could find some way for you to share with us more.

But that there were also moments, contemplated moments, when probably you realized what the consequences were. Consequences, again, that aren't as black and white as we've been talking about. Consequences of walking the halls in your company and finding that there were people who wouldn't speak to you. The man was the mayor of a small community. And in fact, found that he was essentially shunned, in the Mormon sense, by the community.

These are very personal things. And there must have been some point, as this thing began to evolve, that you contemplated what you were getting into, and thought about ways that you could keep your own values, and deal with this, and then took the course you did. Is that true?

BOISJOLY: Yeah, but it probably didn't happen as soon in the process as you might have thought. What happened was, from my past experiences, and that's why I emphasized it in the previous remarks, I was the sum total of how I acted up to that point. And it was just natural for me to continue to do what I had always done.

And I did not think of anything up until the point that I got the vilest looks that you can imagine from the general managers-- a general manager and his associate, but particularly the general manager. And myself and Arnie Thompson compared those looks afterwards. And those are the looks we decided you get just prior to being fired.

Now, Arnie was quiet, and I was quiet at that point because there was no way that we could interject ourselves into that management meeting in the [? caucus. ?] So that's the first little indication. The next major thing that happened, we just went on the [? failure ?] investigation team. And we're doing our very best to find out what happened, and do the very best to participate in the redesign.

But the night before we were going to testify to the Presidential Commission in closed doors was the heighth of the whole thing, when I realized that I was about to place myself right up to my nostrils in quicksand because I had written in my notebook a whole summary of things that I was going to relate to the Presidential Commission. And at the end of that, I said something to the effect-- and this is in the National Archives. And it is in public record, but I have to paraphrase 'cause I haven't looked at it for a long time.

It said something to the effect that I hope and pray that what I'm about to do is not going to ruin my career, my lifestyle, and my family, and then signed it, and dated it. And so that's the first time, right there, that I knew I was about to plunge myself into a potential very high retribution area. But I still went ahead and did it.

And even afterwards, even with the anguish from management received on the plane back to the Marshall Space Flight Center, I still felt, even with that, that I still had a chance to participate because I was being told I was going to have that chance to participate in a redesign. I was very naive, but I truly believed it in all my heart.

And I felt that, oh. I may have cost myself a raise. Or I may cost myself something here or there. It didn't matter, as long as I was able to participate in fixing the problem. I was very happy with what I had done. And I'd do it again. And then, of course, later on, I found out that that was not to be the case.

They had actually given the official word behind my back to keep me isolated from Morton-- from the customer and the redesign effort although I was a technical participator in giving information into the system. They were never telling me where it went. They changed it sometimes without my knowledge. They were holding meetings that I didn't know occurred. And I got zero feedback.

So they did, in fact, isolate me. And when I discovered that, I realized just how deep quicksand I was in at that point in time. And then in May, myself, and the rest of us who called ourselves, at that time, the five lepers because of the ostracization that we were getting on the inside of the company. Like he mentioned, people not facing us as we were walking down the corridors, and other such things.

We tried to still turn things around, internal to Morton-Thiokol, because the morale was at the basement level because the guys that had made the decision were still in the same management organizational positions that they were in when they made that decision. And so we asked for a meeting with the CEO, the president of the shuttle program at that time, and the president of the aerospace operations of that company.

And we failed. We basically failed. And then that was another stake, if you will, driven in to me at that time because the CEO turned to me. He was this close. And after my remarks, he said, son, you're never going to get very far in this company with that kind of attitude.

And all we went to do was to tell him that his company was crumbling around his shoulders. And he didn't even know it because they never took time to go down at the employee level and find out how bad things were. And that's all we were trying to do, and yet, that's the kind of response we got. At that point in time, I felt, it's all over. And it was just about a month after that, that it was indeed all over.

MELCHER: Well, one thing that came through in your talk was the loyalty you felt toward, apparently, many of the companies, most of the companies that you were with. I'm wondering if, in fact, I'm reading something into your statement in having the feeling that you probably were motivated by having the feeling you were doing the best thing by your company.

BOISJOLY: I felt that night, I felt after it, I still feel today, with every fiber of life in my body, that I was a more loyal employee at Morton-Thiokol and other places for doing what I had done, then employees who would turn their back and say nothing. That case about the missile, there were many cases on that missile that were too numerous to mention. All the time, I did the same types of things.

And I had a very fruitful career, albeit adversarial at some times, but it was fruitful nonetheless. And I do, I feel that you have an obligation to be loyal to your organizational chain of command, and first approach them. First, orally, then in writing, before you ever even think about going outside. And if you don't do that, you deserve everything you get as an individual for going outside first because you did not give them the opportunity.

You owe that company that loyalty. And I have always felt that, even before I read about all this whistle-blowing stuff. And I've always felt that in my heart. I didn't know that I was doing things right down the line like they're supposed to be done. I just felt that that's the way to do it.

MELCHER: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Dave Marks, [? would you ?] [? like to-- ?] Dave Marks from civil engineering.

MARKS: I have questions for you too. It's better to ask questions than to receive. But it seems to me that the civil engineers are a bit different than other engineers. Basic definition that I've heard of civil engineers is they build very large things that don't move, and you want to make sure that they don't move, implying safety considerations. And I've rarely seen a civil engineer who gets into trouble because he brings up a safety consideration.

I mean, the earliest part of our training is watching a film loop of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the Galloping Gertie. And they show that to you over, over again. And the message is don't let this happen to you. But in fact, people who work in the public sector, or in public sector engineering run into different types of ethical issues.

And the basic ethical issues are really relate to values because very often you are, in fact, society's engineers and society does not speak with one voice. Society speaks in a very confusing way. And there are major parts of society that, in fact, don't have a voice at all. And the questions that I'll raise to you have to do between this dichotomy between these things, I mean, particularly in the environmental area.

Or for instance, take the transportation area, and all of our young engineers can design the bridges and pavements of an interstate highway system, yet has anybody ever asked about the decision for an interstate highway system, and how that has changed the basic fabric of America? I mean, it really has.

When we look at the Superfund cleanup, which is, of course, tremendously interest to us. No one wants to see hazardous and toxic wastes around. In fact, we have been unable, so far, to define how clean is clean. We simply don't have the scientific knowledge. Nonetheless, we can't wait until we have that knowledge to continue. And so we have tried to bring a veneer of quantification in. Something is clean, and something that's slightly larger than that is not clean.

We have a whole ethic built up now of doing environmental impact statements for new procedures, which somehow is supposed to represent a valid decision process, yet a young employee might question how well it does. We have the growing of environmental terrorists, who have gotten tired of the way environmental things are going, and are simply taking matters into their own hands, much in the same way of animal rights activists.

So I guess the two questions I would ask you in this context, and really come back to your question, this is-- is how does one deal in this dichotomy of lining up your own personal values with society's values, when they're not well-represented? And the second question is, I would come back to a question that you raised, what is the definition of a rewarding career, when technical analysis, and being good in technical analysis on certain parts of the problem, often does not address the whole problem?

BOISJOLY: Well, OK, first, let me have a little preamble to the difference between your area and the area that I functioned in. We have a awful paradox that exists in this country at this time. The people who build our bridges, our roads, and our buildings are the civil engineers who are licensed engineers. They have a code of ethics. They have backing. They have all the things that we don't have in the industry that I was in.

The people that build your automobiles that go over those roads, the planes that you fly in on a daily basis, which I was involved in, the missiles, and the spacecraft are not licensed people by and large. You don't have to be, and so most aren't. Right there is part of the root cause of why I suggest everybody to become licensed, whether it's required or not, because I firmly believe that you could pull that in.

As far as a rewarding career is concerned, I defined my career as rewarding because I was able to make a lot of corrective actions. I was able to earn a very good living. I was very able and willing to tell them to stick it in their ear when it became an impasse and leave.

Sometimes I changed-- it was a personal decision that had nothing to do with the job. But I felt I had the opportunity, in a general sense, in a high sense, actually, in the 27 years, to participate in a reasonably high level of engineering activity, and to do the very best I could, whether they wanted me to participate in that manner or not. And so for me, by my personal definition, I was allowed to do most of the things that I was able to do well because I forced the issue to do it that way.

I often found myself wandering in the shop, often found myself wandering out in the test lab, often found myself in places where people like me don't normally go, and so I made it rewarding in the sense that I did those types of things. And that's one of the reasons I recommended to students to do the same types of things because you can get the whole circle closed of experience.

You get to, not only look at the specifications, design, and analyze, test, go out in shop see it built, and then follow up with the customer. But if you only focus on the one area, you don't get that satisfaction, that feedback loop, and that next step of experience to carry on to the next place or the next project. And so that's how I define the rewarding career. Now, the first part of your question, you'll have to repeat for me. But I'm not sure, I have to-- I can grasp the total significance what you were asking.

MARKS: I guess once one moves beyond safety and into another set of values. For instance, there are engineers who work on--


MARKS: --who work on transportation systems and, technically, design them very well. But in fact, they're not-- they're-- in the process, they're changing the basic fabric of America. Engineers who are working on environmental impact statements doing wonderful models of groundwater, but, in fact, missing other parts of the problem because one can't do analysis on that.

There are major non-technical value issues. I've seen major reservoir systems designed in developing countries, which will involve moving millions of people just to build the reservoirs. And these people at the lowest economic level, and they will-- their complete societal fabric will be disrupted. No one speaks for those people.

And to a certain extent, a young engineer, were he to try and speak for those people, or to address those large issues, and has no form, has no ability, it's not part of-- according to people, it's not part of engineering. There's no way to make that argument. So how does one work in a situation like that? Ha, gingerly.


BOISJOLY: I honestly don't know. It's like you say, there are no mechanisms for that to occur. And even if there was a tiny mechanism, it's not a significant mechanism for the big picture to allow it to occur. You end up becoming a majority of one, usually. I don't know how to answer that question.

MARKS: Do you think that young engineers, that there's something missing in their educational process that makes them afraid to stand up in tough situations? Or is it a sense of values? I mean, why is it that you had bosses who, in fact, wanted to cut the line? Who wanted-- who knew something was wrong, but wanted to cover it up? Is that an educational problem? Or is it something about how people move up in systems?

BOISJOLY: I think it's an educational problem, but not in the sense that you view it. It's not what you're taught, but what the people have observed. Our government and our companies have done a marvelous job in this country of making sure that everybody in this country knows that when you stand up for a cause that's right, you're going to get creamed. And they may-- that's the first thing they do.

If you think back, you think back in every visible thing that you've read about in recent times, and not one company or one agency has ever addressed the issue for which has been brought out. They've always addressed the person, and have absolutely decimated the person, and never discussed the issue. And so the message comes home, just by reading about it, that you're going to pay a very bad price in the norm, if you go and do something like this.

And so it becomes a focal point in many people's lives. My boss, and Arnie Thompson's boss was the same man, he is a registered professional engineer. He sat in those meetings. He went to Washington and heard the Presidential Commission hearings along with us. He never said a word in the meetings before the launch. He never said a word to the Presidential Commission ever.

If I had had a license, I think, and I hoped, I would have gone a step further and threatened them with my code of ethics. And that's one of the reasons I'm advising and hoping that the young people will pick me up on my challenge, is so they can bring that code of ethics into the management however, side-- by the side or back door, it's done. Maybe they'll listen. I don't know that they will, but maybe they will.

And I have to tell you, I knew all of these gentlemen in that meeting prior to this. I've had workings with them for 5 and 1/2 years. And I have no doubt that when the general manager said, about halfway through that caucus, am I the only one that wants to fly? I have no doubt in my mind that if any of the three managers had said, I don't want to fly, that he would have folded his briefcase, and packed it in, and gone home. No doubt in my mind.

He was looking for support from those guys. Now that you're on quote, "the enemy's side," you've taken the other side. I don't understand. My colleagues would say the same thing. What's happened? And the only thing we've ever been able to conclude amongst ourselves was, after attaining this level, you have to protect it.

Well, I was promoted to product engineering manager at Thiokol, but I didn't tell you in my short presentation that after 13 months, I gave it up. I could no longer exist in that-- I don't know the word-- awful organization. I mean, they knew nothing about how to manage people. They could care less about how it was done, and I didn't want to be a part of it.

So I went down as a technical specialist to the manager of applied mechanics because I felt I could help the program the most, the company the most, and have the most satisfaction in my job instead of just doing this mediocre crap day after day after day. And so I gave up a managerial position. And people around me were shocked. They said, do you realize what you've done?

I used to have a ceiling of $75,000, and when I did that, I lost a substantial amount of ceiling. I didn't care. I wanted day to day satisfaction. I wanted to do something in my job, but that doesn't make me a hero. It just makes me kind of unique, I guess, in one respect because most people don't think that way. After you get a management position, you're going to preserve it at all costs. And I didn't do that.

And I-- there were other people that did the same types of thing too. I'm not unique in that respect. I've seen other people do it. But by and large, when a person has attained a certain level, they're first and foremost priority become preservation. I've seen it in the 27 years. I can't believe it. I can't explain why, but that happens.

MODERATOR: Well, I think we're ready to open the floor for questions. So if you-- those of you with questions will go to the microphone, then we can have your questions recorded on our video tape. Yeah.

AUDIENCE: You mentioned the meeting with the Air Force, I think it was, at which your manager gave the slanted presentation. And you sat in silence. I thought you didn't say anything to contradict what he said. I would imagine that the Air Force people there, interpreted your presence, at least, as implicit support for what your manager was saying. Is that true?

BOISJOLY: Well, let me tell you, it really, in all honesty, didn't matter what he said because the part had already been designed as a physical part. It had already been tested as a physical part. It worked just fine, but he was trying to puff up a certain section of an analysis conclusion that just wasn't so. And he wanted me to do that, OK?

And so I let him do his thing, but I would have shot him down. But regardless of what he said, he wasn't going to change the fact that the part was good. The design had already been proven in test, and had already been installed, and was going to be used. And so this wasn't a threat. This was an issue between him forcing me to do something that I knew was wrong, and I wouldn't do it, and the outcome was-- absolutely, had nothing to do with [INAUDIBLE].

MODERATOR: Excuse me, are you talking about the-- his earlier event that worked out well in the long run? Or are you talking about the telecom the night before the Challenger disaster?

AUDIENCE: No, he got it right.

BOISJOLY: No, yeah, you talk-- I know what you're-- you're talking about the analysis presentation.

AUDIENCE: I'm just curious if you're satisfied, looking back on that with-- from a ethical point of view with your response to that. I mean, silence, I mean, sitting and saying nothing that could be considered deceiving in some way. I was--

BOISJOLY: Well, keep in mind though, as an individual--

AUDIENCE: Yeah, I-- I know.

BOISJOLY: It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, and maybe I'm wrong, but to me, it doesn't make a lot of sense, to speak up and serve yourself up as a sacrificial lamb, if you don't have even a tiny, tiny chance of making a change or effecting a change. And if it's not going to result in any harm downstream or make any difference, what's the point?

AUDIENCE: OK, so there was-

BOISJOLY: Now, when it did-- now, if it had been a different circumstance, and something was on the verge of failing, ho ho, he would not have given that presentation, I assure you. I would have told him I was going to get that presentation like he wanted, and then proceeded to give it the way I wanted.

AUDIENCE: Good evening, I'm registered in Canada as a professional engineer. And I haven't bothered to transfer my registration down here, largely because I see that the profile of professional engineer in the United States just hasn't attained the status of the Canadian professional engineer.

I was wondering, you-- I fully agree with you that registering is a darn good thing to do. But my question is, what do you suppose we can do as engineers to raise the profile of the professional, the registered professional?

BOISJOLY: I think they're starting to do just that in the NSPE. And I think you're right, they kind of went along at a mediocre level for years. And I think that they are starting to come to grips with that. I think some of the professional societies or the technical societies are really where it needs to start to take place and feed into the NSPE.

The technical societies have got to stop serving the industry and the underpinning resources they get from industry, and start to serve their members. And I think you're going to see a chain reaction spill over into the professional side through the NSPE. But I saw the NSPE as a very passive organization years ago, and I see it as a much more productive and active organization today.

For instance, I met a colleague in Missouri who was on the board at Missouri when the Hyatt Regency failure occurred. And they actually pursued that prosecution of that firm and that engineers for blatant screw ups. I mean, it was-- freshmen would not have designed those pins the way that pin was designed. And they've lost their license.

And I'll tell you, he told me, he took tremendous flack through the profession for doing what he did because he was the president of the Missouri Board at that time. And that's an indication that it's started. Also, the other indication it's started, and it's starting really in the civil arena. And it's because the registration is the strongest in the civil arena.

And in the civil arena, they've put out a product called Quality in the Constructed Project. It's a manual. And it is currently in practice right now being used under actual conditions for review and comment. And it is due to end, perhaps at the end of this year, and then they will update that, and expand, and put more manuals in.

But that is a wonderful step and that is feeding in through the NSPE. And I think that's going to go a long way to address the past moderation that was in that group. And the civils are taking the lead position, no question about it.

AUDIENCE: I wanted to just make a comment, and ask you to comment on it. But what I gathered from your-- what you said was the conclusion that one could come to is that the goals of the engineer and the goals of the managers are not the same. And that's why there is this is this constant-- I mean, the picture that I drew of your accounts, not only here, but also when you spoke of it five years ago, was that there was an adversarial relationship between managers and engineers.

The reason why that's interesting is because this point was made, actually, [? by Thorstein ?] [? Veblen ?] in [? 1920 ?] in a very interesting [? monograph ?] called The [? Engineer ?] and [? the ?] [? Price ?] [? System, ?] in which he pointed out that the goals of management were basically bottom line goals, whereas the goals of engineers were efficient. And it seems to me that nothing has changed in the last 70 years. And I guess what I want to ask you is [? assume ?] [? that ?] [? my ?] [? characters ?] [INAUDIBLE]


Does your experiences suggest that nothing's changed?

BOISJOLY: No, I don't agree that nothing has changed. It's gotten a lot worse. In the last 30 years, I have witnessed an unbelievable decline and open chasm between the technical people and the managerial side. And that has actually came about, as I observed when I entered the profession in 1960, the think tank groups were implementing a program, which we used to call internally as charm courses.

Those of us who didn't attend them would call them charm courses, and what these courses were were three to five day concentrated courses that showed management how to extract the maximum amount of profit from an organization, regardless, and never look at the consequences to that organization, or the people in that organization, or the decrease in morale, and stuff like that.

And through that period of time, from about 1960 through the middle '70s, it just became obvious, and just-- employees were no longer their resource, precious resource. And I referred to them as a renewable resource, and that's exactly what they became, a source of labor pool without any regard to the humanisation. And the chasm between the technical people and the managerial people opened up much, much widely than it was when I was first-- when I was first there, there was-- I thought there was a purpose.

And the purpose was towards putting out a good product, a quality product, a safe product, on time, at a competitive price, on a teamwork basis. We used to always check one another's work. There is no checking done, and hasn't been done since approximately 1970, or even the late '60s. Very-- I don't know of any company that has the technical people check one another's work.

And so the interest is very obvious. The obvious interest is to get something out the door to get money back in. Keep the pipeline filled. Everybody at the top smiles and is happy. It's as simple as that. I mean, that's oversimplification, but that's the bottom line.

MODERATOR: I have a follow on question I'd like to ask about that. Because one of the things that we see-- the 273 students have been interviewing companies over the last few years. And a lot of them have made within the last, oh, I should say, mm, seven years, they've made major changes.

And they've put in ombudsmen. They've put in mechanisms to be more responsive. And even if we say that some of that is window dressing, I'd be interested to find out how people see things going because I've been impressed that, at least at some corporations, things have gotten much better.

BOISJOLY: Yeah, I subscribe to that. I know of several corporations with sure knowledge that it is working. It has been implemented and is great. But unfortunately, at most of them, they're in a learning process. In all fairness, first of all, you have to give them credit for first of all recognizing that they have a problem. Can't correct anything unless you recognize you have a problem, and almost all of them have recognized that.

Now, you have to segregate those that recognize they have a problem and truly want to fix it, and do something about it versus those that want to just superficially fix it, and do something about it. And I think we're in that muddled area right now, where some are truly fixing, and some aren't truly fixing. Case in point, as a result of the Presidential Commission investigation, NASA was to set up a reporting system that people could report problems through the organization, to a separate organization, and remain totally autonomous, and not be identified.

That system was immediately destroyed as several very diligent people, used that system, and found out that their names were blurted out all over the place. It killed the effectiveness of that system right out of the chute, and that system is just a front now. And so you have those, and you have those that are working moderately, and you have those that are working well.

And I have to say, and that's why I've made it in my comment from my observation, that I believe that most all the companies recognize they're in serious competitive trouble in our world marketplace, and productivity is a rock-bottom low, and that they have to do something about it. And they are putting these in place. And unfortunately, I don't have any more insight than that by observation. Freada, you might have.

KLEIN: Well, I tend to agree with you. The mechanisms that companies are putting in place, in most cases, it is window dressing. It is too little, too late. And the fundamental concept of empowering employees to speak up and to use that information to change decisions as well as decision-making structures, when it gets to that critical point, that's when companies back down.

So that certain kinds of suggestions, certain kinds of changes in production processes, in how business is done, will be accepted through those channels. Things that question, fundamentally, the way the organization is structured, which may be causing some of the problems, are not admissible.

I think just to be fair, there is a larger context going on here. I mean, CEOs talk about the pressure put on them by their boards of directors, by the shareholders because of the power that the Wall Street analysts wield, and that they are held only to short-term-- short-term earnings, which leads to short-term thinking. So I think we've got a much more complicated problem here.


AUDIENCE: I have a question for Mr. Boisjoly and a question for the panel. Question for Mr. Boisjoly is about your journal. Could you describe when you decided to start writing a journal and why?

BOISJOLY: Yeah, I never kept a journal. I virtually never documented anything, except in the memo format that I explained to you. And what was happening is that the problems were getting so bad, that-- and I was getting so afraid. See, people think it was just a low temperature problem. I was afraid, after the summer of 1985, to launch at all, and that's why I wrote my memo.

And I started to document everything and, actually, filled four of these spiral wound notebooks with my documentation. I had a daily log because of the fear of what was happening, and that there would be no record, other than a verbal record, to go back to if something happened. And that's really why I did it.

AUDIENCE: And the second question is, given that that framework that you described was destroyed, do any of the panelists have suggestions on how you would create such a framework, whether it was through the professional engineers or some other organization? Given that it doesn't work, apparently, now.

MARKS: You mean about the particular status of the engineer and--

AUDIENCE: Yeah, how the feedback mechanism could be done, could be made to work. A whistle-blower mechanism, however you want to describe it, an independent secure channel.

MODERATOR: Would you like to start, Dave?

MARKS: When did you stop beating your wife? I guess, I don't totally agree with Mr. Boisjoly. I think that there are times when engineering management wants things that are probably good, and engineers don't want to give it to them. I mean, I see numerous instances, where engineers want the technical challenge in a new job of redesigning something, when, in fact, they have something that works, and that could immediately be adapted.

But they want the technical challenge. So these terrible engineering managers are trying to get more productivity, and sometimes, they have good reason to ask for it. And the engineering profession really wants their sense of a rewarding career, which is to do reanalysis, to start all over again, and very often to come up with things that need to be tested again. And they reinvent the wheel.

But then there's another part of it, which is the safety human values thing, where, in fact, engineering management short-term philosophy is just acting diametrically opposed to public safety and to employee rights. So I-- this movement of an engineer from the technical to a management line is never easy.

The people who tend to follow it are often the more-- the more-- the less technically happy, and the more management oriented. They see more money to be gained, and these sorts of things. And they're under a lot of pressures, not all of which are bad pressures to begin with.

But coming back to your question about what happens to the role and to the status of technologists. I mean, it's no surprise that the number of people in the United States who want to go into technical careers is going down. We're finding the biggest recruiter of our undergraduates to be the big eight accounting firms now, who want the strong analytic abilities, and the ability to move these people into finance.

That's where the action is. That's where the immediate money is. That's where there is less-- one has to pay less of a price for education and get greater rewards. What are we doing to counter this? I think, we haven't given much recognition to the importance of technology. I don't see how that's going to turn around.

It starts in the high schools. Look at the level of science and mathematical role models and teachers in high school. It is just simply not there. So to a certain extent, engineers are defeating themselves because they're not even bringing people into the pipeline. They're not making the pipeline look attractive, and this country is paying for that.

MODERATOR: Jim, did you want to speak to that--

MELCHER: Well, I was going to pick up on something that was inherent to the two remarks. And that is this feeling that some of us have, that the engineering culture would be well transplanted into the managerial scheme of things. That if engineers turned into managers, it might be good for management. We put things in a rather negative light. Do you disagree with that?

BOISJOLY: Oh, no. No, I think some of the better managers had come from the engineering ranks. But unfortunately, the pressures of the business side of it made them change their allegiance. But as far as-- one of the better-- best managers at Morton-Thiokol, for instance, was Al McDonald.

Al McDonald is the guy that actually pulled the redesign back together because the other company managers couldn't do it. Right in the middle of the redesign to return to flight, they fell flat in their face. And they had to actually call on him to straighten it out, and his engineering expertise is what allowed him to do that. And his-- the way he thought allowed him to do that.

So if you can combine the two, I think you get an excellent result for a person who really cares. Person who has product, and company, and customer at the foremost position and goal of his task. I think you get a terrific marriage, when you do that type of thing.

MODERATOR: Oh, and did you want to respond to that question? OK. Yes.

AUDIENCE: Oh, Mr. Boisjoly, you mentioned that in a number of the ethical decisions that you had to make, the consequences of them were severe. Somebody's life was at risk. And what my question is, is how much do the consequences play in your decision of whether to go to do the ethical thing? For a number of us, we'll be in engineering field-- we'll be in engineering fields that won't necessarily have those kinds of severe risks, like perhaps you're degrading an error rate on an IBM [INAUDIBLE] or something similar.

BOISJOLY: Well, yeah, I mentioned some of the more visible things. But there were a whole host of things that I didn't mention that were not only not life threatening, they were not even product threatening or anything threatening period. But they were just the wrong thing to do. And I don't mean that from a judgmental standpoint.

For instance, there was a part that was stalled backwards on a missile. It was a band, and it was formed as a hoop. And it was a very critical part. It cost about $25. They wanted to take that, and reform it, and reverse the hoop, and put it back on the missile.

Well, it just so happens, I was on the site at the time, and I didn't want them to do that. I didn't even want to spend the time running an analysis showing whether it was good or not. It wasn't worth the hassle. $25 is not worth ruining $800,000 worth of equipment. And they wanted to put it back in stores and mark it scrap.

And I said, well, I don't-- to myself, I don't trust you. Would you please let me have the part? I took the part folded it in half, put it on the ground, stepped on it. It was totally non-usable at that point. They went absolutely wild when I did that and said, they were going to file a grievance. And they were going to take me up to all kinds of management on this. I said, fine, let's go. Nothing ever came of that.

And so that was totally non-threatening, totally not anything, and I've had many of those types of things too. It just-- it doesn't make sense to risk multi-million dollar systems for $25 and $30 pieces. It's just not worth fussing with. And if you know there's something wrong, something's been done wrong, just take care of it on an inside issue. That's all. So I'm just the way I am on everything.

AUDIENCE: First of all, I apologize for being very late. This wasn't advertised, and I had no idea this wonderful meeting was going on. But I'm glad I'm here anyway. And I'd like to ask a couple of questions. The first one relates to the statement made that there's no point in sacrificing yourself if it can't make a difference.

And there have been a number of statements we've heard, which talk in terms of trade-off. Is it worth doing this in terms of the consequences we'll get? And one of my major problems with the engineering field as a whole is the way in which it tends to operate in a consequentialist vein.

Philosophers today, almost all of them, would say the consequentialist ways of thinking are highly unsatisfactory. And the community of philosophers has increasingly been emphasizing issues of rights. What is the right thing to do, whatever the consequences?

If something is truth, should I not say that truth whatever will happen to me as a result? Should I simply shirk that responsibility because I don't think it will make a difference? Should one not go for justice, whatever the consequences?

And I think that's a fundamental point. And I think it comes not just into everyday decisions which engineers make. But I think it also comes into the methods which engineers use because quantitative techniques, by their definition, are calculative, and look at trade-offs, and look at consequences, and look at the best for whatever the problem happens to be.

Whereas perhaps a more satisfactory approach would be to say not what is the best under these certain constraints, but what questions should we be asking? What is the best? What is the right way to do our analysis? So I'd like you to address this issue of a consequentialist way of thinking and a right way of thinking.

BOISJOLY: Well, first of all, if you acted that way in a purist sense, there would be knowing-- no one in the industry cranking out anything for anybody. Because the system is so broken with regard to those types of things, in general, that if everybody come forth with every issue, regardless of the consequence, there'd be nobody working because they'd all be out of jobs. I know that sounds very drastic, but that's the way it is. If everybody came through, not to be around another day to fight for the overall thing, you'd have nobody working.

AUDIENCE: I beg to differ. I think that the scenario is one between people behaving as machines, in which they are using standard techniques, standard procedure, slotted into some big bureaucratic mechanism, and people who are taking responsibility for the work which they're doing.

BOISJOLY: Have you worked in industry?

AUDIENCE: I certainly have and I--

BOISJOLY: In the aerospace industry?

AUDIENCE: Not in aerospace industry, but I've been a whistle-blower in a very large scale case. And so I have some experience of these questions. And I was quite satisfied with my decision to protest what I regarded as an unethical form of computer modeling, even though it seemed to me that I had no chance of doing anything about it at that time.

And I was not satisfied with doing my job, and carrying on doing computations, when I found that that was what I regarded as an unethical, immoral situation. And I tried to influence the people in the place where I was working to try and take this larger view. I think one can, of course, both do work, and one can think about it at the same time. I think where engineering falls down is the lack of thinking.

Furthermore, I think that what we need educationally is more training in how to think. I, frankly, despair as I go through the corridors here and see the advertisements for this new ethics course here, which ask questions about what I regard as somewhat obvious questions. Should one make a product that is unsafe? Well, the answer to me is no. I mean, that's as far as it goes.

And perhaps there are some things to discuss around that. But that doesn't seem to be the most important point. The most important point seems to be what product should we be making? What methods should we be using? What do our techniques imply? What should they imply?

How should we do that which is good and just? And our basic failure is a failure to confront issues of justice. And I think the profession would be improved if we started on that basis. And I think good work could still be done within that framework.

BOISJOLY: Oh, I agree, but aren't you presupposing that the person at the operational level, low level, has the authority and power to do what you just said? It doesn't exist. You're not given the freedoms that you just mentioned. In fact, the redesign, case in point, on the shuttle program was not designed by the working engineer. It was designed and redesigned by the managers. And it was up to the individual engineers to make it work.

And so they didn't even have the freedom to come up with the ideas. We had plenty of ideas. We had 27 concepts that were summarily dismissed. So when you work in the framework of not even being allowed to do something like that, you don't have a prayer out of the chute.

AUDIENCE: Ah, but if you start from the position of insisting on asking these questions, you can empower yourself to do these things. If as a group, we all forced ourselves to do what we thought was ethically correct, and go for those larger issues, we would be able to have some influence.

One of the things which made me despair the most where I worked was how the majority of the other technical people just went and did what they were told. And I often had subversive little tours around the floor I worked on and said to people, look, if only all of us discussed these issues and made them known to management, then we would have an effect. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be machines. We should be part of the major decision apparatus.

BOISJOLY: OK, I made that point in my presentation, that one of the first things you should do is go get [? colleagal ?] support-- first, verbally, then in writing. And so I guess I'm agreeing.

MODERATOR: I think we have another question over here.

AUDIENCE: Well, I don't have a question about the most recent exchange from [? Bellsley ?] [? rise ?] [? and speak ?] as a [INAUDIBLE] [? for that ?] [? heated exchange ?] [? and no ?] [? elation ?] for our society or what is happening to the use of technology. [? Close their eyes ?] [INAUDIBLE] Nevertheless, the compelling evidence is that [? in the years ?] and technology have been helping people for their humane needs, not for their problems short-term or long-term for their humane needs. Now, let me provide some of the evidence that lead to this conclusion.

More people go to school today then ever before. And they do that only in technologically advanced society. More people live longer today then ever before. And they do so only with technologically advanced society. [INAUDIBLE] [? accidents ?] [INAUDIBLE] all the technological activity that you have, over the past 80 or 90 years, as we are going down [INAUDIBLE].

And if all the products that those managers, you referred to, were produced without caring about people or the dangers as the whole system you need to be [INAUDIBLE] by some of the people that think it's falling apart, then all of us would have been killed everyday. [? Matter of fact, ?] we use the electric outlet, or our car, or our toaster, or whatever we use to make [? our weapons. ?]

More people go to school today than ever before in technologically advanced society. And that's a humane thing. More people live in their home without being sick and hungry, and they do so because of technology. So I'm not saying that things are perfect. And there's always lots of room for improvement. And engineers, especially engineers from MIT, and scientists, and social scientists, and economists, and others should always be working to improve.

But it's a serious mistake, a serious mistake, to say that because of technology, we have become [? idly ?] [? humane ?] or that people that are [? ahead, ?] on top of our industries, don't care about [INAUDIBLE]. The evidence simply is not that because if you looked at the [INAUDIBLE] [? and the ?] industries around the world, you can find any [? deterrences ?] from other companies [INAUDIBLE]

Or [? look ?] [? at the ?] alternatives [? when people ?] suffer in Sudan, Ethiopia, or India, or Southeast Asia. But they don't have any technology. They don't have any of these industries. Then the evidence would be overwhelming about the benefits that we derive from technology. So it's not technology that is at fault. It's not our managers. It is that we are not perfect as human beings like [INAUDIBLE].

We recognize the evidence that they shouldn't get [? after ?] [INAUDIBLE] and the other guy he was distressed [INAUDIBLE] but after a while they [INAUDIBLE]. So the point that I want to make is the following, I know no engineers, whether in management, or at the lower [? echelon, ?] who willingly and knowingly proceed with doing something that will be destructive to society.

Maybe, there is a [INAUDIBLE] area in which [INAUDIBLE] the other person is absolutely [? certain ?] [INAUDIBLE] and sometimes one person comes out who's a [? judgment ?] one way, and other times, another way, but not because they do not care about society. As an engineer, I refuse to accept that there are, in general, not the exceptions, engineers who simply don't care because they are managers [INAUDIBLE].

BOISJOLY: Yeah, I guess only one comment, and I agree with a significant part of what you say. But in another sense, I disagree because how can you explain the total destruction of the work ethic in this country, if you don't lay it at the feet of the people who are charged with running the corporate structure that's responsible for doing this. We are no longer, as the United States, able to compete in the world economy because of this situation.

They've focused on short-term profits at the almost total exclusion of everything else. And then they are responsible for that. I've seen it in my own industry. I watched it happened. And I agree with you. To a person, nobody openly wants somebody to get killed. Nobody openly plans on something failing. I agree with you.

But they, at the top, never go down on the floor, and kick the tires, and find out what's going on at the low level. And it's not all their fault, with regard to what they make the decisions on, because the corollary to that is that the bad news gets filtered out so badly on the way up that they get the impression that everything is well.

And in 27 years, I've never understood why a CEO, if he did not have the time because of pressing needs at his level, did not find a confidante to go down, and kick the tires for him, and report back to him or her. And they've never done that. And I've never understood that philosophy because their companies, generally, are coming down around their necks. And they don't even know about it.

We are not competing in the world economy, not because we don't have the talent, not because we don't have the people, or the technology, we do not have work productivity within that framework anymore. And that's the unfortunate consequence of what has happened. And so I just wanted to interject that part of it.




MODERATOR: I think we're going to have to end because we're 15 minutes, actually, over our time. I would hope that you would come to-- those of you who are in 273, Roger will be in class on Wednesday. And those of you who are not, could come on Tuesday to [? E25111 ?] and have further discussion, at 1:00, and have further discussion on these issues.