Serving versus Pleasing

On January 27, 1986, Thiokol engineers and managers discussed the weather conditions surrounding the upcoming launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger with their counterparts from NASA. 

The weather was very cold and one of the design engineers, Roger Boisjoly, pointed out the negative impact of low temperatures on the resilience of the rubber O-rings that sealed the fuel rocket joints. He recommended a launch postponement. 

His bosses refused to bring that recommendation to NASA leadership. As a result, on January 28, the Challenger exploded, only 73 seconds after launch, caused by a failed O-ring.

Sugarcoating difficult messages in order to keep the peace and avoid confrontation might make people happy in the short run, but it’s devastating for long-term success. 

For example, pleasing typically happens during interaction with customers. After all, you want to make our customers happy. Yet by playing yes (wo)man to your customers, you may miss an opportunity to really serve them. 

Where is your organization focused on pleasing when it should be focused on serving instead?

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