LIVING ALOFT: Human Requirements for Extended Spaceflight

 

8. ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

 

 

[299] As crew size expands, organizational-level phenomena will gain in importance. I n this chapter, we addressed some of the issues related to the formation and operation of organizations in space. Organizational structure is defined by the differential distribution of authority and tasks.

[300] Hierarchical control requires that individuals at one hierarchical level have the power to influence individuals at subsequently lower levels. French and Raven (1960) have identified several bases for such power, each may be undermined in the course of an extended- duration space mission. The norms and prescriptions which give rise to legitimate power may not be sufficiently reinforced in space. The satisfactions and sanctions that underlie reward and coercive power on Earth may prove unavailable or unreliable in space. On extended-duration missions, the decline of unused technical skills, cross-training, and the mounting likelihood of appearing foolish may undermine expert power. Finally, interaction under conditions of isolation, confinement, and risk may decrease interpersonal attraction and erode referent power. Further research is required to assess and bolster the robustness of each form of power.

It is expected that crews will become increasingly autonomous as they involve more people, last longer, and travel farther from Earth. If an acceptable level of Earth-based or centralized control is to remain possible, communications problems must be solved, and new means must be identified for setting bounds on the behavior of crewmembers.

Large-scale missions will involve several levels of leaders. Low-level leaders, intermediate-level leaders, and high-level leaders perform different tasks and exercise different intellectual and human-relations skills. One important research issue is identifying procedures for selecting leaders at each level. Another is examining the effects of mediated communication on the performance of low-, intermediate-, and top-level leadership roles.

Predominant among the work roles anticipated in space are flight operations, scientific- investigative, environmental support, personnel support, and production roles. The organizational design process must include ways to define these roles and ensure that each is satisfactorily performed. It is hypothesized that a moderate degree of specification is preferable to a high or low degree of work-role specification.

Prescribed roles do not always satisfy socioemotional requirements or cover unanticipated contingencies. For such reasons, emergent roles are likely to arise in the course of a mission. Ways must be found to ensure that emergent roles do not conflict with essential aspects of prescribed roles. We hypothesize that incompatibilities will be minimized when crewmembers show a high degree of [301] commitment to the overall organizational goals, when prescribed roles can be adjusted in response to changing circumstances, and when prescribed roles provide latitude for discretionary socioemotional activities.

Role overload occurs when people are assigned positions with excessive demands. Role overload causes personal wear and tear and performance deterioration. A clear understanding of obligations, a sense of priorities, open communication channels, and the minimization of exposure to irrelevant communications are expected to retard or prevent role overload.

There are many forms of social conflicts that are associated with work roles. Some conflicts are generated by the expectations and demands that are associated with the roles themselves. Others are generated by the personalities and interests of people who are likely to be drawn to different roles. The perception that some roles are more important than others and the formation of factions or cliques among people within different role categories are additional sources of conflict.

Social norms or shared standards of conduct impart regularity to behavior. In isolated and confined settings, normative structures may extend beyond job-related activities and encompass living and recreational activities as well. Research in this area might include identifying norms that impose unnecessary limits on individual discretion, identifying important conduct areas which lack appropriate normative constraints, and dealing with potential conflicts among the norms maintained by the different groups or subsystems that are involved directly or indirectly in a mission.

Inducements and deterrents which prove reliable on Earth may be unavailable or unreliable in space. Under conditions of extended-duration spaceflight, pay may lose value as an inducement. Additional research is required to determine the subjective value of pay to spacecrews, and to develop supplementary economic systems. Token economies that meet stringent fairness criteria may prove appropriate Helmreich and his associates (Radloff and Helmreich, 1968; Helmreich et al., 1980) have suggested that the rewards accorded to astronauts will decline faster than the costs of participation; this decline might be offset by new sources and forms of rewards.

Many knotty issues surround the creation of formal sanction systems. Considerable effort will be required to establish a legal [302] system that is simple, has clear jurisdictional boundaries, and is consistent with the requirements of security and the traditions of social justice and individual rights. Further research is required to identify suitable policing mechanisms and to find appropriate forms of restraint and punishment.

Spacecrews interact with mission control and other external or environmental organizations. Boundary-role persons, who serve as interfaces between the spacecrew and mission control will play a major role in setting the tone of such interactions. Boundary-role persons are subject to multiple influences and serve, in effect, as gatekeepers who regulate the flow of information. The evolution of tomorrow's space organization would be facilitated by a greater understanding of boundary roles. Of particular importance are the tasks of identifying selection and training procedures for boundary-role occupants, examining the effects of mediated communication on boundary-role performance, and understanding the psychological and social consequences of prolonged boundary-role tenure.

Observations of many isolated and confined groups, including spacecrews, suggest friction between crews aloft and mission control. Possible contributing factors include overprogramming of the astronauts' time, a jurisdictional dispute, unfulfilled expectations concerning the quality of life in space, and cognitive conflicts. Mission planners are thus confronted with the issue of identifying an optimal balance between work and nonwork activities on missions of varying lengths, finding means to ensure that crews and mission control have shared interpretations of each other's behaviors, uncovering the link between negative attitudes toward physical facilities and hostility toward mission planners and managers, and helping mission control personnel and flight personnel to better understand each other's decision-making processes.

Organizational theory suggests that conflict can have functional, as well as dysfunctional, consequences. The goal, then, is not to prevent all conflicts, but to prevent destructive conflicts. Two models devised by Thomas (1976) provide useful conceptual frameworks for conflict containment and management. The first, or structural model, involves behavioral predispositions, social pressures, incentive structures, and rules, and is proposed as a preventive model. The second, or process model, involves perceived frustrations, conflict conceptualizations, behavioral interaction sequences, and outcomes, and is proposed as a containment or curative model. Particularly salient research problems are those which center around conflict [303] conceptualization, containment, and de-escalation strategies, and the inculcation of superordinate goals.

An astronaut's departure may have an adverse impact on his or her family. During the period of separation, the astronaut may experience some guilt, and his or her spouse may experience anger, resentment, and depression as a result of loneliness, frustration, and the assumption of additional family responsibilities. Upon the astronaut's return there may be a prolonged and awkward period of reassimilation. We need to know more about the effects of separation on the astronaut and on his or her spouse and children. Resources must be developed to help all parties cope with the separation, and to facilitate the process of family reunification.


PreviousIndexNext