Dr. David O’Gorman

Specialty: Decision making processes; Assumption analysis; Coping with Single-Loop behavior in organizations; Innovation processes in larger organizations.

Dr. O’Gorman is Professor Emeritus of Business Administration at the University of Illinois at Springfield where he teaches Organization Theory in its Management Program.

He has worked for a variety of organizations and has seen faulty decisions in many of them. At Bristol-Myers he did new-product marketing research.  At Marathon Oil Company he led the development of its first marketing information system.  He was in the Peace Corps in Panama.  He was Co-Director of a Federally-funded consortium of 21 colleges and universities across the United States.  He was Assistant Director of the Cleveland Commission on Higher Education, a consortium of the eight institutions of higher education in Cleveland.  He joined UIS from his position as a Professor of Business and Dean of Graduate Studies at Husson University in Maine.

In the Army National Guard, he was promoted to Sergeant at age 18, and after OCS, became a leadership instructor and Executive Officer of the Missouri National Guard Officer Candidate School.

Among the faulty decisions he has seen, the most egregious was made by his friend Leopoldo Galtieri, a classmate from an Army school, who became President of Argentina and started the Falkland’s War.  Galtieri assumed that England’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher would not risk going to war over a few small Falkland Islands at the other end of the world.  Wrong.  She did, and England won the war in 10 weeks.   However, nearly 1,000 people lost their lives in this war based on one faulty assumption.

Faulty assumptions kill, and not only in warfare. The space shuttle Challenger exploded two minutes after liftoff because NASA, and its rocket contractor, assumed, that the record cold weather in Florida on the morning of the launch would not cause rubber seals to become brittle and fail.  Seven astronauts lost their lives because management would not listen to their own engineers who told them the seals would most likely fail.

Several years later, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon reentry, killing another seven astronauts.  NASA management did not listen to the advice of their own engineers who said the left wing was most likely damaged during liftoff.  One engineer asked the Department of Defense to use one of its DOD satellites to take pictures of possible wing damage.  That request was canceled, and the engineer got into trouble for making the request.  The sad part of this story is that the Columbia Accident Investigation Board found that a second shuttle could have been launched in time to rescue the astronauts.

The reason that faulty assumptions are not identified before decisions are made is that most organizations have a Single-Loop culture that essentially says “Don’t question what management wants to do or you will get into trouble.”

Research by the team of Harvard’s Dr. Chris Argyris and MIT’s Donald Schon found that Single-Loop behavior is embedded in the culture of virtually all organizations. Dr. O’Gorman has studied Single-Loop behavior for many years, and more importantly, has focused on how to cope with the dysfunctional characteristics of Single-Loop behavior. He developed a streamlined version of Mason and Mitroff’s Strategic Assumption Surfacing and Testing technique that he calls S-SAST.  S-SAST virtually eliminates the possibility of making a decision based on faulty assumptions.

Dr. O’Gorman made presentations of S-SAST to groups at the US Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, and the Army’s University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies (also known as Redteaming University) at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.  He has made his perspectives readily available via a Kindle ebook, “Military, Business and Cyber Wargaming: A Redteaming Perspective.”

In addition to teaching MGT 461 Organization Theory in the Management program, Dr. O’Gorman teaches MIS 323 Social Health Care Informatics in the Management Information program and BUS 381 Business and Developing Countries in the Business Administration program.

Dr. O’Gorman is semi-retired and has been teaching online courses for twenty years. He was the first recipient of the Burks Oakley II Distinguished Online Teaching Award.