What happened?

James March, a professor at Stanford and leading researcher in the field of organizational decision making, postulates that ambiguity is a common feature in decision making, especially during the inception of a project or when the environment is rapidly changing. The complexity and uncertainty inherent in a crisis creates paradoxical conditions under which a leader must operate.
March identified four major types of ambiguities in organizations:
Ambiguity of intention – This occurs when an organization has inconsistent and ill-defined objectives. What do we want and what are we here to do? What is our mission?
Ambiguity of understanding – This occurs when unclear technologies and environmental complexity are difficult to interpret. Do we have what we need to solve the problem?
Ambiguity of history – This occurs when past events are difficult to specify and interpret. What happened? Are we sure that’s what happened?
Ambiguity of organization – This occurs when attention to a particular decision or problem varies by individuals. Should we go with what he said to do, or what she said to do?
Cohen, M. D., March, J. G., & Olsen, J. P. (1976). People, problems, solutions and the ambiguity of relevance. Ambiguity and choice in organizations, 24-37. You can read more about March’s theories in Ambiguity and the Engineering of ChoiceLinks to an external site. [PDF File, 1.5MB]. March, J. G. (1979). Ambiguity and the engineering of choice. International Studies of Management & Organization, 9(3), 9-39.
In this discussion, you will:
Identify a moment in Apollo 13 when the characters faced one of these types of ambiguity.
Distinguish which type of ambiguity they faced and how they resolved it.
Explain why that course of action was effective or ineffective.

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