Sunday, February 20, 2005

Irreversible Breech of Trust: Why Pete Nanos Must Resign

From Anonymous:

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Irreversible Breech of Trust: Why Pete Nanos Must Resign
and Other Observations
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I'm feeling a bit introspective at the moment, and the weekend weather is
dreadful, so I decided to engage in some wild speculation on just what are
the problems with Los Alamos. This piece rambles on for quite a bit, so
please forgive me. I need to get this off my chest (and thanks to Doug,
maybe I can).

Maybe it goes deeper than Pete Nanos. Perhaps, as some have implied, Nanos is
simply the manifestation of our problems (ie, "We reap what we sow"). Then,
again, maybe the problems lie elsewhere, outside of the Lab. This is very
important, because if our problems really comes from broken internal structures
or if they comes from external sources, then ditching Pete Nanos won't really
solve things.

I suspect Pete came in here with good intentions, wanting to "fix" this place.
After all, we had just gone through the Wen Ho Lee fiasco, NEST missing
hard disk fiasco, purchase card fiasco, and the property accounting fiasco.
Am I leaving out any fiascos? Hard to say, as there have been so many over
the last 5 years.

Pete's a Navy "can-do" kind of guy, so he arrived ready to roll up his sleeves
and make some necessary changes. He had a plan. It was the IWM. Just watch
the video (it's archived over at the LANL media site) of his kick-off meeting
on IWM back in November of 2003 -- a full seven months before the latest
CREM fiasco. In the video, he harangues the upper level staff, telling them,
in effect "you'll do this IWM thing whether you like it or not". Don Cobb,
he says, has taught him about the ways LANL really works, so you'll not be
pulling one over on "The Admiral". Highly structured methods are required,
he rants, as we've had a slew of safety incidents. As always, he then
launches into very loose, ad-hoc use of the facts to make his case that the
safety trends looks ominous. No hard evidence, mind you, just the usually
hearsay that "the sky is falling" and he's here with the IWM plan to save us
from ourselves. He's probably thinking, "I restructured and modernized
NAVSEA while in my last job -- I'll do the same here, and end up looking like
some kind of hero". This was the start of the Integrated Work Management
plan.

Now fast forward to July of 2004 and the beginning of the CREM incident. All
hell is breaking loose and DOE is extremely angry (though, whether that is
justified is debatable). Pete, with his IWM plan in hand, perhaps, sees
this as his moment of action. The reluctant staff will now have to start
using highly structured plans to accomplish their work. They have no choice.
So Pete takes a big gamble. He knows DOE is mad as hell, and he knows he
wants to enforce his new way of doing business, the IWM. He decide his best
gambit is to shut-down the Lab. By doing so, he both placates the DOE and
can also implement the IWM plan in a radical, no-compromise fashion. From
this point on, highly structured planning (and the voluminous paperwork
it entails) will be required for EVERYTHING!. Unfortunately, as usual,
Pete jumped the gun. He didn't bother to check the facts. Facts are
things Pete seems to consistently ignore. But this time, his jumping
the gun and ignoring the facts will cost the Lab dearly. Bundles of money
will be lost, and his ill-timed decision will come back to haunt him.

Pete knows how to completely shut the Laboratory down. Any clown could
do that trick. But what he doesn't know (and worse, doesn't know he doesn't
know) is how he will get the Lab re-started. That takes great managerial
talent, and Pete seems to be sorely lacking in this arena. After all, this
place is not a military installation. You can't simple order that things
be done at Los Alamos, though, Pete hasn't quite pick up on this important
tidbit of information, even as of yet. There is no military-style chain
of command here at LANL. The staff has not been indoctrinated with a
command and control mind-set. We don't go through boot-camp on job entry.
And scientist tend to be highly individualistic people who resist demands
from authority. Without fully understanding his actions, Pete makes a
great mistake by totally shutting down the Lab and throwing IWM-style
management down the throat of a reluctant staff. Bad medicine goes down
better when taken very slowly with lots of sugar. Pete takes a bottle
of Castor oil and dumped it down our throats and it makes everyone feel
very sick.

Shutting down the Lab and moving us cold-turkey into a rigid IWM-style of work
structure may have been a bad executive decision, but it is not the worse
thing he has done to the Lab. In hindsight, it looks like shutting down the
Lab was probably a mistake, but we've all made bad decision at one time or
another. Making a bad executive decision is not necessarily a good reason
for firing a manager. There is something else that is far worse that I
suspect Pete may have done which calls for his resignation.

Remember the heat that Pete feels from those above him at the beginning of
the CREM fiasco? Members of Congress are rumbling to "shut the place down",
and talk of Congressional investigations are in the air. We've all seen
these Congressional inquisitions -- they are not pleasant affairs. Blow-hard
Congressman are allowed to control the microphones and usually end up staging
these investigations into tasty little sound-bites for the media to digest.
They are anything but fair and balanced and Pete may become their next victim.
You've got to have some sympathy for anyone who may be hauled into these
modern day Kangaroo courts. In addition to this, Linton Brooks has just
sent his Deputy at NNSA, a fellow named Kyle McSlarrow, out to Los Alamos for
an extremely brief visit of the "crime scene". Kyle is told to get to the
bottom of this matter as soon as possible.

Now, Kyle must be a very brilliant fellow, because in a brief 3 hour visit, he
quickly determines that the situation in Los Alamos is far worse than anyone
could possibly imagine. In his brief 3 hour visit he discovers that
horrible things have occurred at LANL, and worse, there is a "culture of
arrogance" at the Lab. Bear with me on this for a moment, because this is
where I feel the whole CREM fiasco, and Pete's part in it, becomes extremely
important.

Where, exactly, did Kyle pick up this information? He was here for 3 hours.
He may be a quick study, but a 3 hour whirl-wind tour is hardly enough time
to come away with the broad accusations Kyle makes right after his visit.
I'm speculating, but perhaps he picks up these views from our beloved
Director. After all, Pete has been very clear about this -- he has the
very same views as Kyle McSlarrow!

If Pete, indeed, colored the facts at this critical junction to make LANL look
as bad as possible to McSlarrow, then Pete was clearly acting the part
of the "toady" -- the type of guy who finds advantage in selling out people
for his own private benefit. Another name for type of person is a Judas.
History is full of stories of people of this ilk, and they are not looked
upon very favorable. This is especially perplexing given the military's
strong code of loyalty. Perhaps there are times in Pete's early military
training when he wasn't paying attention. Loyalty to your troops is
lesson Number One in military leadership. You can criticize those under
you, but you never, never sell them out. It appears to me that Pete may
have sold us out at this pivotal point in time. We now know that high
level people at the Lab who were close to the incident were telling him
that there was a rational, non-threatening explanation behind the the missing
CREM material. If you attended either of the two official meeting on the
CREM incident, you heard this point being made time and again by people in
the audience. But Pete appears to have ignored this information and put us
in the worst possible light at this most critical point in time.

The ethical thing to do when a leader feels he can no longer trust his troops
would be to resign. Did anyone hear Pete offering to resign during this
mid-July period? No, instead he adds to the general media's feeding frenzy
by continuing with the verbal attacks on the staff. We hear it from his
own mouth during several "All-Hands" meetings. He's leading a pack of
"butt-heads", and is more than willing to fire the whole lot of us down to
a core of only 10 people whom he can really trust. His use of the concept
of trust is a bit strange at this point. After all, these words are coming
from a man who many of the staff feels they cannot trust. And if we don't
trust our Director, how can we reasonable expect him to put his trust in us?
Trust, after all, is a two-way street. And our trust has been severely
broken in the eyes of many of the staff by this point in time, for he appears
to have sold us out to the media, Congress, and the DOE.

This gets to what is, I think, the heart of the matter. Pete has created an
irreversible breech of trust with the staff by his actions, particularly
those that he made during the early part of the CREM fiasco. Once trust has
been irreversible breeched, it cannot be healed. Pete may hang on here a
bit longer, hoping in vain to keep his job, but the snickers he hears behind
his back and the anger he feels from the staff will only get worse with time.
Regardless of how he got to this point, the irreversible breech of trust
which has now taken place between the staff and it's Director means it is
time for him to leave.

Pete, if you are reading this (in my dreams) then you know this to be the
case. You've had a slight taste of it just this week during your "pep rally"
visit to DX-3. You know the break is now complete. You have no further
work to accomplish here. You know it's time to go. This is not the time for
you to "win one more for the Gipper".

The irreversible breech of trust between Pete and the staff requires him
to leave, but that is not at the core of our problems. Our management
style may improve with his leaving, but there are still serious issues that
need to be be addressed at this Laboratory.

There is some truth to this "culture of arrogance" thing. Heck, even my own
wife tells me that people at LANL frequently act as if they own the whole
world. It's the "Hill Attitude". And when we see it during trips "off the
Hill", it usually makes us want to cringe. And I'm just as guilty of it as
many others. Scientist are smart people, but that doesn't necessarily
make them better people. I tend to forget this at times. So do others at
the Lab. "Smart person" does not necessarily equal "better person". Some of
the best people I have known in my life have also been some of the dumbest.
Heart and mind can be separate things.

Beyond Nanos (a temporary problem) and the "culture of arrogance" (a more
long lasting, but curable, problem), there is one other major problem. That
problem is our beloved DOE. And just as with our leader, Pete Nanos, it
revolves around the problem of trust. DOE does not trust us -- not even one
itty-bitty ,teeny-weeny, little bit. And since they don't trust us, they feel
the need to set up a Rube Golberg system of check and balances containing hair
triggers that assure them of finding fault for SOMETHING at almost any given
moment. I have to wonder if this CREM fiasco would ever have escalated to the
point it did if we didn't have such short mandatory warning periods for issues
like the missing CREM. A longer time period would have given people a chance
to take a deep breath, relax, and then do some careful investigation before
sending people over at DOE into sudden heart attacks. We need some type of
"circuit breakers" in this particular area. You can see how it might have
made the CREM incident much worse than it needed to be, can't you DOE?
Cut us some slack. It will end up benefiting both of us.

The Labs relationship with our owners, the DOE, is not a healthy one, but I
don't believe DOE really cares about this issue. And, if someone other than
UC takes over the current contract for Los Alamos, the hyper-critical management
style from DOE will not end. To the people who do take the $50 million and
decide to run this place next Oct 1st, I say "good luck" -- DOE is buying you
on the cheap. I hope you use the money to buy lots of aspirin and Zoloft to
get through the contract period. Believe me, you'll need them. About the
only solution I can conceive of to "cure" this particular problem is for
DOE to directly take over operations of the Lab. I've noticed that R&D
organizations that are directly owned by government agencies tend to have
much fewer problems with hyper-critical styles of management. Heck, if
the Feds were willing to pay me a good salary with benefits, I'd have no
problems working directly for the government. Going under the Fed's direct
control doesn't mean we would have to go under the dreaded GS pay scale with
its lousy Thrift Saving Plan for retirement. The US government can, and
does, occasionally come up with "special" employment plans. It is my
understanding that special pay plan are used at various other government R&D
labs, such as the Navy's China Lake laboratory out in California. If going
directly under Federal control would end the DOE's carping, then I might buy
into this idea. Frankly, I'm not convince the UC moniker has been worth the
price of late. Perhaps it's time for a radical new experiment in the Fed's
operation of one of its premiere R&D labs.

And to end this long, "wind-bag" of a piece and finally get the last little bit
off my chest, I have to mention Wen Ho Lee. When this story first broke
I actually felt sorry for the guy. No longer. In many respects, the problems
we have suffered through over the last 5 years at this Lab have their genesis
in the person of Wen Ho Lee. Downloading tons of classified data into the
unsecured area was one thing. To then say, as Lee did, that you have no idea
what you did with some of the tapes you created is completely over the top.
Lee, I hope you rot in hell! I will no longer defend you, and I hope those
at the Lab who did during your trial now reconsider their actions. You set
us up for much of the current heartache we are now experiencing, and I hate
you for it.

Nuf' said. I can now get a good night's sleep.


Mister Anonymous.


PS: In case no one noticed, Kyle McSlarrow resigned his post as Deputy Dir.
of NNSA just two weeks before the report he headed up on the CREM fiasco
was release by the DOE. This is the report that issues the huge UC fines.
Was the timing in his resignation a coincidence, or is there more to this
story than meets the eye?

Comments:
This rambling incoherent piece
takes up too much space on the
blog.
Suggest you boil this down by
a factor of two. Sleep on it and
repeat the process. Then it would
be about the right length and
maybe someone could tell what the
hell you're trying to say.
Then get Doug to post your new
piece and pull the old one.
 
Well, yes, you do have an opinion. I'm sure it's a very good opinion too. I, on the other hand (IMHO) think it brought to light a number of important issues. In other words, I liked it.

We aren't charged by the inch, here. Don't read it if you don't like it.
 
Tried, but couldn't get thru it.
Don't think anyone else will
either. Bet you don't get any
more comments.
 
I thought there were some good points here as well.

For those of you who have an inordinately difficult time getting through long posts, I suggest you try getting help here.
 
I thought there were some good points here as well.

For those of you who have an inordinately difficult time getting through long posts, I suggest you try getting help here.
 
Perhaps a summary might help you...

(1) Nanos has made some MANAGEMENT MISTAKES, but he shouldn't be fired
for those. All managers screw up from time to time.

(2) Nanos made a horrendous ETHICAL MISTAKE -- He "sold us out" to
DOE at the start of the CREM mess. Evidence is emerging on this
one. Fire him for that.

(3) We have problems other than Nanos -- We tend to be arrogant.
Realizing that is half the battle.

(4) The major problem at LANL is DOE's micro-management. Maybe it's time
to find a solution to this long-term problem. It's getting worse.

(5) Wen Ho Lee was the real "butt-head". We wouldn't be where we are today
without his major screw-up.


And also...

* Doug decides what gets posted on the blog's front page.

* This isn't a "pissing" competition to see who gets the most comments.

* I agree with the last poster -- try visiting his suggested site. Not
all subjects can be watered down into 60 second news bites.
 
This is an excellent piece! Quit harping on the length.

One tidbit to add about McSlarrow and the timing of his "resignation" - the LANL draft RFP with all its employee sell-out problems came out in December. Remember it was McSlarrow's recommendation to put LANL up for competititve bid, ending UC's management. I look forward to seeing if the final RFP is significantly changed under DOE's new management. And I perceived McSlarrow's departure as a hopeful sign.
 
The author touches on the essence of the issues we face now and in the future. LANL will not suddenly be better if Pete and the SET leave -- that is just the start. Unless world-class executives come in to fix the mess and restore employee trust, we will be in the same sad situation.

I thought so highly of this post that I copied it into Word, printed it, and handed it to my wife. BTW, it is much easier to read that way.
 
The author touches on the essence of the issues we face now and in the future. LANL will not suddenly be better if Pete and the SET leave -- that is just the start. Unless world-class executives come in to fix the mess and restore employee trust, we will be in the same sad situation.

I thought so highly of this post that I copied it into Word, printed it, and handed it to my wife. BTW, it is much easier to read that way.
 
This was a good post and right on!
 
This post, although long, is one of the few i've seen that homes in on our predicament from "a Big Picture" POV; A distillation of the major points would likely encourage a broader readership....
 
What did Pete Nanos know about the so-called missing CREM, and when did he know it? Could there be a smoking gun in all this? Did he knowningly hold back info from both the DOE and Congress? Some probing questions need to be put to this man.
 
I can read long posts. Perhaps that ability is related to having an education. It seems to me the lab would be better off if more people, particularly some of the management, took the time to think through arguments more completely. If McSlarrow had taken the time to think out his position, perhaps he wouldn't have been able to jump to the conclusion that we have a culture problem during a 3 hour visit.
 
This is pretty much spot on. It captures the essence of why I view Nanos as a vile and odious human being. It points out the potential role of this MacSlerrow in this mess. It also correctly puts blame on Wen Ho Lee who should rot in Hell. He was a corrupt sociopath.
 
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