Saturday, February 19, 2005

The last time I felt as I do now ...

From Anonymous:

I have spent several hours today rereading all the posts and comments to the blog, as well as a number of newspaper articles which I have kept since July. The last time I felt as I do now is the day I came back to town after the fire, and I felt totally betrayed by the NPS. The government, no matter which department, is supposed to protect, not destroy. However the decisions made by the NPS are equivalent to those made by the Director - totally destructive based upon the wrong assumptions (remember what assume does).

In one of the comments to a blog posting someone asked what form new management should take at LANL. And it's correct that it's not enough to say out with the old with no idea of what should replace it. We do not have the option that our founding fathers had after the Revolutionary War of being able to convene a Constitutional Convention, write the Constitution, and then hold an election. The 13 colonies were able to function fairly well during this transition because they were pretty self-contained.

But LANL can't work that way. Programs span divisions. We need a plan for a new management structure, we need a way to get there quickly, and we need the support of UC, DOE/NNSA, and our Congressional delegation, all of whom have been remarkably silent the last few months. More importantly, we need to make LANL an organization which appeals to post docs to continue the important work we do. Yes, we can point our fingers at all the programs that were not successful and the possible reasons why they were not, but the bottom line is we won the Cold War, not because of President Reagan, but because we did the work we had to do to ensure that we were stronger than Russia. And many worked 60+ hours/week with no extra pay because we believed that what we were doing was critical to the nation. How many families were sacrificed? How many of us now feel that our work has been recognized as being important?

Is it the Director's job to decide what programs will be supported at LANL? Is it the job of the Chief Science Officer? Is it the job of the Division Leaders? Who is responsible for how money is ultimately spent - the Director, the Division Leaders, or the Group Leaders? What happens to a responsible Group Leader when the Division Leader hires a Chief of Staff who ultimately makes critical decisions that affect how the group functions? Are Chiefs of Staff technical or administrative? Do they make decisions that affect the technical side of LANL without the right background? Are they willing to make technical decisions based upon staff recommendations or their own egos? How many of them believe their responsibilities are to march to the same drum as the Director rather than do what's best for their Division when the two conflict? Who or what caused Division leaders to spin off important
decision making to Chiefs of Staff?

At LANL there are too many paper-pushing positions which add no value. Paper-pushing becomes the justification for the job. More paper-pushing means that your job is more important. About 15 years ago, I read the original DOE order for unclassified computing. It was clear and required very little paperwork. After that order passed through the Albuquerque office, the LAAO, and the computer security people (they were not cyber security then), the amount of paperwork was incredible. It was comparable to an unfunded mandate and required computer system admins to perform certain tasks that were not assigned by their Group/Division Leaders. In fact, the additions by LANL computer security people demonstrated how little they knew about networked computers. They were not competent to make the decisions they were making, and they were totally unwilling to modify their requirements.

This is how bureacracy works. Jobs are pushed down to the lowest possible level with the paperwork pushed up. There is no value to much of this work. And too often decisions are made by the uneducated to justify their positions rather than to better the insitution. It would be interesting to know what is returned for every dollar the taxpayer gives to LANL now compared to 1970, 1980, 1990, etc.

I don't have all the answers about restructuring LANL managment. However, my thoughts are the following:

1. remove the multi-layers of management (SET) between the director and the division leaders;
2. remove all technical decision making from all Chiefs of Staff unless they truly have a techinical background; if not, then let them coordinate the efforts of the admin staff (ssm's), but decide nothing that the tsm's do;
3. decide what the responsibilities of the Director are and hire someone who can do the job;
4. get rid of the Chief Science Officer, the Deputy Chief Science Officer, etc. since science is the Director's responsibility;
5. support safety and security from the bottom up, not the top down by listening to the folks who do the work; they know where the problems are;
6. clean up all the conflicting rules, regulations, processes, etc. that impact LANL work rather than adding to it;
7. use EVERYONE in the community - contractors, UC retirees, etc. to support LANL's mission; contract as much as possible with small businesses, make KSL compete with local companies for work such as air conditioner maintenance, electrical work, etc; in other words, get rid of all the monopolies that support LANL and use northern New Mexico businesses as much as possible;
8. support the staff; point out the good work that they do; point out the unfairness in newspaper articles, etc.; hold press conferences to dispute inaccuracies (such as purchasing a Mustang); punish those who break the rules but make sure that the punishment fits the crime; and
9. stop having all-hands-meetings (all hands on deck!). It's not the Navy.

A Path Forward:

In the present environment I feel compelled to provide a “vision” for our path forward.

While I would gladly return to the problems we had at any time prior to Pete’s reign of terror (nothing like lower expectations!), we do need to fix some things. Perhaps the best tips on how to move forward are found in Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great”. This book describes what distinguishes the great companies from the good ones. Some of the main threads are leadership, culture and mission focus.

The leaders of great companies are all “anti-Nanoses”. Humble and soft-spoken people who are from and embrace the cultures of their organizations. Its not about their egos, its about making their organizations succeed. They make their cultures work as “force multipliers” rather than warring against them. Lesson 1: pick a leader from the ranks who embraces the LANL culture’s positives and works to make it work for our future. Next, Collins mentions the importance of creating a good independent thinking management team (the right people on the bus, the wrong ones off). Clearly we have been given a dependent leadership who could not function without Pete.

Lesson 2: All the great companies have mission focus and do not let their success cause them to deviate from their mainstream activities. The choice of the core mission should be something we can do better than anyone else, something we love to do, and something we can “sell”. They do not diversify for the sake of growth; they only grow when it resonates with their core mission. This is what Collins calls the “hedgehog” principle. Choose a core mission and only do those things necessary to accomplish it.

Lastly, Collins offers us hope. Several of his great companies were in worse shape than us. They were within months of being out of business. They “confronted the brutal facts” and turned around. We can do this. We can not do this without a profound change in leadership, direction and focus.

It is clear to me at this point that someone who is at war with LANL is leading us. Who gave all our “friends” in DC the idea that LANL was such a mess in the first place? Pete. He fanned the flames so that he would have free reign to institute his vision of LANL. Nanos is the master of misinformation. Be careful about how you think about those he has disposed of. I strongly suspect that he has planted negative information about people to justify his actions (Neff, Meyer, etc.). Perhaps the rumors are true and just as likely they are planted to make Pete look justified in his actions. Think about it. Recent events fit a pattern; look at how well Pete’s other claims have stood up under the light of the truth.
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