Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Nanos Trivia

From Anonymous:

1. UC-Paid Director's Housing?
If you look up George Nanos on QwestDex, you get a telephone listing address of 454 Ridgecrest in White Rock. This is a modest home in one of White Rock's "less expensive" neighborhoods. If you go to the LA County Tax Assessor's office, the owner of the house in question is the "Jan and Richard Warren Educational Trust" of 119 Grand Canyon, also in White Rock. This house is a little nicer, but certainly no mansion befitting a LANL Director.
What triggered my curiosity was a rumor that Pete Nanos had built an executive-quality custom home in Los Alamos. Then a "friend of a friend" who works at a title company in town claimed that UC bought his custom home so he could live there mortgage-free. This is only a wild rumor, but it would be interesting to see if anyone can confirm or deny it. Does anyone know if UC provided housing assistance to previous Directors?

2. What motivates Peter Nanos?
I'm not a psychologist, so this isn't a professional opinion, but it is based on observation of human behaviors. At one of the Director's briefings shortly after he took over, Dr. Nanos vowed to "drain the swamp." I thought that this was an interesting choice of phrase, as it conveys the opinion that the organization he took over was somehow fetid ("a fen of stagnant waters") and needed a thorough housecleaning - he seemed to view himself as having been appointed to "kick ass and take names." At the time, I was embarrassed for LANL after the sacking of Walp and Doran and I thought that his strong leadership was just what we needed to get back on track.
Then we started seeing the "Inner Pete." My first concerns were raised in one of the all hands meetings when he subjected us to ten minutes of film clips as a motivational exercise. (BTW, I haven't been able to find that segment in any of the LabNet archives - perhaps someone remembers the particular date of the address).
Anyway, I started pondering the message of those film clips. They all seemed to be segments of sports teams or military units composed of sad-sacks, slackers, and misfits - teams that were worthless compared to their peers. Then along came a Cary Grant-style charismatic leader who whipped them into shape, restore their pride, and lead them to greatness as the pride of the fleet. I think this is Pete Nanos' self-image. LANL was a bunch of slackers, cowboys, buttheads, and the dregs of science until Pete Nanos came in and led us to greatness.

3. Shared fate - or punishment of the innocent.
One of Dr. Nanos' favorite phrases to justify his management style is "shared fate" - that we're all in this together and so should be punished collectively for the errors of the few. I've been pondering this too, as to me it has some strong conservative biblical overtones of the righteous smiting the wicked.
Clearly, the concept of punishment of the many for the sins of the few has it's origins deep in Christianity. One can almost hear the grim satisfaction of the John Ashcrofts knowing that 120,000 tsunami victims will fry in Hell forever because Adam ate the forbidden fruit 7,000 years ago. Dr. Nanos' punishing the poor Hispanics that work for Aramark for the laser eye incident, or canceling the 9/80 work schedule isn't in the same league, but seems to have its origins in the same philosophy. If someone in my group makes a mistake, will we all be sentenced Gomer Pyle-style to pushups on the quad?

4. Hiding problems
I was in a meeting a couple of weeks ago that included some senior people from outside LANL. One of the managers was having trouble getting some deliverables out of one of the subtask leaders and used the threat that "If I have to take this to Pete Nanos, he'll make the decision and you won't be happy with the result." On the one hand, we can applaud a management style where decision making is pushed down to the lowest possible level; on the other hand "I'm gonna tell Pete Nanos and then you'll be sorry" is a poor way to manage anyone. Threatening to "tell the teacher" is quickly becoming our current management style.

5. Post-recompete LANL structure.
My reading of the draft RFP is that NNSA envisioned a University-Commercial Entity joint venture of equals to run LANL. This is going to be very difficult to implement and still keep all current UC employees in the UC system. The only feasible mechanism I can see under this co-management scenario is to create a separate corporation as a joint venture (JV) between UC and the commercial entity (call them Acme Aerospace Corp). All current LANL UC employees would then be transferred to the JV, which would be responsible for all the pension and benefits as called out in the RFP, as amended. There is no way politically that all the TSMs could remain within the UC system and all the support people could be transferred to Acme Aerospace. Affirmative action and EEOC would prohibit it, as the TSMs are predominantly white and male, while the administrative support people are predominantly minority and female. You just can't split the workforce that way, and you would run into the sacred rule that no UC employee may be directed by a non-UC employee.
The alternative, subject to a little rubber-banding of the NNSA requirements, is that UC remains the prime contractor while they agree to subcontract "management consulting" to Acme Aerospace. Acme would then be paid as consultants out of the contract as an allowable expense, but would have no direct say in the day-to-day operations of the organization. This could be a really cushy contract - lots of money and no accountability - and UC would have someone to blame if things didn't go right.

The government provided Norris Bradbury with a bigger than average house so he could entertain special guests. I think he paid rent like everyone else. He was later able to buy the house.
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