Monday, February 28, 2005

Sad, sad state of senior management

From Anonymous:

This from ADWP Update #7, an irregular e-mail from Sue Seestrom:
>This was the last week of regular season high-school basketball, and I
>have attended quite a few games over the coarse of the season. I witnessed
>an impressive act of leadership at one of these games; I would like to
>share it because it bears on the present situation at the Lab. In the
>early part of a game, a player fell to the ground with the wind knocked
>out of him; he and many fans clearly thought he had been punched in the
>stomach. There was no foul called on the play - perhaps there was no
>punch, or perhaps the referees missed it because it was away from the
>ball. This player did not yell, retaliate, or complain at the unfair
>treatment he had just received. He simply got back into the game, played
>his heart out, and led his team to a close victory. That is exactly what
>we need to do now at the lab - stop worrying about whether the shut-down
>was right or wrong, whether the someone has said unfair things to some of
>us - lets just get our heads back in the game score some points!


Well, I had been willing to give Seestrom the benefit of the doubt, if only because I had heard that she was an ok person.

I'm afraid that this little bit of unadulterated sycophancy makes that impossible. She's one of them.
But you, Saruman, I understand now too well. I keep a clearer memory of your arguments, and deeds, than you suppose. When last I visited you, you were the jailor of Mordor, and there I was to be sent. Nay, the guest who has escaped from the roof, will think twice before he comes back in by the door. Nay, I do not think I will come up. But listen, Saruman, for the last time! Will you not come down?
The situation at the lab is more than a punch in the stomach during a game that no one will remember by this time next week. Lives, savings, and careers have been destroyed. The spirit and vigor of one of this Nation's great institutions have been extinguished. Over $850M that American taxpayers invested here have been siphoned off critical programs and as a result the Nation's security may have been compromised. Normally, we might have the luxury of letting history be the referee of what went on here. But, in this high-stakes game, there may be no one left to blow the whistle.
The email from Sue is just sick.
It makes no sense whatsoever. We did
not get just a punch. We where punched
over and over than told to shut up.
The game starts again and the beatings start again. To
stay in the game would hurt ourselves
and the nation. The lab is now less
secure, less safe and far less effetive. If you have a growth that
is going to kill, you cannot just move
on. You have to cure it or you will
die. Look at Sues scientific
activities and what she has done.
She is of very poor quality and can
never leave LANL for a university job. Why do think these sad pathetic
people are doing this? Why do think
such sad people become managers? Because this way they will not have
to do real work and be found out as
the frauds that they are.
Is that the same Sue Seestrom that said that Nanos, "could" have been a great director? As with the rest of the SEB(T), they play better from the sidelines while the rest of us take the real hits. Sue, your boss is a loser! The longer you stand by and watch us take it in the shorts for him, the less we will respect you.
Seestrom is ok and has a reputation for fighting for her people, even through the stand-down. I _really_ doubt she was defending Nanos.

The blog is entertaining, and the stand-down was wrong in many ways. But we need to calm down at work and to move on to more constructive activities. Ask yourself what you would do and say to your colleagues and friends to help that happen, and then reread that email.
Good suggestion. It's always good advice to stop and reflect. Having done so, I would have to say that I would urge my colleagues to continue to push for Nanos' ouster. His actions were unforgivable, and until he is gone, we cannot turn the corner and "get our heads back in the game".
Don't make me puke, Seestrom is an okay person? This is the same woman who said, when asked about one of the employees who was terminated without cause, "Sometimes good people have to go down for the good of the lab."

You call that an okay person? She meant that good people have to take the fall for this corrupt management. She's one of them!
If there is any justice they will all be going down for the good of the lab, and soon!
But we need to calm down at work and to move on to more constructive activities. Ask yourself what you would do and say to your colleagues and friends to help that happen, and then reread that email.

Yes, I agree. I have been telling my colleagues and friends to fine tune their resume, and get out before their lives and careers are ruined.
Move on to more constructive activities indeed. The game is survival - and if you are not on the retirement plan, or the free money minority lawsuit plan, then you are just another disposeable worker bee waiting your turn to take political, career, and mental abuse while being told to like it.
Seestrom, once a good scientist, is now the lapdog of the Admiral. She, like many at the top level, will do whatever it takes and say whatever she must to cling to her highly-compensated position.
Suppose _you_ were were an AD, and a decent human being. Would you, as a compassionate, intelligent person and a high-level manager, send out an email stating the director has to leave and everybody else may as well dust off their resumes too? Or would you try to provide a more constructive way to look at an obviously difficult situation for thousands of people?

What would a compassionate, thoughful person do if they _weren't_ a manager?

It's much easier to tear down a structure than to build one up. But every day, you get to choose between the two.
I'm sure I can't answer that, because I cannot in my wildest imaginations ever see myself working directly for Nanos.

I can tell you, though, that I would not be telling the team to take one for the Gipper.
Interesting analogy from Seestrom, who has allowed her ADWP and Division Manager-level subordinates to get away with murder by misuse of taxpayer dollars, cheat on the restart, and abuse their positions of power.
I'm getting tired of this mean-spirited discussion. I have known Susan Seestrom for the last ten years, including her service as P division leader. I have always seen her stand up for people, even when it did not make her popular with upper management. Like several other people in this forum, she is telling us to get on with our life. If she is saying that, we should listen! Personally attacking her because she is not saying what most people in this forum are trying to achieve is just mean spirited - given where she is, she is phrazing it in the best way she can!
It seems that many of the comments to this post have been made by people who are just coming to the realization that life is not always fair and that bad things happen to good people. While the analogy made in the original e-mail message may not be perfect, I think that it does contain some value. I think everyone would be well served by evaluating how each of us can make the best of this bad situation. Some people may feel that they are best served by leaving/retiring, while others may try to stay in place and get their programs running again. Either way, I think this would be more productive than simply shouting into the wind.
Yuch! This blog has brought out the worst in many people (or a vocal few.) We have Nanos - 9 out of 10 he'll be gone at change of contract. This is too short a time frame for a new director. How many of us have never made a mistake? And the viciousness in this forum matches any statements he ever made! Before you flame my comments- I do not think that Nanos has turned out to be a good LANL match. However, Seestrom has a point. It is time to show the world that you are excellent scientists- not excellent whiners. Put this summer behind you- I can tell you that the rest of the nation thinks we are a bunch of cry babies. Do you really think this behavior is a sign of excellence???
Yeah, I agree. Its time to suck it up. Do what you have to for your own sanity. Take more vacation, sick leave or just relax and take it slow. Nanos will not be here forever.
I would like to correct one misconception presented in the previous comment: when you shout here, you are not shouting into the wind. You are shouting in front of an audience that now comprises approximately 26,000 visitors. Some of those visitors come from DOE. Some come from the US Senate. Some from the House of Representatives. Some come from the Office of the President of the University of California. Some sit on the 4th floor of the ad building. Some are reporters for the Associated Press, Physics Today, Nature, the Albuquerque Journal, the Oakland Tribune, and, yes, the Los Alamos Monitor.

Starting to get the picture?
Laboratory senior management:

You must *earn* the trust, respect and loyalty of your subordinates in order to succeed. With a few exceptions, you are failing to obtain or maintain any of these states (hint: some are dependent on others).

If you fail utterly (as a few already have), you will not spend the rest of your management career wondering which of your subordinates are protecting your interests, and which are simply taking care of you - they will all be in the latter category.

The choice is yours to make.
"I can tell you that the rest of the nation thinks we are a bunch of cry babies"

No, we don't. Being abused by one's employer is something many americans can relate to these days, but it's something altogether more painful to witness when it's a national laboratory charged in part with safeguarding and upgrading our nuclear stockpile.
If the player got punched every time he came down the court, the referee would not have missed it. Anyway, this is much more than a game.
Yes, it is much more than a game. Which is why the minimizing simile to a basketball game coming from an AD at LANL is so insulting.

A previous commentor complained about the personal attacks on Seestrom. These are not personal attacks, they are professional attacks, and well-deserved.
Her ballgame analogy is strained.
A better one would be a game
where the coach punches all his
players every time they come off
the floor and then ties their
ankles together.
I am surprised that no one has yet pointed out the poor grammar used in Seestrom's missive. In the first sentence, she let her spell checker OK the use of "coarse" inappropriately as a homophone for the correct "course". In the last sentence she garbles the language by stating "whether the someone has said unfair things to some of us". This is at the least hard to understand but most tellingly illuminates an utter lack of communications skills possessed by many of the managers at this laboratory. One would think that an AD would have all of their correspondence edited for content, grammar, sensibility. Sign me: "A scientist who appreciates the power of the English language properly applied"
Actually, I feel sadness for Sue. She catches it from us, the LASL bloggers, for improper use of analogies and homophones and from the LANL destroyer and bully, Nanos, who yells at her to "sit down and shut up!"
Let's not miss an important observation here. Seestrom's comment indicates that the Executive Board at LANL is well aware of the near-universal sentiment that the LANL shutdown was a mistake. The EB knows how far it must go to regain the trust and respect of the technical staff. The Public Affairs director continues to deny these two things. This is a telling glimpse into the EB's thinking.
ADWP Seestrom's scientific record pales in comparison to Acting ADSR Devaurs'.
This is not meant as a personal attack, but LANL upper managers in general behave like mindless brown nosers with no dignity whatsoever, which is a major part of the problems with the Lab's leadership. Are they so afraid of losing their jobs and lifestyles that they cannot stand up for what's right, but instead kiss up to the director and their line managers no matter what? We are so tired of this sort of behavior, and Sue's sports-oriented pep talk here more than anything is entirely disappointing and saddening, and hypocritical.

Let me tell you about Sue Seestrom and sporting events. When her daughter Jessie was playing soccer, Sue would discuss and bootlick Ray Juzaitis -- then ADWP Director -- talking about work and personnel problems with LANL individuals that she would name. When her younger daughter Jennie was playing soccer, she would constantly politik with then Director John Browne. Sue sees sporting events as a way to kiss up to her superiors. At her daughter’s graduation, Sue was visibly upset that she could not monopolize then Deputy Lab Director Carolyn Mangeng’s time.
Sue's husband Chris Morris recently told me that he’d like to retire because he’s fed up with upper management and people naturally assume that he has to speak the party line. Chris said that he has a big house in Quemazon and kids in college, and he can’t just afford to leave the Lab now, plus his wife could not  find a similar paying job outside of UC.
So Sue, be a big girl, and just say, what you want: (1) Employees must stop saying bad things about upper management to my husband, (2) and if you want to get ahead, I can be brown nosed at LA High sporting events.
It is sad to see what this forum has become... How would you know what Susan discussed with anyone, and whether/if names were mentioned in a conversation? Were you evesdropping? Did you hear every word? Catch every nuance? If you did, please send your resume to the KGB (or its current replacement).

Enough personal attacks!
...sniff...I am just so upset I can't stop crying...sniff...I read about this guy and his wife at LANL. He wants to retire, but he and his wife can't afford to...sniff...He can't retire because they both have to keep working because they have a big house in Quemazon, and kids in college...sniff...I feel so bad for them because I don't how they are going to make it on only $415,000 a year...sniff...Maybe we can set up a fund to help them out at a local bank?...sniff...Yeah, that's it! That's the positive, move on attitude she's talking about!...sniff...Ok, I feel better now...I'm back in the game scoring points...
Stumbling upon this blog was quite humorous for me. To you all spending your time blogging like freshmen in high school is anything what is expected from the world class scientists you consider yourselves to be.
I cannot fathom how or why anyone would even attempt to say that Susan is a "mindless brown noser" when all that she does is work for the best of her employees. You all should ask yourselves- what is worse, to be a manager doing your best to get what is best for everyone and who happens to throw out a weak analogy or to be someone who sits at home doing nothing to help the situation and, rather, merely searches for flaws in everyone else rather than looking in the mirror.
While you are busy sitting at home analyzing her grammar and criticizing her every move, Susan Seestrom is busy working sometimes 12 hour days trying to help get the lab back to where it once was. The time that she does get off, perhaps to watch a basketball or soccer game, the outrageous suggestion is made that she is trying to kiss up to her superiors. Do you honestly believe that such an amazing woman got her job through side-line small talk?
And lastly, before you feel the need to bring Susan's husband and children into such a mindless conversation of insult after insult, at least get the facts straight- it is Ginny, not Jennie.
Here's an interesting thought - the KGB candidate couldn't get the name right. Maybe the rest of the "facts" he (she?) reported are questionable...
...worker bees?
The "shun and purge" is under way.
Response to 10:11 comment that
begins: "This is not meant as a
personal attack".
The person then launches into a
rambling personal attack of the
worst sort featuring gossip
about Sue and all her family
members by name.
This 10:11 comment is completely
To Sue S.: I don't know you, though
I work in your directorate, but I
can't believe you deserve this treatment.
BTW, I signed my name to the
petition to remove Nanos.
-- D.F. Simmons, Soon-to-be-ex TSM
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