Saturday, March 26, 2005

As a manager today I keep asking myself

From Anonymous:

Every manager of complex facilities, especially ones that have exceeded their design life by a decade or more, knows that he or she has problems in maintenance and operations. These problems are found in inspections and self-assessments and are appropriately documented. Every manager I know submits this list for funding and is told to prioritize them. In medicine this would be comparable to triage. Coming up with this prioritized list obviously involves a great deal of conjecture. The manager submits his or her prioritized list up the management chain and, in almost 100% of the time, even some of the prioritized items are not funded. Yet when something happens like the laser injury, only the parties that denied funding to cover identified shortfalls escape reprimands and punishment. (Chemistry Division managers had requested and been denied funding by the Laboratory Director for a person to help oversee and enforce safety compliance.)

On the other hand, a division manager threatened to lock down TA-18 a few years ago and have his people abandon the site if money to operate the site safely was not promptly provided. Strangely, the money came post haste from DOE/NNSA and the facility continued to operate safely (and securely) in spite of the fact that it was one of oldest facilities on site.

However, hardball tactics can only be used sparingly and in healthy organizations driven by principle and not "inane arbitrariness to reduce overheads" they are needed even less. Worrying about overheads seems particularly inane considering that our senior management seems to have wasted $1B by some estimates on overhead processes of dubious long term value.

As a manager today I keep asking myself, where would my facilities and those in the rest of Laboratory be if that same $IB had been used to correct specific things that we already knew about and had documented instead wasting hours finding out what we already knew and creating mountains of useless SYA paperwork?

I deeply appreciate a manager who asks him/her self what could have been done differently. This kind of introspection, widely practiced, could have saved LANL much in the last 20 years. I know there are numerous managers who care deeply about the good of LANL, but I see so many who do not. They battle each other for more power and money and they retaliate against employees bringing up valid problems on the belief that they, as managers, will be punished for reporting problems. Not only that, in my experience such managers they are often right. On the other hand, they are rarely fired, just forced to a lower level job which is generally only a blow to the ego, not a major blow to the pocketbook. Managers get fired for safety accidents and for security lapses, sometimes, not fairly. It takes guts to stand up for safety and security budget before hand, but in the end it is in all management's best self interest to do so.
The person who stood up for the safe and secure operation of TA-18 is greatly to be admired, but under the current administration, I fear he/she would have been demoted. On the other hand a truly good manager wouldn't mind being demoted if he/she had the strength of character to sand up for his or her beliefs.
One of the best managers I ever worked for said that management was really a "service" job in the sense that it involved providing services to employees and other managers, rather than dominating them. His principles made him an excellent manager.
Prioritizing projects and having some cut is a normal way of life in any organization. Perhaps in the past, however, we didn't give safety and security a high enough priority, with the best intentions. Now that we see the outcome of this neglect there is no excuse for not pushing safety and security to the top of the list for a while. Still, I am aware of managers who are still trying to cover up the problems they become aware of rather than putting their careers on the line to get the problem solved.
I’m glad you keep asking yourself the tough questions, if you are in a management position, don’t stop, as this will drive change. I understand completely the challenges we face running our antiquated facilities. We don’t have an institutional strategy to provide our science community facilities that support their work. Some facilities work better then others only due to the hard work and imaginative efforts put forth by good people. I’ve seen some get punished for working hard to effect change. We have enough money to improve our situation; it’s not being managed properly. Laboratory leadership does not understand this because our directorates are structured to compete for funding, not support each other. To cite a quick example of this, we have a directorate that handles facility maintenance, yet divisions continue to create shadow groups that ultimately compete for the limited funds. In the end, they both do a poor job.

I’d like to quickly address and clarify one comment in the original post. Chemistry division managers did not request funding for a person to oversee and enforce safety compliance prior to the laser accident. In fact the creation of the various safety committees in place at the time we’re deemed ineffective because the management team did not support the efforts. The laser injury was poor judgment on the part of the PI. In reading through the report, laser safety glasses could have prevented the injury, or a camera could have been used to capture an image the PI wanted to see. Needless to say the divisions policy for notification was not followed. All the rules in place at the time were bypassed.
Poster 12:40 is so disingenuous and misrepresent numerous facts. It is obvious that the poster is from PS or a support organization that loves to pat scientist on the back, and say if only you followed the rules, and allowed us to do our job, the lab would be fine. I am quite familiar with the C division situation (although I am NOT in C division).

Some Facts:
(1) The former C Division leader did request an RDL (ops) before the accident, and was turned down by Jim Angelo (PS division) with the comment that there were higher priorities. Plain and simple, the “support” side had higher priorities, but in retrospect, Angelo likes to say that C Division did not make their case because the DL and AD did not think it was important. This might be true for the AD (Meyer), but it was not true for the DL.

(2) The facilities management at LANL is TERRIBLE, and it is the inability to get even simple service done that has lead to shadow organizations. Independent assessments of facilities management has characterized LANL’s FM as among the worst in the complex with no leadership, overstaffing, underperforming and no accountability. The suggestion that Technical Divisions are arrogant in their approach and “steal” money from FM is untrue. The Technical Divisions are desperate to get their work done (BY THE WAY, the programmatic work is why the lab is here – not to make sure that PS, PM and the various FM organizations are staffed), and they have NO RECOURSE but to try and solve the problems. Have you ever been to RC-1 where roof leaks on the hot cells? Of course, it is not the priority for FM, and in fact only 19 repairs were done for the entire LANL complex in February. It is not a matter of money – it is a matter of systems, performance, and accountability. This is the single best reason to move to an industrial partner so FM is done better (anything would be better).

(3) A couple documented cases of how the Facilities folks are managed:

a. If you order movers (which are required to move anything), and there is any variance (ie, the boxes need taping), all work will stop, and the workers will remain idle (although the requesting organization will be charged).
b. A request for an overhead light to be changed in the Physics building laid unprocessed for 7 months until division leader-to-division leader conversations. Once the light bulb changer showed up, he had the wrong light, and did not return for 3 weeks!

It is really unfortunate that Facilities are so poorly managed at LANL. If you compare the bugets per square foot at LANL to SNL or LLNL we really should much better performance – perhaps firing that part of the house would send a performance message.

Stop suggesting the Division Leaders and Group Leaders in technical divisions don’t care about safe and secure work. They DO – and they have been as creative as anyone in the complex.
Regarding shadow organizations. They will be a thing of the past in the next year. They will ALL be replaced with a centralized model of support.
As an employee I wonder about a DL who hires an SSM to fill the position of chief of staff and who then turns over critical technical decisions to someone totally unqualified. Not only unqualified but a mini-nanite (pico nanos) who has attended Nanos' management training and who has decided that the way to operate is to make decisions without really listening to input and to make those who disagree, including TSM group leaders, feel threatened all for control and to augment a resume.

I would really love to have a DL who is as articulate and concerned as the original poster. The description of the $1B waste on overhead must surely include the salary of the above-described chief of staff, as well as other grossly overpaid undertrained employees who are in a position of power without the requisite technical background.

Can anyone really explain why a division needs a chief of staff to do more than keep all the group and division admins apprised of all the rule changes, form changes, deadlines, etc. that the LANL bureacracy loves? Is it really necessary to pay someone more than $100k/year to do this?

If someone from ADSR reads this, please do a sanity check throughout your directorate and rein in this runaway chief of staff.
Division Chief of Staff? We have one in the size of a group of about 60 employees and its an overhead group to boot. Makes about 110K per year and all she does is supervises 2 Admins and walks around and chit-chats with all the women about there personal lives. Go figure.
Yes indeed 8:08PM. Its about promoting protected classes and achieving quotas at the highest levels. The work ethic seems all to often to have gone the way of the dodo especially in support organizations.

I have particular trouble with the protected class that has alliegance to Salt Lake City. Many are so incompetent, but highly protected and strongly promoted. I have been bypassed for promotions and discriminated against by this group in increasing frequency during my past 23 years.
The first post does not ring true, blaming the laser incident on a staffing issue. This sounds like a management alibi, and these are far too common at LANL Cremers was responsible for his workplace, and his Group Leader was supposed to be "walking his spaces", including Cremers space. They were both wrong. You can't blame line failure on some safety stiff... though LANL has a history of doing that. If that post is really a "manager" he needs a wake up call.
As for the FM side of the house, it has long been a disaster. In good part this is because LANL has always resisted DOE orders, for just general cussedness. Its "malicious compliance" which means that they make the paperwork just as stupid as possible, and yell for more staff, and blame DOE. As a result everyone gets the feeling safety and security are implemented by idiots. We need to look to Sandia, or other DOE sites, where they just do this and get on with it. Only LANL makes this stuff this ugly. FM needs to be cleaned out; and the folks that turn the DOE orders into LANL crap.
To 8:32 PM. Interesting. I thought the Mormons had lost their power base as a subculture within LANL after the departure of Jim Jackson. I haven't seen any obvious evidence of that former religious "Good Old Boy" club inside the halls of LANL in several years.
The 8:08 comment raises an important issue, the LANL bloat. For most of its history LANL got by just fine without a single "Chief of Staff". I'll bet they can't even tell you what they do that a secretary can't do. Nonetheless, LANL has 45 of these over paid folks; 45 more than they should have... But don't stop there; how about 28 "Office Leaders", paid about like Group Leaders. Lab Legal has five of these, for 55 people. And this is all part of overhead... Legal is doing very well.
To 8:51, Office Leader - Forgot about that one. Now there is some real bloat there. I know of a failed division leader that now has that title. He makes 185K. Whats up with that? What could he possibly be doing as an Office Leader making that kind of salary? This place is really screwed up. Thats the kind of fat and pork Nanos should be looking at and eliminating.
Here are the Office Leaders as of 1/05. I recognize a few "winners" or is that "losers". oops its the same thing.

Would 'whoever' please stop adding derogatory comments about protected classes to every single thread. Can't you be professional? We get it that you have a personal vendetta.

You know, I have worked with women, blacks, hispanics, asians, etc. - as I recall about half were better than average, about half were not! The only group that comes to mind as consistently under average are those who are always whining that they can't get a fair shake. My (silent) answer when I hear this cr*p is "Ya' might look in the mirror."
To 9:57 - What the heck are you talking about? Read your own post. You sound like a bigot.
To 8:39PM: It happening below radar level, but is as strong as ever. The shun-and-purge is well under way.
Nope. Not a bigot. My fourth sentence says 1/2 + 1/2 = 1 in a foreign language (statistics). My point was that angry whiny people usually undermine themselves. (but choose to blame others). I'd just rather that 'whoever' would quit working a complaint about 'protected classes' into every conceivable topic. Its ridiculous and tacky.
I agree with 11:27 PM. Less whining would be better.
Bigotry is defined in the heart and broken spirit of the victim and not by words and protestations of the bigot.

Isn't whining about people whining somewhat oxymoronic.
Of course then there are the people who are whining about people who are whining about the whiners.
Good point. We are all a bunch of whiners.
Let's stay focused on the content of the posts. For example, there was nothing in the 7:56pm post about protected classes, just about giving responsibilities to an individual who is not qualified and who operates as Nanos does - makes hasty decisions, can't ask for input and honestly use it, and because of Nanos' management training class, treats those who disagree with his/her decisions the same way Nanos treats others.

So we have 26 office leaders? What's the average salary? What's the overhead for each? How many chiefs of staff? What's the average salary? What's the overhead for each? Do we have this class of employees because of the confusing and conflicting DOE/NNSA regulations? What do they contribute to LANL? What do they cost LANL and the taxpayer?

The increase in these types of jobs is caused by the increase in paperwork (formality of operations - FOP) the DOE requires. Add to this NANOS' required increase in paperwork. This is all CYA stuff, wasting money when it could better be spent on real support and research.
Flaming people as bigots for recognizing the AA/EEOC constraints we work under is unfair. When I was a hiring manager, I was directed to hire the "most qualified" person for the job. However, HR only permitted me to interview Hispanic women for the position.

That's reality. You may not like it, but that's the way the government works. We do not (nor are we permitted to) have a color-blind meritocratic organization. Every year every employer has to submit a report of their progress towards their AA/EEOC "goals," and they had better meet them.

At one company I worked at, they reclassified a female clerk as a drafter to make the numbers work better. Did she have the knowledge, skills, and ability to drive a CAD system? No. But she did help us make the required numbers, so it was a positive thing for the organization.
6:05 PM

Just curious. What are the AA/EEOC constraints, goals, quotas, whatever, that LANL works under?

At one time I thought these goals only applied to companies larger than a certain size that received federal funds? I haven't paid attention for a very long time though.

I do remember an incident along those lines many years ago when I worked for a defense contractor. Layoffs came and it was pretty much white males that got laid off. That was one thing. The sad part was that several employees would just go around and be very vocal about how they were not going to get laid off because of their ethnic group. A bit obnoxious maybe, but they were correct and those were the facts. No one complained about it particularly as I recall. Everyone pretty well knew that's the way it worked. These were white male engineers and they understood that there were always plenty more where they came from.

Anyway, hearing stories about this stuff is like knowing everyone's salary. It's bound to be annoying, but it's part of reality. So you have to treat it as such and factor it into your plans as appropriate. I would suggest not wasting much psychic energy on it.

Original poster. Stop asking yourself repeatedly. You analyzed it, came up with answers, and so maybe it's time to close it out because it doesn't matter anymore.
Einstein once remarked that "the important thing is never stop asking questions." I will follow his suggestion and take yours under advisement. If we don't keep asking questions about what's going on around us, we might as well place a sack over our collective heads and await the executioner.
I think I agree with you 9:23, the Original Poster should continue to

"...keep asking myself, where would my facilities and those in the rest of Laboratory be if that same $IB had been used to correct specific things that we already knew about and had documented instead wasting hours finding out what we already knew and creating mountains of useless SYA paperwork?"

everyday until he is satisfied with the answer.
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