Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Pete Nanos is taking a focused, planned approach from the ground up and is firm in resolving problems he sees

Letter to the Editor from the 3/8/2005 Los Alamos Monitor.


"Pete Nanos is taking a focused, planned approach from the ground up and is firm in resolving problems he sees [...]"

Well, I don't hardly know were to start on this one. I guess I'm glad to see this view presented, as it shows that the blog is open to all view points on this issue. On the other hand, I would have to say that the author is either completely ignorant about what has really transpired at LANL since last July (has he even read Kaupilla & Horne's account of the CREM incident?), or he is easily fooled.

In any event the author of this letter certainly meets my definition of someone "who just doesn't get it".
Nanos would be proud of this boy. Why, I bet he would make a *wonderful* AD!
I don't doubt the author of the Monitor article is reflecting the view from the upper floors of TA-3/SM-43 where he works. Shamefully, that view is filtered through opportunism and represents a staff that unfortunately has abandoned its only real collective responsibility, to truthfully advise. The pollyannic view expressed does not represent the views sincerely held by the overwhelming majority of the employees of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Had the author of the article actually worked out here he would have known that no processes begun at this institution since the current Director arrived has been a ground-up process.
I prefer "a mean or servile flatterer", myself.

Sycophant \Syc"o*phant\, n. [L. sycophanta a slanderer,
deceiver, parasite, Gr. ? a false accuser, false adviser,
literally, a fig shower; ? a fig + ? to show: cf. F.
sycophante. The reason for the name is not certainly known.
See Phenomenon.]
1. An informer; a talebearer. [Obs.] ``Accusing sycophants,
of all men, did best sort to his nature.'' --Sir P.

2. A base parasite; a mean or servile flatterer; especially,
a flatterer of princes and great men.

A sycophant will everything admire: Each verse, each
sentence, sets his soul on fire. --Dryden.

Sycophant \Syc"o*phant\, v. t. [CF. L. sycophantari to deceive,
to trick, Gr. ?.]
1. To inform against; hence, to calumniate. [Obs.]

Sycophanting and misnaming the work of his
adversary. --Milton.

2. To play the sycophant toward; to flatter obsequiously.

Sycophant \Syc"o*phant\, v. i.
To play the sycophant.
In the LA Monitor, the following letter to the editor on 8 March 2005 contained the following:

"There has been a lot of destructive criticism and personal disparagement voiced of late against senior LANL managers, particularly Pete Nanos."

In the words of our honorable Republican Senator and in the spirit of our esteemed ADWP, "get over it." Leadership isn't about being buddies with the people you're disparaging in public or insulting in directorate wide memos. Then again the gap between management and leadership couldn't be more grossly demonstrated than here at LANL.
OK Folks, give Gary a break. I participated in one of GPN's "brown bag" meetings with staff members. Pete did not do a whole lot of listening but wanted to spread the good news to the staff: that we've finally turned the corner, etc. It was clear even to the most naive observer that there was a total disconnect between the Fourth Floor and elsewhere. (GPN said a few more things that showed his total disconnect; I'd be glad to share except it'd probably identify the group I was with...so, sorry I must stay mum.) Pete was "pumpin' sunshine", so to speak. Maybe from Gary's office on the Third Floor things do look different...I heard Pete is now blaming the Division Leaders for not getting the message through the masses...go figure.
Sorry, no breaks tonight. If Gary doesn't want to think for himself, that is his problem. Don't expect anybody to forgive him for it.
"I heard Pete is now blaming the Division Leaders for not getting the message through the masses."

Message to Nanos: Your message came through loud and clear. It was heard, comprehended, evaluated, and rejected. You've destroyed your credibility by repeated distortions of the facts. You've lost any sympathy you might have gained in your current troubles by your peasant behavior.

Starting from a neutral opinion, it took two minutes of your first mandatory meeting in July to convince me that you are a loudmouth brigand. No amount of condescending lecturing is going to make me respect a reprobate.
Gary, you are welcome to your opinion regardless of how very, very far from reality it is. You point of view simply does not reflect that of the vast majority of people I know. I wish you were right, but very little Nanos has done can possibly be characterized as a "planned approach". Enjoy the delusion.
Gary was always a good guy so I have a hard time figuring out where he is coming from in his letter to the Monitor. Nanos is taking an approach from the bottom up, but unfortunately he doesn't seem to be able to stick with that approach. How does he get off going to one group and another and ranting and raving and using foul language with the ordinary, hard working employees he finds there. He seems to be simultaneously feeding and destroying the grass roots.

I can only guess at Nanos's motivation for his behavior. Either he is just having temper tantrums or he is truly delusional. Either way, yelling insults at the 18 year olds in the Navy may work great, but yelling insults at a bunch of scientists and rest of the staff, whose average age is way higher than 18, is simply self defeating behavior and makes Nanos look frantic, which he may very well be, considering the current situation at LANL.

I have to disagree with Gary. Maybe Nanos has focused times, but little of his public behavior is focused. Most of it is self defeating and, sadly, harmful to LANL and its employees.

From my point of view, Nanos is trying to straighten things out, but has lost it. I feel sad for jim and for LANL employees and for the USA. LANL is in the process of being wrecked and the country can ill aford its loss. Remember when we had Bell Labs? It is gone now. I guess in its eagerness to function more like a corporation, LANL is subscribing to the short term thinking that caused the demise of Bell Labs.
I watch the current goings on at LANL with "shock and horror". I have no idea what to predict from here on out.
I ask, what are the problems that
Nanos sees? Could it be
safety? He seems to make up some BS
or does not get the facts right. He
said Brad lied in the Physics today
article. He said that in a all hands meeting, yet he is clearly wrong. So did Nanos lie or is he just stupid? Either way his "planned approach" will destroy LANL. Of course that may be his plan. In that case it is ok to lie, at least in Pete's mind.
The article is very instructive for those of us near the bottom of the LANL food chain, for it shows how People Who Manage Us think. Let me see if I got the gist of it.

(i) Appearances can be misleading. Nanos is in fact a thoughtful leader, with a "vision for the lab". He is "dedicated" to this Lab. He puts in long hours. He sees problems that ordinary TSMs cannot see. He is focused on developing and implementing solutions to these problems.

(ii) Nanos comes to work "to do a good job". In this endeavor, he is impeded by a multitude of external enemies. The list of enemies with potentially hostile agendas includes: "DOE, NNSA, DoD, FBI, Congress, New Mexico and California state governments, the University of
California, environmental and anti-nuclear activists, the news media, competing laboratories, political organizations, etc." Had it not been for these organizations, Nanos' achievements would have been even greater.

(iii) Nobody in the world has the skill to perform the job of the LANL Director well.

(iv) Nanos shut down the Lab as a part of a "focused, planned approach". This Grand Plan will eventually "enhance our ability to do world-class science".

(v) We should stop criticizing Nanos and move on. It is our criticism of Nanos, not the shutdown, that destroyed the Lab morale. Criticism of Nanos is "divisive" and presents us "an unprofessional light".

(vi) Great many Lab employees support Nanos and his actions, however, are afraid to speak up.

Did I "get it"?
Doesn't PAD'n'WIPE contain a whole collection of folks, including set-asides (i.e., those who've had their previous assignments pulled because of failure to follow the Vice Admiral's implied and explicit wishes)? Maybe Gary is suffering from having survived a good keelhauling.

Let's be kind, even though the temptation for verbal lashes before the mast is nearly overhwelming.
The directory provides the group one is in, not one's title. See the heading! Gary is NOT the PADNWP.
I think the "collection" of folks you are thinking of reside in Sue Seestrom's organization, ADWP, not PADNWP.
This forum is rapidly losing it's usefulness. Anyone who disagrees with the "Nanos is evil and must be shot immediately" crowd is immediately accused of stupidity or cowardice. People are entitled to their opinions, just as you have the freedom to disagee. Personal attacks diminish your credibility and turn reasonable people away.
To collective anonymous comments (why are we speaking to each other anonymously?)-

Well, I do not manage anyone. But I care about the nation and the Laboratory.

I have spent some time in the trenches, some time out of the trenches, even some time climbing trees to survey the landscape. You may benefit the perspective that comes from those experiences. Those who know me will confirm that I am not a "suck up" and have been willing to take career-limiting hits for pushing hard for the nuclear weapons complex to do the right thing, even when the right thing is to go against the political tide. While in DoD, I (and others) fought against entrenched forces at DOE and DoD, to revitalize the nuclear weapons program. We were willing to go out on a limb for this because it is important to the nation. We are enjoying some benefit from that effort. Los Alamos and its mission is more important than the upsets we have encountered here.

I think that LANL management has a multi-step, multi-year plan to bring the lab and its world-class science into the state of the art of performance in business, safety, and security. There will be real benefits to to that end state, but the buy-in price is high in terms of change and upset and interim inefficiencies. I personally want to get to a state where we do not waste much of our fee in unnecessary work, in unfocused efforts and in-efficient programs, in unnecessary safety and security crises, etc. We can do a lot better. Industry has proved that it can be done.

While I am genuinely sympathetic with the individual trials of Lab people who have been impacted by these events, I cannot credit general malevolence on the part of management. Pete Nanos is not picking on you. He does not have the time. Please consider that every event has a different story recorded by every participant. Ask yourself what the intended institutional benefit is from these management actions you oppose. Are there alternate motivations than those you assume?

Each person and their work and their career are important. But not more important than this institution and this mission. Sometimes we have put aside private hurts and pull together to accomplish an important mission. This is one of those times.

I have been generally impressed, at LANL, at DoD, DOE, and in Congress at the hard-working, sincere efforts by those with heavy responsibilities to do the work that needed to be done. There are exceptions. And these guys do not stand 10' tall. I have appealed for fairness when I have seen injustice and will continue to do so. Rule of law and individual rights should be observed in the process of the institution doing the right thing.

I am willing to sit down with you, one or all, to talk face to face. I cannot answer individual complaints where I do not have knowledge of the details. But you should take my comments seriously. Lets pull together, get over this hump, and go on to many more outstanding contributions to this great nation's security and well being.

Gary Stradling
The collection of people also reside in the PADNWP, Hockaday for example.
A large population of the staff at LANL are a bunch crying, whining, dilatants and prima-donnas. Pete Nanos has treated you all with kid gloves. He has not yet been “tough”. His failure was that he did not come here and clean house by firing some senior people immediately to get the needed attention. If you ever have to go out and get a real job instead of being on white-collar welfare you then realize how coddled you have been. When the new contractor come in maybe they can fix this place.
I know Gary Stradling only by reputation, and I'm sure he doesn't know me. Flaming him as a sycophant was uncalled for - I think he was trying to communicate the view from the fourth floor and many of you fell into sophomoric ad hominem attacks. This is wrong. Gary is a smart guy and I respect his judgement.

I think our problems ARE sorting themselves out. The powers that be have come to recognize that Mr. Nanos has committed major blunders and are moving (slowly, but moving) to replace him. Continuing to villify him does no further good for the discontented or the institution. He has been rendered impotent for all practical purposes.

The retirement plan is the number one problem with the recompete, and I think Senator Domenici is getting the message. A mass retirement of our most senior TSMs will result in a serious blow to LANL's weapons capabilities and he knows it. He needs to find a face-saving way to fix it.

Yes, a new contractor will replace many of the SET/EB - that's the way the world works. Will the new managers be better or worse than the incumbents? Yes. Some will be better, others will be worse. You don't get to choose which.

Managers are fungible goods - don't get too emotionally involved (love or hate) with any of them. If you're working for a jerk, move. If you're working for a good guy - be grateful, but don't expect him to be your boss for life.

John Browne used to say that management is like a tree full of monkeys - the ones on top looking down see nothing but smiling faces. The ones on the bottom look up and see nothing but a$$holes. There's some truth in that.

Ok, kids.

Feel better now?


Lets us all try to make sure we've had our afternoon naps before posting comments to the blog.

Thank you,

Your Moderator.
Gary, I know you have integrity and it is unfortunate that some have chosen to attack you here. While I disagree with much of your viewpoint with respect to Nanos, I WOULD like to sit down and talk through the issues with you. I also object to the anonymous comments. Scott Watson
There is an amazingly LARGE NUMBER of serious people who would like to sit down and discuss, calmly, the future of Los Alamos National Laboratory. Most of those people have NOT been unduly flaming in their posts to this blog. But, even anonymously, they have tried, like good scientists, to correct factual errors and misstatements (e.g., "Too bad Physics Today is not a genuine, peer-reviewed journal").

Let us get back to the root of the problem we face--public misperception about what we do and how we do it. We, the staff members and workers at LANL, can effect a change from the bottom up. The way to do that is to engage our two Senators and our Congressman about the role that Los Alamos ought play in the certain crises our country will be facing in the next few years.

We will be needed. Let us hope that we, as a laboratory, will still be here.

Finally, let me quote from the brightest shining star of Los Alamos history, Hans Bethe, our first Theoretical Division Leader:

"Whether or not their governments respond to their advice, scientists have an OBLIGATION to speak out publicly when they feel there are dangers ahead."
(emphasis is mine.)

-Brad Lee Holian
Like Gary and a number of the rest of you, I've been at the lab for a long time. In the past, every time the lab has had a crisis situation the staff and the management have pulled together to solve the problem. The resiliency and loyalty of the people here has been amazing. Just say the word, and the guys down in the trenches were willing to fight the battles and go the extra mile.
However, it hasn't happened this time and I don't think it's going to happen. I don't think that the present management particularly cares whether they have the support of the staff. Nanos would like all of the "buttheads" and "whiners" to leave.
Consequently, the staff isn't paying much attention to the management, either. If you don't believe that, look at how many people are coming to Nano's talks. He's up there talking, and nobody is paying any attention.
Frankly, the only people who can break this impasse are the managers. Telling people to "suck it up" and "get on with it" isn't going to cut it. You can't undercut the people down in the treches and expect them to stand up and fight for you. The support for the present management at the TSM level is just about zero. I've never seen that much unanimity of opinion at the lab about anything before. If the management wants that to change, they are going to have to make the effort to make it happen. Isolating themselves from the troops by sitting up on the fourth floor and issuing edicts isn't helping matters.
I think it would be really interesting if Brad Holian were to take a walk in the director's shoes and take the helm of the good ship LANL for 30 to 60 days. Do you suppose he could do it, or would he end up on the rocks?
Much of the problem with top LANL management is that it only thinks 30 to 60 days out. This is evident from the constant string of orders coming down that get rescinded shortly thereafter. Making someone director for a month only propagates this error.
I've heard the comment before that "I wouldn't want the director's job with its stress, responsibility, etc..." Nanos and others before him must have either wanted the job or felt at least some sense of confidence that they could do the job but the two are not the same thing. One may be purely the pursuit of power and prestige and the other is leadership and results. If the current conditions are the result of planning, I'd hate to see the chaos in the absence of planning!
This post started with a simple question, “could I write something here and sign my name? And what are the implications of doing this?” To get to the point, the answer is no. Why is worth some comment.

I agree with Brad’s assertion that we should be discussing the future of the Lab. It is vital right now, and it is something that should be a continual dialog. I’ve posted to the blog before on this matter and I’m proud of what I wrote, I’d love to sign my name, so why not?

In a nutshell it would be too dangerous to my family. They depend on me, and the current Lab leadership has demonstrated that they will destroy people who get in their way. I am not in a position where I can afford to cause them harm for the cause of the Lab. I’m sure that my position on this matter says something about the present situation and myself.

If I did sign my name, it would be a temporary boon to my reputation with my peers. Nanos is hated and his departure would be seen as a reason to celebrate among those I associate with. If I said something positive, I would be the object of ridicule and lose the respect of my peers. That says volumes about the current state of affairs as well. I’m sure this situation is repeated all over the Lab. If someone is comfortable with speaking positively about Nanos, it speaks volumes about both the person and their circumstances.

I’ll close with some observations about our leadership past and present. I sat down eye-to-eye with John Browne while he was Director and spoke about a serious management issue, the competence and behavior of people in leadership positions. Years earlier I had a heated e-mail exchange with John when he was an AD, I was a lowly staff member in his directorate. In both cases, I communicated with John without fear or reservation. Pete Nanos does not engender the same level of trust and openness. Anytime I’ve either seen or heard about someone raising an issue with Pete they have their head handed to them (“sit down and shutup!”). I’m fairly certain that John did little to deal with the matter I discussed, but at least he was open to listening and I trusted him enough to relate the problem to him. John’s ineffective management was a problem; Pete’s lack of communication insures that he never will hear about the problems in the first place.

What is worse? You be the judge. Maybe the best way to state the questions is (apologies to Ronald Reagan)

“is LANL better off now, than it was two years ago?”
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