Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Good Times in Dodge City

Good Times in Dodge City
As this discussion winds down, some here will celebrate that they have been able to run the sheriff out of Dodge. As they watch the old sheriff ride over the hill to the West and as they all crowd into the Dodge saloon to buy drinks around and dance and celebrate, it might be a good idea to check out the guy coming up the valley to the east.

The complaints on this blog have been:
-The Shutdown seemed capricious, broader, and longer than necessary,
-The perception of a punitive attitude toward DX division in it being assigned a "level three" across the board, although in the same breath, DX members cited a long list of pre-shutdown problems in DX organization, management, and processes,
-The perception that Todd, John and the CREM custodians were unfairly disciplined,
-The perception that Nanos had systematically lied to staff about the events and issues of the Shutdown.
-That Pete Nanos was abrasive, to not listen and satisfactorily answer concerns,

I suggested in earlier discussion that each of these actions may have a legitimate, underlying reason that made sense to a leader with vision, courage and integrity and that those root causes HAVE to be resolved. I have NOT defended the Director's inability to communicate these reasons in ways that engaged the hearts and minds of all of the staff.

If Pete Nanos is being replaced because of a LANL mutiny, whoever replaces him will come with the approval of Linton Brooks, Bob Foley, Pete Dominici, etc. Without any inside knowledge, my intuition says that among the items at the top of the new director's list will be to deal with the kind of attitude that allowed a mutiny gain such momentum. I am confident that the new director and the above named people will not see things as the mutineers did. I am equally confident that, while there may be some change among the top leadership positions, many will remain and where new people are brought in, they will also not be sympathetic. They will understand the underlying reasons for the actions that have been resented and for the reforms that have been resisted.

The new director will move to address the root causes. Certainly it will be necessary to show due diligence to Linton Brooks and Secretary Bodman as the contract competition is engaged.

If the new director is Bob Kuckuck, note his antecedents. As deputy director of LLNL and deputy administrator of NNSA, as well as having served in a number of other weighty management positions, he has been around the block a time or two. People who have worked with him and seen him operate say that he is very smooth and effective. When we think of effective--think of how he is going to try to solve the same root causes that were justification in Pete Nanos' eyes for shutting down a $2B operation and for reviewing and reworking procedures from the ground up. The effort will probably be prolonged because of the inevitable discontinuities that happen with leadership change.

It might be a good idea to shut down the celebration and form a work party to clean up Dodge City, because the new sheriff will if we do not.

Gary Stradling

Gary, you might think of yourself as high-minded, and perhaps even as someone as possessed of "vision" himself. In fact, however, you come across as a Nanos sycophant, and self-serving to boot. I am not saying that you do not deserve to express your opinions on this blog. I am saying that you are not doing yourself any favors by continuing to do so.
Gary, why don't you just give it up!!!
I have really tried to see your side, Gary, and at first you seemed to have a point. But when I gave a concrete example that I knew well, you brushed it aside -- did I know both sides? is this true? It is true and is an example of Nanos's throwing away a good chance to solve a safety problem in a manner consistent with TQM or even just respectful human behavior. The employees did the right thing and were punished for it.
In the blog, as in everything else in life, if you rule out all the evidence that goes against you, you have a warped outcome. I am afraid you have fallen into that category in my books.
My feeling is that if you want another blog on how we can solve LANL's problems ourselves -- you should start one -- Doug is busy doing what he thinks is the right thing.
I do not believe it is possible to solve LANL's problems when the guy at the not is fighting us. If the new leader is no better than Nanos, there is nothing we can do except mutiny again or leave.
As I understand it 2,500 people are now signed up for retirement in the next few months. The person who cleans my house says everyone she knows is retiring soon. The problem with smart people is that a lot of them do question authority and refuse to follow bad leaders -- thank goodness. Maybe LANL can hire a more bovine lot next time.
I guess LANL figures it can replace the 2500 retirees with some post-docs and new hires. Perhaps it can, but an enormous amount of knowledge of the stockpile has already gone out the door with most of the rest soon to follow.
Best of luck to the new guy and to the people who come to take over. Hope they have better management than LANL has had in the past 15 or so years.
But I admire the employees who refuse to tolerate the mistreatment of people like Todd, John, the two vault workers who were fired, and many other lesser known employees who have been mistreated. I hope they all win their lawsuits, yes, several of them have lawsuits, to such a degree that LANL sees the handwriting on the wall.
I wish the new guy luck. I would love to see LANL transformed into a miracle of efficiency and safety, but I won't be around much longer because I can't afford the benefits cut. Maybe he can outsource our jobs to India? Ireland? Maybe he can start with a bunch of new-hires and post docs. Or maybe he will be as clueless as Nanos. Judging by historical record, nothing will change. Sadly. I think most of us have loved the opportunity to work on such fascinating projects. Now -- with the constant fear of retaliation, it is time to exit for most of us.
Let the celebration begin. It will not be hard for the new team to be successful each and every week: week one, delete the director's notebook, week two, change the lab Logo, week three, relieve ________ (manager of your choice), week four.............

Can we get this schedule on the COMPASS web site?
Um, sorry to be so obtuse, but I have gotten a little gun shy on this blog with multiple rumors of Nanos' departure. This post by Gary suggests that it is a done deal, but I can't find any credible information to support that (it doesn't help that I am on travel either). Does anyone have some credible evidence that they can post here? Was it announced somewhere? I have called a few people in my group and nobody knows anything about this. Anyone?
8:51. You'll know about it when you read it in the papers. They know most everything before the rank and file at LANL. Has always been that way, always will be.
Missing from Bob Kuckuck's history is that he was the first leader of the UC Lab Administration Office, LAO for short. He thus had a crucial, and formative, role in ensuring the UC management would be a bust. Among the LAO failures is that the LAO performance is not evaluated. They simply muddy the waters between LANL and the DOE, mindlessly applaud UC/LANL actions, and deliver up impossiblu rosy evaluations of LANL each year.
It seems that the LAO will go away, thank God, whoever gets the contract. It has been part of the problem, not the solution. And, this is, in good part, the doing of Bob Kuckuck.
But, he is smoother than Nanos. If he is the UC solution, they have no solution.
I'm one of those people mentioned in a comment on another post that is primarily concerned about my benefits and retirement.

Stating the obvious perhaps - one thing that has come out in the blog and offline, is that justified or not, and whether they write about it or not, a large number of people simply do not trust LANL upper management, NM politicians, DOE/NNSA, UC, LM, NG, local business interests, NM's Senators, and the US Congress, to look out for their interests.
That lack of trust has been well earned here at LANL, especially during the last year.
Mr. Stradling gives one the impression that he considers Nanos simply a poor communicator. If that is his view of Nanos, his judgment is exceptionally poor. Shutting down this Laboratory in the manner that Nanos did is utterly inexcusable and displayed an immense lack of judgment on Nanos' part. UC really should pay the U.S. taxpayers back several million dollars, and folks such as Linton Brooks, who plainly approved (or perhaps encouraged) Nanos' actions, should have been fired long ago.

I have rarely commented on this blog, but Stradlings' apparent defense of Nanos is almost unbelievable. I don't really care what Nanos calls people, but his actions are plainly those of a person with poor judgment, and UC should have relieved him of command long ago.

Staff at Los Alamos almost universally despise Nanos, mostly for good reasons. I am actually a bit surprised that someone hasn't gone over the edge and attempted physical violence towards the guy.
Why might it be a good idea to form a "Work Party" to clean up Dodge City? Let the SET do that for the "New Sheriff". Or better yet, let him clean it up.

80 hours every 2 weeks when the new schedule comes in - that's all LANL's getting from me.

Feel free to volunteer your own time of course.
Staff at Los Alamos almost universally despise Nanos, mostly for good reasons. I am actually a bit surprised that someone hasn't gone over the edge and attempted physical violence towards the guy.

The answer is simple - he's not worth going to jail over. Let him jump off the bridge all by himself.
If the new "sheriff" comes in and thinks he's going to "kick ass" and "clean up the Lab" then he will also fail. The plows and anvils are loaded on the wagons and plenty of dry powder is now on hand. We now have a heliostat signal system thanks to Doug and his Blog. It won't take long for the rest of the very mobile staff to finish packing up and head to "Californie", home of the triple distilled.

There's probably still time (but it's now down to weeks) to salvage something of the Lab but any new management will have to be very careful and very inspiring. Otherwise, the rest of Los Alamos National Laboratory will crumble through their hands like dust.
- a 25 year plus TSM

Who are you? What work have you done?
You have a Ph.d from BYU. Is that not ranked 110th in terms of physics graduate departments by the NRC. Why does LANL have people like you? Are you of any value to LANL?
I started to read this comment as though it were an intelligent comment. By the end, I could tell it was not. Then I saw it was from Gary. Gary, Nanos has done enormous damage to the lab. It started from his very first days. He thought he could do a better job on everything that was being done without even asking the people who were involved. He shut down the enterprise project that was on a positive track because he knew better without even asking how things were going because he knew better. We have seen how his successor project has gone. He repeated the same action on the whole lab by shutting it down with essentially no idea of how to restart. He has no feeling for bottom line in either financial result or work output. He has openly despised all existing management and procedures at LANL, without understanding one bit of what is going on. He is an egomaniac and has demonstrated that repeatedly in his interactions with lab people and with UC and with DOE. I really don't understand how you can repeatedly defend him. He is a textbook-bad leader.
from Gary
[ This post by Gary suggests that it is a done deal, but I can't find any credible information to support that. 4/26/2005 08:51:45 AM] I am sorry to have given the impression of knowing whether or not the Director was leaving. I was reacting to the rumors circulating around, including "the whisper mill" post and subordinate comments yesterday, and my post may have had the inadvertant appearance of confirming a rumor.

I will be sad if the director is removed with even the partial appearance that it was because of a mutnity in the ranks. It is fundamentally bad for the organization to have dissidents think that they can run off a manager they didn't like, as well as for future managers to think that had happened. It will set the flavor for dealing with future problems in an unhealthy way.

If we go thru another director in the next year, continuity and constancy in our organization will likely suffer, discipline may be lost and our painfully-won gains may be reduced. The oft-cited problem of not staying on a problem long enough to resolve it will be compounded again.

[ I have really tried to see your side, Gary, and at first you seemed to have a point. But when I gave a concrete example that I knew well, you brushed it aside -- did I know both sides? is this true? 4/26/2005 08:262] To ask details when there is an apparent conflict between two credible sources is not brushing anything aside. (I do not presume that the involvement of a LANL manager is prima facie evidence of wrong-doing.) Unless you only judge based only on bias, which seems to be the standard of the core dissidents on this site, then looking at the evidence is essential. (Your house keeper's impressions are probably not the gold standard for evidence, unless she cleans for 2500 lab employees.)

Thanks for at least trying to see the points of view I have put forward.
I have not agreed with everything Gary has written, but I completely support his right to express his own beliefs and he deserves our respect for posting what might not be agreed to by others. The name calling is juvenile. I wish folks would cut it out because it detracts from the seriousness of the problems and makes too many sound like petulant teenagers.

I don't believe he is a Nanos sycophant or necessarily self-serving. If I had not seen Nanos in action and felt the affects of some of his policies, I might find it difficult to accept others' statements. After all, as scientists aren't we supposed to observe on our own, accept results that might contradict ours, question, investigate, etc.? When Gary questions some of the posts describing Nanos, maybe he is doing what a scientist should do.

On the other hand however, supporting the Toyota quality program implies that thousands of LANL folks are not doing quality work. I see too many people at the lower levels - TSM's, tech's, office personnel - struggling to do quality work in spite of the bureacratic morass at LANL. I see my Division Office staff unable to make any decisions without the approval of the Chief of Staff (the most worthless position at LANL). I have seen credit card purchasing come to a screeching halt when the same Chief of Staff is on vacation for a month, can't approve the statement resolution, and has not delegated this responsibility to anyone during her abscence. So I am not happy with Gary's eagerness to adopt another set of buzz words without acknowledging that there is less quality work done at the upper levels of LANL than at the lower. Moreover, I don't like being told that I do not do quality work when I know that I do although I am hampered every day by senseless LANL rules.

I definitely believe that life will not be any easier in the near future. The new director better have spine and better stand up to the DOE/NNSA and question rules that are applied only to LANL or are applied differently to LANL than to SNL and LLNL. The new director better bring a large broom to sweep out the management dregs that are sucking the money out of science. These firmly entrenched people with tremendously long titles who add no value to the LANL programs are going to be hard to remove because they will change their spots and try to become indispensible to the new director. Even if he has some idea about how the blog posters feel about these folks, if he's a fair person, he will give them the benefit of the doubt for a period of time. Whether we'll see more of the same sycophant behavior remains to be seen. However, for possibly months, those at the lower levels who see problems that no one wants to resolve or whose resolution takes weeks of paperwork and discussion will still be frustrated. It would be in the new director's and LANL's best interests to restructure the support side, SUP, HR, CCN, FMO, etc., to make it more responsive. There are so many simple solutions in the "Running list of wasteful activities at LANL". Just think of how much money could be saved if foreign travel were approved long enough in advance for Travel to purchase cheaper tickets. How can this be hard to implement? What makes it impossible is having an inordinately large number of approvals. Each person who touches the request probably adds three days to the approval time. This is how money is wasted, and why people become frustrated and take shortcuts.

Let's encourage the new director to solicit input on lowering the cost of doing busines, to acknowledge the input, and to explain why and how or why not the suggestions will be implemented. Finally, let's all encourage the new director to PLEASE listen to the bad as well as the good.
How can anyone be sad at the
removal of an incompetent, abusive
This post has been removed by a blog administrator.
This post has been removed by a blog administrator.
[Gary, Who are you? What work have you done? ou have a Ph.d from BYU....Why does LANL have people like you? Are you of any value to LANL? 4/26/2005 08:20:49 PM] Thank you for your inquiry. Maybe you have struck at the heart of my problem. I do not have a PhD from BYU. But would that matter in this arena of ideas? And what metric do you use to evaluate your fellow sloganeers? That they agree with you? If you want to know who I am, please have lunch with me and lets talk. (Are you on LANL staff?)
Gary -
I can't resist the urge to respond to your assertions. I respect your opinion that the shutdown was a necessary response to widespread problems at the lab. But I guarantee you that you are in a very small minority at the lab. If you take the time to come out to TA-35 (55, 46, 59, ........) and talk to the folks in the trenches, you will encounter the near-unanimous conviction that the shutdown was a horrible mistake that will damage the institution for years to come. I know that this is not a common hallway conversation on the 4th floor, but believe me, it is common where I work. If you truly believe the shutdown was justified, are you also arguing for similar actions at the other DOE labs? At Sandia, which had a 2-day shutdown over an unspecified security incident a few months before ours? At LLNL, which has had similar laser eye accidents and a similar number of documented security incidents as LANL? How about Brookhaven and LBNL, which have also had similar laser accidents? How about NREL, which had a laser accident in January that went unreported in the newspapers? Is a shutdown a measured, reasonable response to problems, or was it an enormous over-reaction? I vote the latter. Why do you and others believe that LANL should be singled out for misbehavior? The quantitative data suggests that operations problems are complex-wide, not local.

I do not doubt that there are some folks in management and in the support organizations who were not terribly bothered by the shutdown. But they are divorced from the reality that the rest of us live: if we cannot get proposals funded, we are out of work. It is that stark and that simple. If our current management team continues to burden us with excessive paperwork and regulations, with useless training courses and IWDs for non-hazardous operations, no sponsor in his right mind will send dollars to Los Alamos to get work done. This institution, now with a weakened customer base, will slowly deteriorate, losing out to the competiton at LLNL, SNL, PNNL, and elsewhere. Budgets for the large applied programs will gradually be diverted, LDRD will shrink proportionately, good scientists will leave, expertise in the nuclear weapons program will vanish, and Washington customers will realize that the best quality work is being done at the other labs. I do not relish such a future. I am outraged that the management at this institution to which I have dedicated my professional life has been so incompetent (and I would apply that to the last 7 years, not just two). I am incensed that UC and NNSA stood by idly while poor judgement became the norm here. If you do not fear the future prospects we have here, you should wake up and smell the coffee. Because things aren't exactly looking better as the months go by. You may feel that your own future is secure, but those of us at staff level are desperately worried. And many are looking at job prospects at the other labs in the complex.

-- Bernard Foy
[I have not agreed with everything Gary has written, but I completely support his right to express his own beliefs and he deserves our respect for posting what might not be agreed to by others. The name calling is juvenile. .... When Gary questions some of the posts describing Nanos, maybe he is doing what a scientist should do.... supporting the Toyota quality program implies that thousands of LANL folks are not doing quality work. 4/26/2005 08:42:13 PM ] I sure appreciate the rarity of your thoughtful engagement in the discussion. You did not understand what I meant by "Quality". Rather than just doing good work, "Quality" as used in the TQM, Six Sigma, etc. movements represents an integrated approach to doing business in which everyone is engaged in improving the product and processes on a continuous basis. In a Quality business environment, you might engage the travel approval process with your ideas, and actually be invited into improving the process. Or as happened to me with LANB, you might call with a complaint and have the "customer service" agent actually get the programmer on the line to resolve the problem in real time. Likewise, LA Schools asked me to serve on a committee to resolve a concern I expressed. Not only Toyota, but many excellent companies are using this approach to getting the bugs out of their businesses. It beats the tar out of more centralized approaches.

I hope LANL can get past the obstacles to incorporating these kind of proven, state-of-the-art concepts in our business practices.
I don't particularly despise Nanos, but I can't understand why Gary seems to think that Nanos has a lot of support and this blog just represents the malcontents. Frankly, I don't know a single TSM who has expressed support for Nanos. Not a one. Furthermore ake a look at how many people are in the audience when Nanos gives a talk. It's clear that a lot of the staff can't stand to be in the same room with him.
Bernard Foy, your comment is awesome and showed rare courage. I agree that things are difficult. Please try to understand how much the environment LANL has to operate in has changed in the last decade. From the Tiger Teams of Secretary Watkins to now, the requirements, level of oversight, security and safety requirements, and hostile criticism LANL must deal with has exponentiated.

I cannot second guess a conservative response to the number of serious indicators of problems (not all public) that I know Pete Nanos encountered last summer. I think LANL can do much better in developing streamlined processes, procedures and regulations to deal with the evolving environment, but Nanos did not write those procedures people are complaining about. Someone has to develop good ones, and apparently this has not been done at the level of elegance needed. Well who is going to do that? If you all insist on staying in your labs, no one of your insight is going to do this to your required level of satisfaction.
Please stay engaged to help LANL become the refined institution it must be to serve the nation effectively.
I was having trouble understanding Gary's motivations as well, until after reading his last few posts. I think he is primarily motivated by a desire to garner approval from the new managers of the lab, whomever they might turn out to be. He may also have some genuine concern and cares about LANL, but I get the sense that those take a back seat to the desire to elevate his own sense of worth in the eyes of our new masters.
[He may also have some genuine concern and cares about LANL, but I get the sense that those take a back seat to the desire to elevate his own sense of worth in the eyes of our new masters.
4/26/2005 09:56]
What internal reference does one consult to understand the motivations of others? When you encounter a problem, a distortion, unfairness, an avoidable tragedy, what are you inclined to do? Posture? Grandstand? Stand back and watch? Intervene?
Something to think about.
I think we should ask what LLNL folks their opinion of Bob Kuckuck - is there a sister site for LLNL ?
I hope that you folks at Los Alamos realize that what you do or don't do affects the other National Labs. DOE and especially NNSA have a knee-jerk reaction to any well-publicized incident -- institute dumb measures that assure that the incident will never happen again, even though it makes life difficult, expensive, and kills morale.
Our one-time contractor had a scandal (in corporate) and we were forced to take extra useless ethics training because of it.
So yes, Gary is right in saying that you need to clean up your own act.
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