Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Congressmen got it half right

From Anonymous:

The Congressmen got it half right, which isn't bad for them. There is a culture problem at LANL. The part they got wrong was where the problem resides. It is in upper management, not in the other 14,000 LANL employees where the cultural problem lurks. If Congress does not want to hear about it, then there is some very bad news for them. The NY Times story on the management problems at LANL was only the beginning. Once Nanos is gone, LANL will have one bad manager less. But he wasn't idle during his reign of terror: he collected a passel of mediocre (at best) to incompetent (at worst) upper managers around him. The only way to fix that is to have a new contractor come in and clean house.

Congress had better get used to hearing about problems at LANL, because the problems are not going to go away by themselves, and now lots of people are aware of them. Thanks to Bill Broad and numerous other reporters the rest of the country is starting to hear that LANL has serious management problems.

You are kidding right? LANL's only problem is management? What are you smoking?
I don't smoke, I'm a runner. And I'm saying LANL's problems are caused by 60 years of increasingly bad management. You have a different view on that?
The blog is not perfect, but I find it to be the most valuable source of information about LANL current events that is easily available.
LANL has some (perhaps a majority) of bad managers and some (likely a very small minority) of bad staff. Bad in each case is defined differently. LANL also has some other issues, that to some are a cultural problem and to others is diligent inquiry - all depends on your perspective and experiences. By and large staff are honest, loyal, safe, secure, critical, etc. thinker/scientists doing what the nation pays them to do. Unfortunately the few good managers that LANL have do not survive because of the vast majority of bad managers, including Dir Nanos, that demonstrate all of the worst behavior for a manager. LANL staff need to focus forward and get the lab back on productive high ground.
To 07:46:30 PM -

I agree completely with you. BTW, I'm a frequent reader of the blog, but a first time poster, for people like Gary Stradling who are keeping stats (and Gary, most of the people I work with, and you used to work with, have lost their respect for Nanos, but also realize that LANL's problems are long-standing and complex, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution).

As a former LLNL scientist, and now at LANL in the WP directorate, there is much to contrast between the two Labs. One of the reasons I came to LANL was the high degree of scientific integrity and peer review in the programs, among many other reasons like quality of life. However, when it comes to actually executing the research programs, LLNL management seems better able to navigate through the bureaucracy than LANL, and handle PR much better (both bad and good press). LLNL has a huge scientific facility (NIF, like it or not, whether it works or not) that will help attract and retain world-class talent. What is LANL management's vision for such a world-class local facility? What great, exciting science program will recruit and retain hundreds of new staff and technicians that will feed into our stockpile stewardship mission? We do, indeed, have world-class science and engineering at LANL, but not on a scale that brings in significant amounts of scientific talent, and fosters growth in related spin-off programs, such as you see happening in LLNL's ICF and laser programs.

To be sure, there is room to place some degree of blame elsewhere for LANL's problems (even on us, the prima donna staff). But largely the blame rests on upper management's lack of vision, decisiveness, good judgment, and accountability for themselves and the research and programs they're supposed to manage.
Who is responsible for whatever goes on at LANL? Who is responsible for decisions regarding resources? Who makes all the priorities for LANL? Who decides which tasks will be funded? etc. etc.
I assure you it isn't the average LANL employee, scientific or support. It is indeed management. Because of LANL's decent benefits there is a lot of competition for jobs at LANL. They hire really good people. Then they teach them that the way to succeed is to take care of your manager, not do your job.
End of story. Lots of bright people sitting around trying to decide whether to do what their power-mad boss wants or to do what they learned to do in college. Some chose one and some chose the other.
The choice between furthering one's career and doing the right thing is more striking at LANL than anywhere I have ever worked.
How sad. I thought I was coming here to do science.
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