Friday, July 29, 2005

DOE priorities -- Safety, Security, Compliance

From the LANL NewsBulliten Letters to the Editor:

July 27, 2005

DOE priorities -- Safety, Security, Compliance

The letter indicating unhappiness at losing the Laboratory's goal of productivity (Bernard Foy -- 7/22/05) indicates that the Lab unilaterally decided to prioritize safety, security and compliance while ignoring productivity. It wasn't the Lab that made the decision. Those of us who attended the Department of Energy panel discussions at the 2003 (or so) Waste Management Symposium heard that safety, security and compliance are the top three performance measures for all DOE labs. That's it, plain and simple.

The number one priority for evaluating a contractor's performance is safety. Number two is security. Number three is compliance. I was there and I heard an audience member ask Ines Triay of DOE where in the scheme of things did productivity occur. "It is not a priority," was the answer. So, until that edict changes, the Lab's mission does not include productivity unless we want to provide something that our mother agency does not value.

--David Yeamans

Indeed, LANL has become a "work-free, safe and secure" place. Certainly we cannot compromise safety, security, and productivity for the sake of productivity. But, to make the statement that "productivity is not a priority" is scandalous. This kind of nonsense is going to kill any science at LANL.
So, now you tell your Work For Others (WFO), non-NNSA sponsor: "Give me your money, lots of it because we are expensive, and we will be safe, secure, and in compliance. We might even do some work for you between procurement training and standdowns for occurances that do not affect our Group. Also, partway through the project, our accounting rules may change and our G&A Rate and Organizational Support Rate may go up."

Talk about a hard sell.
So go somewhere else where the selling is easier. If easier is your goal, then go for it. If you want to work on national priorities, then it's harder. Suck it up or move on.
To anonymous at 7/29/2005 01:56:59 PM: most of these projects were national priorities such as the Strategic Defense Initiative, Homeland Defense, etc. We got the funding because we were a needed competency, but we continued to embarrass ourselves with the high rate, standdowns, etc.
You don't understand 1:56. It is the customer who will be moving on. Would you purchase anything from someone that wanted you to sign a contract that had the wording 9:17 used? I doubt it.
Face it, DOE and NNSA are the C students you went to college with. Some of them are probably the girls who got their boyfriends to do their homework for them wo they could squeak by on their flirty looks. Their metrics are things that can be measured, like security, safety, and compliance. They have no clue as to how to measure science or research, so it doesn't count. Affirmative Action Forever!
7/29/2005 06:21:17 PM said:
"Face it, DOE and NNSA are the C students you went to college with... Their metrics are things that can be measured, like security, safety, and compliance. They have no clue as to how to measure science or research, so it doesn't count."

I am the C student you went to college with. I did not end up at DOE. I worked at the Lab. I can't measure science or research either, but I know how to play DOE's game and still get the job done. Just be productive. DOE will rant and wave, but nothing will happen unless some idiots in Congress get mad at DOE and decide to take it out on you.
7/29/2005 06:50:41 PM said:
" ... DOE will rant and wave, ..."

I don't know; seems like an incongruous combination of actions, even for a government agency.
Actually, most DOE employees are NOT C students. They are D Students!
One of the keys to DOE’s behavior are the assumptions built into the system. DOE assumes that the Laboratory management and workforce will provide productivity as a matter of course. The Lab’s workforce has historically been productivity focused, and DOE has had to provide all the other requirements: safety, security and compliance to keep the Lab’s from making too many politically costly mistakes.

Here is the catch: the Lab management and much of its workforce no longer provides productivity. We have a lot of people at the Lab who have bought into the bureaucratic way of life both at a management and working level. DOE should no longer assume that productivity would just take care of itself. This is been going on for a long time, but Nanos accelerated the process both through his hiring and the various policies that he initiated.

This is why there needs to be a systematic rollback of Nanos’ decisions, almost everything he did hurt productivity (there are exceptions!). Almost everyone he hired for a management job is not committed to productivity, but rather bureaucracy that provide the illusion of safety, security and compliance for DOE’s consumption. The net result is a Lab that produces nothing but safety, security and compliance and the destruction of the balance of “responsibility” that implicitly assumed that productivity was something the Lab would take care of. Instead of management that values productive work including science, we now have management that rolls over and plays dead.

I look up the management chain and for the most part, I feel nothing but distain and certainly little or no respect. There are exceptions, but not many. It’s time to clean house.
06:18, it's called market forces. In the first place, our rates aren't out of line, as previous threads on this blog have pointed out. Customers may threaten, and some may actually move, but most of the time what we offer simply isn't available elsewhere, or if it is, the other facility is totally loaded and not accepting new business at any reasonable rate. Personally, I believe in market forces. If something is available elsewhere, for less cost and with comparable results, then the customer is stupid not to move on.

If LANL shrank a bit and focused more on the difficult research and applied science where we have already overcome the huge barriers to entry (and thus have a competitive advantage), a lot of things would improve around here, including productivity.

I understand the customer is unhappy with the progress of DHART. They have two choices; figure out what the problems are and fix them, or fund another organization to do a REDAHRT. Which is the more economical choice?

I understand the customer is unhappy with LLNL's work on NIF. What are they going to do, fund a NutherNIF somewhere else? Heck no. It's cheaper to use the press to beat them up.

Of course, the customer could just cancel the program, which has happened when it becomes apparent even to congressional staffers that it's going nowhere. There are always checks and balances.

For the most part, we do good work. We take on projects with a high risk of failure (like DAHRT) because they're on the cutting edge, and for the most part, we make it work. We're learning how to speak the newspeak of project management so we can communicate in the language of the C student bureaucrat. Once the pattern is stable, we'll automate it and our productivity will rise again.

There are a lot of people who deride us because we believe "we're special," but in many ways we really are. We've let our hubris get out of hand, and now we're learning humility. Eventually, this organization will learn what children learn: Different environments have different rules of behavior and different language sets, and we often have to function in multiple environments in the course of a day.

Eventually, daily safety reviews and task assignments will be simple, easy to understand stand-up meetings that don't take much time and yet are effective. Facility drawings will come from plant engineering systems and area maps will be kept current and easily available online. Training will be consolidated and optimized to the needs of the worker, not the dreams of an unqualified overseer. Project progress and resource utilization will roll up from timesheets and vendor billings through the 8 milestone levels with little human intervention. Project dashboards will be online and updated nightly.

All of this is available off the shelf. A lot of it is being implemented as I type. It just takes awhile to get there, as there is tremendous intertia in a large organization. After all, we do have our own C student bureaucrats who often can't see the benefit in switching to a new, industry-standard process and toolset when their hand-rolled spreadsheets and Access databases suit _their_ needs perfectly.
60-70% of SNL's work is WFO. Some of LANL's SFO moved to SNL because of the stand-down, but a lot was already heading to Sandia because the cost for doing work on the Hill was too high. When we were begging one WFO to stay, the contract basically looked at us and said "Listen this contract has been a pity date because we wanted to keep in good with Saint Pete. It hasnt been worth doing the work here, and we have been looking for a reason to end it for a while. This just makes it easier."

The contract went to SNL where it was finished before our estimates and met all the goals they wanted. LANL screwed up but had been screwing up for a lot longer than Nanos had been there.
Anonymous : 7/30/2005 12:54:16 PM says that our rates are not too high. Yes, we do compare favorably to some industries. BUT, we piss away a lot of time in wasteful training (e.g., procurement training) and meetings and nearly all of that time is charged directly. So, there is really a very large but hidden additional overhead cost that effects much higher direct rates. Sponsors were charged directly for the standdown time and they have NOT forgotten that.
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