Sunday, July 31, 2005

Elevate a couple of buried posts

Hi Doug,
I'd like to elevate a couple of buried posts from a previous thread that I believe could lead to a very interesting discussion:
7/31/2005 09:06:22 AM:
"The feeling that I get on this blog is that TSM's generally feel that their PhD managers are rather poor performing as leaders, even though they may be technically excellent in their particular field.

I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts on the possibility of having highly qualified MBA's in management instead of PhDs. For instance, what about technically competent people (BS or MS level engineers with extensive R&D experience) with an MBA from Harvard as an associate director or division leader? Assuming the person was an effective high-level manager (in industry that does mean "hands-off"), would they be respected by LANL technical staff?"
7/31/2005 10:30:30 AM
"The last couple of comments really get to the heart of the matter. Just what IS the set of skills/tools that an effective senior manager at the lab needs? It's a lot easier to say what managers (or anyone else) are doing wrong than to identify the "right" way to do things, in a comprehensive way that doesn't lead to requirements tripping over each other."

I'm all for seeing more MBA-type people occupying managerial positions. However, what I'm witnessing is technically-POOR B.S./M.S. level engineers getting MBAs from University of Phoenix, expecting to rise up to G.L. (or higher) positions. They may have the "soft skills" required to be a good manager but if you can't technically comprehend what your group does, then how can you make effective decisions and/or set a visions/goal for its future?
I'm a little unclear about your statement. Perhaps you could clarify it. Do you believe that an MS level engineer, generally speaking, has not yet acquired the technical skills necessary to lead a science group? Or are you saying the specific engineers you have dealt with were technically poor?
We do NOT need MBAs with their limited interpersonal skills and lack of technical understanding. LANL is a scientific laboratory and thus we need scientists and engineers as managers.

And, MBA degrees from the University of Phoenix, NMHU, and UNM are crap degrees. If you don't believe me, take that crap MBA degree and see where you will stand in competition to a graduate of a REAL MBA-granting university.
I haven't had good luck with MBA's as supervisors no matter where they got their MBA. They seem to think of their employees as interchangable parts. This engineer doesn't like his job? Get another one just like him and put him in, instead of trying to figure out if the slot really fits.
The best managers I have worked for were scientists or engineers who believed in something you rarely hear about at LANL anymore -- taking care of their people whether that meant getting them the tools they needed or getting them a promotion. The good managers I had spent their lives trying to help their employees be better at their jobs.
The MBA's these days are of the type that removes free kleenex from the work place to save money without thinking about how many people will get sick from unsanitary conditions. Penny wise, pound foolish, inhumane and proud of it.
It isn't the Universities really -- from Harvard to the University of Phoenix, business students at all levels are being trained to kiss up and kick down as they say of Boulton. It isn't the schools, it is the culture, I am sorry to say.
And it isn't just LANL that isn't working, it is other labs and businesses like United Airlines. We now live in a culture of abuse and disrespect.
I would rather have a leader who understands the work of the group and who values his/her employees than an MBA. Of course if a skilled person in the field and valued the employees, I wouldn't hold it against him.
Anonymous : 7/31/2005 03:34:51 PM is correct: MBAs seem to think of their employees as interchangable parts.
With no understanding of the technolog, they have no respect for the individuals who do the work. We do NOT need MBAs at LANL except as workers in a very few select jobs.
The problem with LANL is that, while there are many, many good scientists at LANL, almost none of the LANL managers have been good scientists or have been involved in technical work in the weapons program. Only a very few have significant scientific credentials (publications, citations, recognition by professional societies, etc.). That is not true at other labs, including LLNL. Someone did a study that showed that while the median career citation count for LLNL technical leaders was a factor of 30 higher than the same count for LANL. As someone remarked, LANL used to take good scientists and turn them into lousy managers. Lately LANL takes lousy scientists and turns them into lousy managers. Amazingly, G. Nanos was one of the most quailified scientists in management with around 170 citations and 3 major papers on an important topic, the isotropy of the 3 degree microwave background. At that time, there were only three other members of the set with stronger scientific credentials. In addition, last year, there was only one manager above the level of group leader who had significant first hand experience with nuclear weapons design or code development. At LLNL, there was an unbroken chain of leaders with hands on experience in nuclear weapons from the technical staff to and including the director. It's as if there are several career tracks at LANL. Until LANL gets some technically competent leadership, it will suffer the fate of Apple under Sculley, GM/Ford/Chrysler under the leadership of accounts in the 1970s, etc., namely a complete lack of ability to focus on what's important and necessary for the institution to succeed.
"Amazingly, G. Nanos was one of the most quailified scientists in management with around 170 citations and 3 major papers on an important topic, the isotropy of the 3 degree microwave background."

Ouch. That really stings.
2:57. The last thing LANL needs are more scientists and engineers as managers. They have no people skills and do not value anyone who is not in the same technical field as themselves.
This strikes me as another version of the "good scientists/engineers don't necessarily make good managers" crap.

Of course this statement is true. What is also true is that good accountants, attorneys, doctors, HR specialists, buyers, bureaucrats, etc. don't necessarily make good managers either.

I worked in the Otowi for years as one of those bureaucrats. This bagaboo was frequently trotted out to "explain" why poorly conceived, inadequately designed and generally wasteful programs and processes weren't embraced wholeheartedly by the rest of the Lab. "If they only knew how to manage. . ." Apparently, given this line of thinking, a good manager is one who is willing to tolerate and accept bureaucratic foolishness.

As an aside, in many years of experience at LANL I've only once run into a technical manager who was a lying SOB. I ran into a number of the same in support organizations.

Best manager I ever encountered was not at LANL, and he was a retired USAF Master Sergeant. Used to run motor pools and had no college credentials whatsoever.
A highly-qualified MBA -- an oxymoron, or perhaps just a moron. If you want such managers and leaders, let Wal Mart run LANL.
Wal-Mart would probably do a better job than the current SET. Especially at weeding out nonproductive people.
You are all incorrect. I have recently acquired my business management degree and I graduated as Magna Cum Laude. Management degrees can never teach anyone people skills nor can any science degree. Management degrees only teach you economics, organization management, budgeting, ethics and accounting. Science degrees can only prepare you for mathematics and science. Political and legal degrees can only prepare you for our legal system and marketing/financial degrees can only prepare you for marketing or financing.

There is no one stop degree shop anywhere in the world and there is no one-stop shop of experience from any individual in the world. No one knows everything and if someone did, we would not need anyone else to do our work for us and this person would have every disease, government, food, science etc... Under control and we would only have to depend on this one person.

The real key is working together and understanding that we are a world of diverse people. The world is bid and with a lot of people who are educated enough to understand most things occurring in the world today. It does not take a degree to come up with an idea, vision or great accomplishment in life. Most ideas are thought up by visionaries, these visionaries have one thing that sets them apart, and it is called courage and belief that they are right. We at LANL need more visionaries.

Let us look at the simple fact of LANL that most people do talk about outside of LANL and are pretty correct. LANL is not discovering nuclear science, but LANL is enhancing nuclear science. Everyone knows that no one scientist at LANL is discovering the nuclear age. It has already been discovered, tested and used long before any of us here. We are here to enhance it and to master nuclear science for future generations. Our fellow citizens owe LANL nothing. They do not owe any one a job, a pension or anything of the sort. The creators of the nuclear age have already been paid for the efforts in the dawn and creation of the nuclear age.

The questions you all need to ask yourselves is what have I done for my country and the world? What have I done that will transform this planet? What have I done that will start a new age of science? Until you do any of these things. The world does not owe you anything. Nobody owes you a damn thing in this world, Not a pension and certainly not a job.

LANL needs to calm down and realize that there are many good people here and there are some things that are out of anyone persons control here. Take the tyrant NANO's. I cannot believe that not one person on this blog to date has understood the one simple thing about NANOS. He was a hatchet man and hired to do so. He had bosses just as all of us do and his bosses told him what to do. The chain of command here runs deep and runs high. It runs all the way to the Oval Office. He is in charge at the Oval Office and no one else. He tells the secretary what to do at DOE, NNSA and so on. It funnels all the way down period!

Get over NANOS he is gone and you all are falling right into the usual political trap of “He is the scape goat and they will blame him for all of the wrong doing” and was told he would be when he was hired. So, NANO’s knew what he was getting himself into and did what he was told to do. End of story. He made no decisions, but only did what his superiors told him to do. You think for one second that he would have taken a chance to go to prison, get sued or anything of the sort by making a decision that was not talked about to his bosses. Get real people, there is not one person here who is above the law or above the constitution nor would anyone take a chance of this magnitude without approval first. He got approval from up high and he acted accordingly and that is the end of the story.
Nanos did not work for the Oval Office. He worked for the University of California, an academic institution not noted for its Republicanism. Indeed, it is an institution that once disinvited First Lady Laura Bush to speak at a graduation because she was not qualified to do so. If Nanos had worked for the Oval Office, he would still have an office on the fourth floor of TA3/SM43. Instead, he was forced to abandon his new home for exile (until vestment in the UC retirement program) in the Pentagon in a seat bought and paid for by the University of California and arranged by his friend, Bob Foley. Any thinking person can see the purpose behind this deal. The obvious reason is that the University, with back-room support from Linton Brooks, chose this route of departure to help staunch the certain erosion of its shaky legal standing in defending its silent and indefensible complicity in the abusive acts of Admiral Nanos that tore the spirit and heart out of this once exciting institution.
Using MBAs as Plug-N-Play managers is what has killed manufacturing in America!
Nanos also did what he did with the blessing of St. Pete, nothing gets done or undone at LANL without Petey knowing it.
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