Saturday, July 30, 2005


Doug, please elevate this comment to a top-level post.


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.

The post is correct. If I miss a meeting to keep a project on schedule and/or within budget, I am criticized. Compliance rules.

I think that there is some pressure to get things done on schedule in some areas, particularly hydrotests. In fact, it was probably that pressure that led to some of the safety and security problems in DX Division.

One thing of note: I know of nobody that has ever been pressured by line management to circumvent or bend safety or security regulations to meet a programmatic milestone. BUT, I can certainly attest that program managers have done that and have retaliated against those of us who would not cooperate. Of course, if there is a safety or security incident, the program managers are immune from the punishment.
Don't worry. I believe LM has a rollback planned.
LM and Bechtel both have roll-backs planned. They are basically going to be hachet men cleaning out a lot of people from the lab. One of the things that will be looked at is the attitude of the employee, and if the employee looks like a chronic misfit they will be fired. I expect this blog will be full of anonymous whining about that..
This post reflects more LANL self delusion. LLNL fits the model described; very productive and a little flakey. LANL does not.. its a political animal which worries mostly about money extraction, not output. Sandia perhaps has the best mix; productive, well managed, and not as flakey as LLNL.
This does not imply that individual LANL staff members are not productive; simply that the organization has serious problems. LANL is full of stories about the Lab taking money and delivering the product. TA-55 is a case in point. Hard to make pits when you are stood down; and they have been down a lot, for good reasons that had nothing to do with DOE, and everything to do with LANL management and sloppy workmanship.
In the past LANL was perhaps more "productive" but safety and security were always lax. They have not yet adapted to modern requirements for a safe, secure, productive regime. TA-18 is an example of this.
Time to change.
"I expect this blog will be full of anonymous whining about that."

Yeah, you'd think LANL staff could lear to just take it like real men & women. All that obnoxious whining, the nerve of them.

But even worse are all all the whiners about the whiners. You'd think they could get a life...
It may have started before, but it seems the beginning of the awful, slippery slope was begun with the tiger-team - an enormous waste of time, lots of money and effort. It's scary to think that those just starting their careers at LANL will remember these as the good old days.
Productivity has gotten progressively worse at LANL over the last decade,
and the unproductive bureaucracy has grown in size and power. If you are
a productive member of the working staff and help to bring in money and
meet important deliverables, you have nothing to fear. However, if you
live off overhead and do little in the way of deliverables, then you
should start worrying, as your future status will change. Ask yourself
the question "What do I cost per year?". If you have no earthly idea,
then you are likely in the second category (overhead). Then ask yourself
"What are my deliverables and their schedule?". Again, if you have no
good answer, you are likely in the second (overhead) category.

Odds are that LM will be running LANL by this time next year. This will
bring serious house cleaning to the overhead side of the ledger. Most of
the lower-level overhead functions will be farmed out to other contractors,
so if you are in this category (i.e., network support, SUP, office support)
don't plan on being a LANL Corp employee for very long. Robinson has
already stated that he clearly sees many areas to save costs at LANL, and
you can safely assume they will start with the overhead functions. There
are some very good people in the lower-level overhead categories, and
these people will continue to do a fine job even when they are working
for a new LANL contractor. The really good ones will find that they
have greater advancement opportunities working for their new contractor.
If you are at the higher levels of the overhead chain at LANL, then,
indeed, you need to worry. Many of these jobs cannot be defended
and will simply be eliminated. For example, don't plan on seeing any
Division level "Morale Officers" in the new LANL Corporation. And
many of the nonsensical positions that begin with the word "Associate"
are also likely to disappear.

To be blunt about it, too many people at LANL are riding the wagon, and
fewer and fewer people are left pulling the wagon. The arrival of LM as
our new managers will bring this issue to a head. It's going to taste
like bitter medicine for some folks, but in the long run, it will put
LANL on a more secure footing for the future. If you think that the
"unfunded mandates" from DOE will help assure that LANL continues to fund
and support our bloated overhead bureaucracy, you will be wrong. DOE is
very interested in seeing that LANL is run in a cost effective manner.
With future reductions coming in DOE's budget, they see this course of
corrective action as an absolute necessity.
There is one group in the Lab in which productivity has always been foremost. It was formed in 1944 from sections in many groups in the Manhattan Project to design and produce detonators needed for operation of the Fat Man device.

Over the past sixty years, the group presently known as DX-1, has been the Design Agency for detonators used in the majority of the stockpile weapons. In the beginning it was the Production Agency for those detonators, and now it produces them again.

DX-1 provides detonators, firing units, test-firing and diagnostic cables used on every hydrotest experiment performed at LANL and for every event at NTS.

I believe this group struggled more and longer than any other in the Lab to be productive while dealing with compliance issues. It fought the Product Realization Process the longest, but when it was forced to comply, made the process work and still produced detonators and other products. DX-1 actually won awards from LANL, DOE, Honeywell, and LLNL for producing a LLNL detonator.

Now, one year after the horror of July, DX-1 is fighting again to become productive and compliant. I wish them the best of luck.

Larry Creamer, DX-1 Retired
Poster 3:46 -- actually, within the technical series the ratio of manager to tsm (equivalent) is almost exactly the same. I assume that when you say all the titles that start with "Associate" you mean Associate Directors. You are right, that title does not exist at SNL -- but vice president does, and there are lots of vice presidents.

I am interested that the original poster and 3:46 seem to think that if we got rid of ADs the lab would run more productively. Why is that? Because the present ADs are paper pushers, or because the office of ADs is too slow stuff down? When I examine LANL I am not sure --
TA-18 early move was mandated by NNSA headquarters. At every turn LANL has been attacked by LASO, and even though Dave Beck may not be popular in BlogLand, he has continuely found a way to get the work back on schedule. LASO would love to shut down the programmatic would at TA-18, but it has not happened yet.

I would agree that Seestrom is not doing her job -- although the hydro tests have come in more or less on schedule, things like DX not coming back remain at her footstep.

Beason might have Lisa G. as a morale officer, but I don't think the whole story has been told there. I believe that she was forced out with the closure of her office (as it well should have been), and that Marquez gave her a short term assignment, passed off to TR. You are going to be seeing a lot of this in the next couple of months as serious house cleaning takes place on the forth floor. Has Beason hurt TR productivity?
Original Post: "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."

Where is the management chain working? I am a visitor to the lab, and came this summer. I was actually impressed with how much I got done considering what I had been reading on the Blog. I was also impressed by the intervention of a particular AD to make sure that our work went well -- and that we did not have to move into some warehouse to accomodate facilities folks.

My impression of the director before I left is that he is quite good. I kind of wonder if these posts about every manager being bad are really about LANL or are they about the *poster*
Anonymous : 7/30/2005 01:44:45 PM is clearly a Livermite.
"LLNL fits the model described; very productive and a little flakey."
Hasn't this person heard of NIF?
Talk of LM and Bectel being hatchtmen and cleaning out "a lot of people from the lab" is nonsense. Most of those people are women and minorities (SSMs) and it just ain't gonna happen now anymore than it happened in 1995. It will not be politically acceptable to lay these people off.

Indeed, we have been hiring insatiably in the indirect and overhead areas. Take a look at the last year. A lot of senior TSMs and TECs have retired and most of what we have hired has been in the non-technical areas. Take a look at the job posting!

It is NOT going to get any more productive.
In 2002 Los Alamos ranked next to last in the complex for delivery on time. Number one reason cited -- no program management, and -- this is a real quote -- "using science for science's sake". I am a very loyal LANL employee, but when I read about how we could all be so much more productive if we would just oft a few dozen managers, I cringe. Believe me, if left to our own devices we would fold within a year. The days of Harold Agnew, and the dump trucks backing up and dumping the dough on the lawn are long over.
Just so we get our facts straight about Susan. She had NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING to do with the hydrotests coming in "more or less on schedule (2 years late)". The one activity I actually saw her engage (a crane license), she buggered it up for weeks before finally quitting. Susan is clueless and inept plain and simple.
I'm curious, 06:46: How much attention do you WANT an associate director to pay to things like the hydro tests? From the first day at the lab when I had any responsibility at all for getting work done, I was just as happy not to have the "help" of AD-size people to do it, even when the ADs were more functional than they are now.

No criticism intended here, I'm honestly curious. Not being in one of the weapons directorates, I don't know what things look like from there on this particular issue, but I sure know what it's like in TR, and the less "help" I have on routine things from ADs, the better my life is.
Poster 5:15pm - You are right, no one at LANL is going to layoff minority
SSM workers. That's political dynamite. However, many of these low level
overhead positions will be outsourced when our new managers come on board.
For some of these workers, it will actually be a step up in terms of
potential future advancements. If layoffs are necessary at a later date,
it will be based on the judgment of the contracted company, and not
LANL Corp. And, believe me, DOE wants to see the cost of doing business
go down at its labs. The writing is on the wall on this one. DOE budgets
are not going to expand in the future, regardless of whatever heroics
St. Pete will attempt in our favor. DOE is becoming more and more aware
of the budgetary constraints that lay in our future.

As far as upper management with "Associate" in their titles, not all
will be zeroed out, but some cleansing will take place. And while the
ratio of staff to managers at SNL may appear to be the same as LANL,
it is my understanding that most managers at SNL are responsible for
bringing in funding. That is most certainly not the case at LANL.
At LANL, many managers are income consumers and not income producers.
I suspect that will be changing in the future.

LANL will be better prepared to face the future once we focus on improving
our productivity. It's a change in focus that is long overdue.
Anonymous : 7/30/2005 10:12:43 PM states that these SSMs will be out-sourced and I agree that this is the proper thing to do from a business point of view. But again I think that the women/race card will be played again.
9:52 The answer to your question is that an Associate Director should have almost nothing to do with a hydrotest. Susan has micromanaged the whole process to the point that it will probably never completely recover from "her" clever ideas for improvement - most of which derive from Chris or Mary anyway. However, she did actually take responsibility for "fixing" the crane lincense issue (which she said she would do in a day) and made a total mess of it.
In an ideal world, an experienced manager would intervene ONLY when they could really add value. Since there is not a single manager in Los Alamos who has ever fired a hydrotest, they rarely, if ever, add value with their intervention(s). On the other hand, since hydrotesting is completely broken at Los Alamos, the management believes it is their God-given right to continue to tinker and make total fools of themselves in the process. Is that what we want?
Indeed Seestom is far too influenced by her husband Chris Morris and by Mary Hockaway. While all three of these individuals are quite accomplished in their narrow fields of expertise, that does not immediately transfer to excellence in other fields. It's sort of like listening to movie stars expound on political candidates.
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?
There is absolutely no evidence and Seestrom is an "expert" in some area of physics. Her leadership has been problematic from the day Nanos appointed her. In comparision to Ray J., who was an outstanding physicist with the ability to articulate vision like science based predicition, Susan is a Micheline Devaurs. This comes through in her leadership as being just being tepid. I wish it was not the case, but for Susan, the job is all about her. She would do anything to keep the title of AD.

I agree with the earlier postings that it is not the AD job to micromanage work -- like details of hydrotests. However, it is the ADs job to make sure that work CAN get done. There is a mixed bag on this count in the present leadership. Beason and Wallace seem to be doing this fine. Beck, it is much harder to tell if he is the problem or the solution.
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.
A good upper manager at LANL needs to have the ability and courage to push back against unacceptable requirements which the contractor and DOE attempt to mandate. UC in particular has been completely and totally spineless when it comes to saying "No!" to DOE upon receipt of yet another stupid bureaucratic requirement from them.

To give a counter-example of this attribute: Cobb.

Just because DOE is the customer most certainly does not make them always right. It is the poorest customer that usually needs the most guidance, and DOE is certainly the poorest customer that I have ever had to deal with.
I would like to stick up for Seestrom. She is fighting back against PAD-N-WiPe and has told us that AD Tarantino and his large group of idiots will soon be irrelevant, and will be replaced in the proposal. We should thank her for that. PAD-N-WiPe has done more damage to science at LANL than even Nanos. They have cut science in LANSCE budget and as Susan points out, are a completely incompetent and wasteful effort here. The question I have is why are we waiting to get rid of that organization? Shouldn't we just stop it now? Let's listen to Seestrom for a change.
7/31/2005 10:30:30 AM said:
"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."

Look at Joan Woodard
to see the sort of person Sandia puts in charge of their nuclear weapons program.
Poster 11:10 -- looks like Sue Seestrom is back in town and trolling the blog. Come on, Tarantino's org is wasteful (6% tax for an empire), but to suggest that Seestrom is pushing back against Freddie is fiction. Seestrom only cares about LANSCE because of P-Rad (and her meal ticket)-- I have heard her say "without LANSCE I will lose 500 people reporting to me" -- now that is a good management!

If Susan Seestrom is telling you about the future, then (1) she is lying, or (2) she is in violation of her agreement with LANS. Neither option is very good.
Whine, Whine, Whine,
Pete came, Pete left, The sun still rises in the morning and sets in the evening, It’s time to GET OVER IT.
People keep commenting on productivity, but judging by the time/date stamps on numerous postings throughout this blog, it appears that much posting is done during work hours. Could it be that the same group complaining about less then stellar productivity, are the same ones posting while they are being paid to work? Talk to LM, when their stated work hours are 8-5, they are at work 8-5, that doesn’t mean leave the house at 8, take 2 hours of discretionary leave, or whatever other reason someone can dream up to get out of something. It means at work at 8, and stay until 5 PERIOD.
Then we start complaining about overhead, taxes on programmatic activities, to much support, not enough science….
Get a grip. Whether it be UC and Company, or LM and Company, the times are fast changing. Talk to your counterparts around the complex, see how things work at their sites. The days of the mother load coming into the weapons program then being doled out to everyone else (overhead) are soon to be over. A percentage will go to science, and a percentage will go to support. The support side will stay fairly stable, but the scientific percentage will stay in flux as the political winds change. Not to mention that pretty much anything that doesn’t relate to TR or Weapons is OVER, GONE, HISTORY. We aren’t here to advance science any longer, we will be advancing science only where it relates to the weapons or TR programs.
It may come true that managers will be the first to go under the new LLC, but it will likely be whiners and complainers that go second.

And to 7/30/2005 03:46:58 PM, comments about what he/she thinks Robinson will or won’t do, get a life, there’s going to be housecleaning on both sides of the Laboratory. Get used to it now and maybe, just maybe you won’t be quite so surprised this time next year. Or you can always just continue whining!

Should have been careful what you asked for, it looks like your going to get it. And I would guess we’re ALL going to get it.
Knock on the devils door long enough, sooner or later, he’ll answer.
IF Susan is finally sending Fred Tarentino packing then good for her and really reallly good for the working class. It is about time. Susan could close PADNWiPe forever and the only person we would hear from is Gary. Susan is about Susan and that has not changed one bit. Either new contractor is likely to see right through her. I can wait.
To Poster 12:53 PM -

The biggest whiners of all are those who constantly belittle
the comments of others. You, 12:53, are a most obnoxious little
twit of a person. I've seen your "Get Over It" comments one too
many times. If you don't like the observations and comments
of those who post here, then why do you keep coming back to
belittle other posters? Follow your own medicine, "Get a Life",
and leave this blog to people who care about LANL's future. Your
ego seems to feed off of harshly criticizing others with your glib
little comments. Get your sick ego kicks somewhere else, loser.
Just ignore the mindless Get-Over-It rants from posters like 12:53pm. It's
nothing more than a bad case of brain-farts.
To 7/31/2005 02:30:17 PM

“The biggest whiners of all are those who constantly belittle
the comments of others.”

Like you just did to 12:53?

“ You, 12:53, are a most obnoxious little twit of a person.”

So, we now resort to name calling?

“ I've seen your "Get Over It" comments one too many times. If you don't like the observations and comments of those who post here, then why do you keep coming back to belittle other posters?

Obviously, you didn’t like 12:53’s comments, does that mean that you’ll be leaving also? If not, why do you keep coming back. Is it just to belittle others?

“Follow your own medicine, "Get a Life",and leave this blog to people who care about LANL's future. Your ego seems to feed off of harshly criticizing others with your glib little comments. Get your sick ego kicks somewhere else, loser.”

Your last few sentences, 02:30, pretty much sum up the problem. If someone dares to disagree with your point of view, or more importantly express opinions that don’t agree with yours, they must be “little twits”, “Losers”, or someone with a “sick ego”, who doesn't care about LANL's future.
Shouldn't we be identifying which upper managers will be around under the new contractor corporation whichever one it is? Many of the folks being dissed here will no longer be relevanr, depending on the outcome.
The 7/30/2005 05:15:46 PM post and the ones that follow in a similar vein show that LANL is a racist, sexist workplace. It is more than the management, it is the culture. That is why there is a class action suit against LANL at this time and the inability of LANL to value all of its employees will continually prevent it from achieving true greatness. The "best" minds are not limited to on gender or race. Ignoring the minds of women and those of various ethnicities cripples LANL.
8:30. For sure LANL is a sexist, racist, ingrained workplace culture that hopefully will get leveled a bit by the pending class action lawsuit. The only women and minorities who have made it to the top of the LANL management chain are those who act just like the majority of the old white guys who set the tone there. These folks, Seestrom and Marquez are excellent examples, are accepted as part of the "club" - the one that overlooks immoral and unethical behaviors, harrassment of low-ranking employees, and keeping other minorities and women silenced. The members of the "club" fail to discipline their Division Managers and subordinates when they engage in these and other destructive behaviors such as blantantly abusing foreign travel privileges by taking frivilous vacations to Paris and elsewhere, and buying any home comptuer network gizmo they want, 2 or 3 laptops, ipods, and even recreational equipment. But emulate the "club" behavior enough and anyone can get in, even Rich "minority" Marquez who after enough macho strutting and swinging his d*%k around found a place at LANL, and Sue "my managers can do no wrong" Seestrom, who looks and acts enough like a man anyway to fit right in.
Affirmative action is to enable stupid white women to collect unearned economic rents. It's the cost of doing business with the government.
Actually, the purpose of affirmative action is to give the stupid incompenent women and minorities the same opportunities afforded to stupid incompetent white men by the old boy network.
Good example of productivity here, suck it up and get back to work you whiners!
I can say to you all one thing. Looking in from the outside I can tell you that you have clearly described how disorganized you are and you have painted a pretty good picture to me what goes on up at Los Alamos and who does what and where everything is. If I can figure this out by reading this blog so can our enemies in this world. You need to be more careful what you write on this blog. You are making our flagship laboratory (whom is supposed to protecting this country) in "America" look stupid, disorganized, employee against employee, look weak, lose face, and above all look as if though the individual can be penetrated by our enemies without them even having to penetrate us for information. You are freely giving information to them on this blog. Real smart!
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