Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What is a “Chief of Staff” and why do we need them?

From Anonymous:

Please post anonymously:

There are a number of blog threads [T Division Problems Run Deeper; T Division: The Real Story; General advice about managers] commenting on bad (or psychopathic) managers and especially Chiefs of Staff. I would like to ask the questions:

1. What is a “Chief of Staff” and why do we need them?

2. What qualifies a person to be a Chief of Staff?

3. Who is responsible if her or his behavior gets retaliatory or abusive (these postings, at least for the most part, are not misogynist, as one poster suggested; it just happens that most Chiefs of Staff are female)?

Several that I have known have told me they were hired to relay "unpleasant" information to the staff because the Division Leader was too weak a manager to do so.
Good questions to which all the answers
are probably "who knows".
Division "Chief Adviser" is out there now, what's that all about? "Advise" is proliferating like kudzu in a rain forest. Making a difference? More unnourishing stuff to chew through. A machete can't come too soon.
My guess is the DOE pushed so much paperwork down on LANL that regular division office staff couldn't get their jobs done so divisions started hiring someone to manage the DOE paperwork. And if these folks are not strictly managed, the more agressive ones will assume any job possible just to pad resumes or provide a stepping stone to a promotion. In T Division, management is nonexistent.
It may be useful to study the successful and learn from them. I work quite a bit with one of the better-liked and more successful chiefs of staff at the lab, in a division where there are some other managers who aren't very good at all. This particular CoS, whom I'll call Chris, has carved out a niche involving personnel interactions in the division -- shepherding through post-doc packages, staffing plans for the groups, pushing hiring packages through the system efficiently (a long-standing sore spot that has improved considerably since Chris got involved with it), setting up the content -- not just format -- of the division review, and so on. It really works quite well.

Chris has an undergraduate technical degree, as I understand it, but went over to the "dark side" :-) later in life. I can't imagine Chris ever getting retaliatory or abusive, but am reasonably sure that the DL would intervene if it ever happened -- although that same DL is by no means unaccustomed to such behavior elsewhere in the division office, including in the DL's own office.

I have a number of issues with our division management. I do NOT have issues with Chris, who is an asset, plain and simple. The people in our division who deal with Chris tend to share my view. It is still entirely possible to find good leaders, and good "sidekicks," at the lab; there just aren't enough of 'em to go around.
It seems that CoS is a new position created to add another admin do the work the Group admin used to do at a higher salary.
The question cut right to the heart of the problem. Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor are not defined, or openly competed, so they become high paid plums which to to favorites. And a place to park failed DLs like Judith Kaye.
Until the jobs are defined, and openly competed, they are far too likely to be corrupt power centers. Hopefully, whoever wins the contract, these roles will come in for some well deserved scrutiny. Another sewer which is looking for Drano is Lab Legal, staffed by poorly qualified, over paid, attorneys. Remember their role in Walp/Doran? Seemed to be hiding evidence from the FBI! Their main role seems to be hiring "real" attorneys, and watching them work. The whole group should be fired, and the role of Lab Legal rethought.
COS, Deputy Group Leaders for Administration are the same thing, different level (COS div.--DGL group). Both of these need to be looked at, at one time lead secretaries or admins. did this job. This is just another level of crap used to pay off some past debt or make one's kingdom bigger. At group level besides DGL for admin., there are now adm. operations specialist, lead administrators, group administrators, admins to escort, and the list goes on and on. Building one's kingdom and covering weak managers.
THE COS is a block, a person who helps who they like and stabbs the person(s) they dislike in the back, she/he wants to be involved in every decision, thus eventually the POWER gets to their head. Or they fear anyone get to there level sooner than they did or at all. Or they keep people from advancing so there wont be an add on in the SSM peer group which helps during raise time! So they hinder the ability for AS/SSM series to advance. Our COS makes over 75K, with no education, and acts like she is running the entire division. Its a shame that people forget where they came from!
I’m a woman (and not misogynistic), but the T Division Chief of Staff is a woman (and flaunts it unprofessionally) that is a menace to mankind and womankind.
In practice, it seems that the main purpose of a Chief of Staff is to enable real managers to avoid unpleasant responsibilities? Actually, personnel relations (including the most lowly and defenseless) are one of the most important parts of being a manager.
Someone tell that to Alan (What, Me Worry?) Bishop!
Note to: Anonymous at 7/21/2005 10:32:18 AM

Some groups also have a COS!
CoS positions are filled by
HR employees or HR types,
advance degrees not required,
average pay => 110k,
I dont think it matters if its a female or not, but you are right about the type of person. I don't think advanced degrees should be required either, however they are given to much power and say and let their position cloud their brain.

In my opinion it is *very* hard for females to advance in this laboratory! But these COS let the advancement get to their head and ruin the advancement posibilities for everyone! Average pay is about 80K depending on how well your div is funded.
I dont think it matters if its a female or not, but you are right about the type of person. I don't think advanced degrees should be required either, however they are given to much power and say and let their position cloud their brain.

In my opinion it is *very* hard for females to advance in this laboratory! But these COS let the advancement get to their head and ruin the advancement posibilities for everyone! Average pay is about 80K depending on how well your div is funded.
I am interested, What group has a COS? I have heard of an Administrative Operations Spec. Please do tell!
ESA-ES has a COS. Only the "official" title is Program Administrator. There are quite a few of these at SSM 2 and SSM 3 levels. Not all of the Program Administrators are COS, but this is how the Groups disguise having one.
A COS is supposed to exist at the division level or above but there are a pack of AOS (administration operations specs) who are glorified secretaries but who call themselves COSs... From what I've seen they hold endless meetings and accomplish nothing. The underpaid, under-titled admins do all the work while the "others" contribute nothing. It's like a reward for sucking up to the right people... hey there is even a CHIEF CHIEF OF STAFF for pity's sake... Gimme a break.
DX-5 has an AOS who is shown on the group org chart as a COS.
MST-6 has an AOS and Dep. Grp. Ldr for Admin. go figure.
Master Management memo MM1825/ADS1996 explains how Deputy Group Leaders for Administration came about. SET gave free rein to group leaders to staff the group as they see fit without benefit of competing the positions. And furthermore, made all of the acting positions permanent.
Females have no hold on turning the position into a nightmare. You need to see the male COS for Pad'n'Wipe. This guy is a real prize. Not one of Fred Tarantino's better outside hires. If FT ever leaves, he should be forced to take this guy with him.
Does anyone on the 4th floor ever evaluate how these things are working? I have no doubt that there are a few good Chiefs of Staff earning their money and making things easier for the scientific staff. But there seem to be a lot of horror stories associated with the position, and it seems to be highly susceptible to abuse.
I don't believe it is the COS position itself that lends itself to being abused, Rather, it is the completely dysfunctional management stucture at LANL that allows abuse. A good management system provides checks and balances to limit the damage one bad manager can inflict. UC/DOE/NNSA have not exactly been the poster children for effective management, and we are now seeing the result and paying the price. The Chiefs of Staff we've been reading about, Rich Marquez, Micheline Deveaurs, "Morale Officer" Lisa, Don Cobb, Judith Kaye, Tom Bowles, and yes, George P. Nanos himself are all products of the UC School of Management (TM).

Thank you very much for providing them to us, UC.
Look within NMT Divison to find several COSs.
The COS at the Division level is there, ideally, to provide something the DL and DDL cannot provide realistically - day-to-day management of the Division Office staff. Unfortunately, the position has morphed in many cases into the gofer/surrogate for the DL - i.e., handle everything the generally useless "deployed" security, safety, HR, etc. "SMEs" won't get their hands dirty doing. In the best cases (of which I've seen one, now unfortunately ended), the COS runs interference for the GLs, providing much needed help in coping with the one-size-fits-all Lab pronouncements and actually making those mandates doable. The concept of COS is not bad - a previous poster is right - management needs to oversee their unfortunate and maybe inevitable tendency to empire-building.
The group COS for NMT-16 is a gay male who has most of the worst qualities attributed to some of the women COS's discussed in these posts. Please don't give the impression that these individuals are only females!
It the NMT-16 COS were black, or some other non-white ethnicity, then we could just about bust all of the stereotypes!

Well, all the COSs I know within NMT have little man (or woman) syndrome. Most of them have a BIG chip on their shoulders because they don't have advanced technical degrees and can't qualify for DGL positions but insist they are doing the same job.
The COSs that I know are the workhorses of the division and directorate offices. They're the ones who plan out how to respond to the jillion requests for reports, presentations, etc. that come in from various gov't entities (Congress, GAO, multi-lab teams, etc.) and keep the DL and AD from losing their minds. They can go to the finance folks, the div and group management, etc. and get the info they need, without dumping the whole project on any of those people.

Internally, they interpret the requirements coming down from above and help the GLs and DLs figure out what it means and how it will be implemented across that line management.

The idea, I think, is that they are the "go-to" people for the div and AD folks, so the overarching, complicated stuff gets done without the manager him/herself being buried in it. There's TONS of this stuff, from Appendix F reports to division and program reviews, and if you ever want to see your manager's face again, you'll have to hope they have a COS to save them from the paperwork avalanche!
How do I get a CoS job? I have a BS degree, and I'd love to make 110K. I'll piss everyone off for that!!
Anonymous at 7/22/2005 04:37:00 PM:
Which division's Chief of Staff are you?
Anonymous at 7/22/2005 06:08:25 PM: it's too bad that you only have a BS degree. COS positions for PhD's pay about $165K!
PhD COS's - Pbbbtt! "Morale Officers" earn 163.5 as I understand.
And thereby destroy morale.
7/22 4:37pm, I've seen many of those assignments just get passed off to admins by the COS.
Yeah - the PADNWP Chief of Staff is a real piece of work. He's been here about three months and there are 2 or 3 people thinking of filing grievances already. The guy makes inappropriate comments (sexual mostly), He's a lawsuit waiting to happen.
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