Thursday, December 01, 2005

We just need a football team

Submitted by Anonymous:

I think one of the worst things about the shutdown was how various
divisions, groups, and people reacted and did things during it. A lot of
division/group managers went into duck and hide mode like a puppy who
had been hit on the nose for the first time. This seemed to amplify a
lot of bad habits they had in berating and undermining their employees
which basically rolled downhill. I got to ghost in a lot of meetings,
and basically you would hear one thing in the SET, and then the people
from it would redirect it as something completely different in order to
maintain their petty kingdoms.

Other personnel and management took the shutdown for what it was
publicly listed as "a time to figure out what things are broken and
fix them." Those groups spent the time looking around and fixing things.
Some of them were later berated by division or other management for not
cowering.. but some still went along and fixed problems.

Basically I think that the biggest waste of the 350+ million dollars was
that the underlying lab culture is based so much on fear, fiefdom, and
false fanfare that it couldn't solve anything without a complete change
of middle and upper management. It seems that in some divisions, you
only get promoted by the amount of dirt you have on others... or at
least that is what people are going to say whether it is true or not.

LANL isn't a den of thieves.. its problems are more like the politics you
see at any university.. lots of backstabbing, bullying, pissing on each
other, and dwelling on far past slights. We just need a football team.

One thing I found disturbing about the stand-down was the selfishness displayed by some people. Some of us spent weeks going over procedures, writing and editing IWDs, doing MSAs, and other things that were helpful to other groups, divisions, and programs, as well as to ourselves. Contrast this to people who spent the whole stand-down working on their own publications, and refused to help the group effort. Which is more valuable: an achievement award, or seven new publications?
Kevin, on the subject of writing IWDs, MSAs, etc: I did not feel at the time, nor do I feel now that adding another layer of inconsistent rules and regulations was the solution to our problems.

While it was admirable that some people threw themselves into the only solution available to them in order to get back to work (writing IWDs), increasing the burden of bureaucratic paperwork that staff were to be forced to deal with was precisely the *wrong* thing to be doing.

The harsh reality is that the shutdown was not justified. The fact that it occurred anyhow was what needed addressing. Adding to LANL's paperwork morass simply made things worse.

The resonant frequencies of an object tell a lot about it.

A glass rings when tapped. A solid log emits a different sound than a rotten one.

People and organizations respond to shocks and stresses different ways. Some are productive, constructive, and resilient. Others are selfish, complain of unfairness, and demand that the world align with their local interests.

The response of some elements of the laboratory to the series of impulses, from the Tiger Teams to the shut down, indicate that there are pockets of "soft" material scattered thru LANL that has degraded over the years and either needs to be re-annealed or replaced with good, solid material.

We generally do not get to prescribe the impulses we experience, but we cannot usually fake our responses.

The new contract will provide an opportunity to reconstitute the good, solid material that ought to be LANL.
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