Jul 3, 2007

What now?

LA Monitor Editorial
Monday, July 2, 2007

There was good news this week out of the Senate as the Appropriations Committee put most of the LANL money the House had taken out back in. That is good news to be sure.

But anyone who thinks that this is more than a reprieve is fooling themselves. Gone are the days of ever-expanding funding for the lab. And even with the Senate action, there will surely be some kind of funding cut here at the end of the day.

So what now?

That is a multi-part answer.

The lab needs to make more of an effort to be involved with the community, to engage the people here more. As evidenced by the articles we ran, there is a lot of fear and anxiety about what is happening. To keep this hidden or buried does no one any good.

It needs to be discussed in the open. And the people at LANS need to understand that it is their responsibility to talk to us, to be engaged with us. Nothing good ever comes from burying your head in the sand.

Then the lab needs to continue to move in the direction of diversification of its mission. There are lots of good people doing lots of good things. That needs to be expanded upon.

And we - and the world - need to be told about it. LANL can be a real place of change and it not only needs to take the lead in this effort, it needs to let everyone know it.

Finally, we as a community need to do something - we need to get off our rear-ends and start working together to move this community forward.

No matter what the outcome of the funding battle at the lab, one thing is certain, the funding will be less and less each year.

The lab will survive; it will thrive and it will be smaller and smaller. So if we are to survive as a strong and viable community, we must move to diversify.

This does not just mean Boyer and more retail, which is fine. This means working to strengthen our base industry.

Many say this cannot be done. But we say it must be done. We must take advantage of what we have here: clean air, good water and fine weather to attract people and organizations to our community.

There is much to offer here, much for us to build upon and around. We do not have to be slaves to the lab, but can - and must - work to be more of a partner in the future of this community.

We simply must.


Anonymous said...

Now what? That's the two billion dollar question, isn't it? In fact, it's probably what LANS executives utter every morning.

I suspect LANS has no idea how to effectively salvage the train wreck that is approaching.

Now what? The most likely outcome is that we'll slowly wither away, with the prime reason for LANL's existence becoming that of a pit production facility. Any other path would take vision, and I currently see no vision at LANL.

Anonymous said...

The only healthy solution that I can envision is for the NNSA, DOE and LANS to fail so badly that Congress will listen to other options.

In the meantime, there would need to be a grassroots effort to develop a plan and accompanying organization to rebuild the Lab in a more dynamic, diverse and sustainable fashion. Then propose the new organization and its mission to Congress directly, detailing all the opporunities, efforts and measures that will lead to success.

We are (or can be) smart, hardworking people with a wide range of experience and expertise. Surely, there exists the potential to rebuild and operate the Lab as a more diverse entity without the added parasitical management layers.

If there is to be hope to overcome the abysmal circumstances in which we currently find ourselves, it will be without the 'help' of bloated, opportunistic leeches from on high whose only apparent 'contribution' is to divest the Lab of it's core competencies and funding, i.e. - sucking the lifeblood out of it, while excreting waste, i.e. - creating multiple layers of corporate policies that overburden the processes without adding any real value or improvement and political mumbo-jumbo through which no underling (prior LANL employee) may ever hope to pass, which create a toxic work environment and by effluence and ooze, also impacting the nearby communities.

Anonymous said...

Most of the management that you complain about is not new to the Lab, seems intent on continuing the personal agenda's of the past, have no value for LANS, and certainly don't demonstrate any intent to work collectively to improve the lab. Our hope that LANS would bring in fresh blood, fresh ideas, and a fresh future, went down the tube, not with too many changes, but with too few!

Anonymous said...

I guess I was considering that the prior management had already been proven to have failed and thus, the current players were the only ones mentioned.

Anonymous said...

The status quo is alive and well here at LANL. Problem is that the Bechtel people are listening to the same middle managers that screwed us in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Change has got to happen - I agree that the greatest need for change is in the middle. Those folks have the ability to drive the kind of positive change we need, or stop it cold. Doesn't matter whether the changes are coming up from the employees or down from the top (assuming the top wishes to truly implement beneficial change). They also are empowered to generate and drive change and could be the catalyst needed to help us all.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree that the middle layers of management can be a key to rebuilding.

However, my opinion is that they also can be bought and sold more easily for the following reasons:

1)They are more likely to have sufficient time invested with LANL and locally (mortgage) and hoping to hold out long enough to wrap up their careers with sufficient financial stability to carry them through their retirement without making a career change. Hence, regardless of the compromises they may be asked to make, they will try to stay in good graces with the decision-makers/check writers even if they alienate the very people who make do the work beneath or around them.

2) Their skill set and experience may play against them if they have to look elsewhere for a career. This is partly due to the likelihood that they aren't part of the elite 200 +/- that have been id'd as LANL's best & brightest. Also it's partly due to LANL being such an anomaly in form & function that LANL work experience doesn't always translate seamlessly (or well) to the 'outside world'. There are also many 'homegrown' middle managers who were fostered into management without the benefit of formal training (although there have been training or mentoring programs in recent history that have begun to improve this) and there may be gaps in formal education that may be problematic on a resume.

3) They've spent a lifetime overcoming internal changes (restructuring, new systems that increase effort rather than reduce effort, etc.), fighting for clout so they might be able to impart funding or salary treatment according to their plan and political jockeying within a broken system that their ability to truly innovate toward building or improving a non-broken system may be stunted.

4) The intensitiy at which their position & accompanying pay hits the manager's (& budget-driven) radar is significant. If they make one bad move, their removal and the dollars that would be 'gained' back into the budget picture make them look a lot like low-hanging fruit and they know it. I imagine they have tried to morph as much as they can to look, act, talk and lead or manage as much like the decision-maker above them so they remain safely employed.

5) They, like the rest of us, have been exhausted and stressed like the rest of us and are no doubt as weary as any of us but also are asked to muster yet another 'go get 'em, we're on the right track' attitude and lead as if they mean it in front of an employee base that distrusts almost every word that arrives or wonders what isn't being said and who may be detached from the Vision of the Lab.

There may be other considerations, too.

Please note, I'm not trying to trash the middle management en masse. I see their position as being one of the most difficult with a great deal at stake for each individual, no matter which direction the Lab goes or how they get there.

There are others who may have more reasonable options to move, diverge from their original career path or move upward from a lower rank by being noticed by new management or pursue different educational opportunities that will translate into greater opportunity.

The middle managers may be perched permanently on the fence between wishing for better days or leading the charge for change but I'm guessing the position could leave them with quite a bit of discomfort.

Anonymous said...

(1:23 here again) I also meant to say 6) their prior political gains and clout were quite possibly reset to zero (or lower) on June 1,'06, especially if the new management that was ensconced above them perceived them to be any kind of a managerial threat.

And: Another problem with being perched on a fence is that you can be a target from either side of the fence...

Anonymous said...

We need visionary leaders, managers who respect themselves enough to respect us.
We need a rescue plan! Bring in the leadership that "gets it" cares and is motivated more by their sense of country, science and community than their greed.
Too much to hope for. A LANL Tri-fecta!