Oct 23, 2007

A Black Belt in What!?!

An article on page two of the current Los Alamos Newsletter describes Lean Six Sigma Blackbelt candidate training.
Lean Six Sigma integrates elements of the Lab’s Human Performance Improvement and Performance-Based Leadership initiatives to foster a work environment that achieves our Laboratory goals.
One candidate's project in particular caught our eye as having significant potential to "foster a work environment that achieves our Laboratory goals."
  • Increasing the number of employee termination departure forms submitted on time, led by Tonya Grace of CAO-PMCI
Look for Tonya to be moving into upper management in the very near future!


Anonymous said...

Applying Black-Belt martial arts imagery to LANL's outrageous business practices is just the sort of lame vision that LANS' dimwit managers love to eat up.

LANL's current business model should be viewed as an obese, bed-ridden, 800 pound fat guy who thinks he's up to running in the Olympics. The Black Belt program is a management exercise in mental masturbation and nothing more.

Real improvements to the business practices at LANL will probably never occur. If they did, you would see it demonstrated by a drop in our FTE rates as productivity increased. Don't hold your breath waiting for that one to occur.

Anonymous said...

• Increasing the percentage of subcontract and purchase order awards to small business and socioeconomic categories, led by Ronald Dolin of CAO-PMCI

At least I know where Ron's working and what he's doing at the Lab now. Sounds like a good use of an engineering PhD.

Anonymous said...

11:51, the degree doesn't matter. You are obviously not up to speed. CAO is where it's at. This is part of the mechanism for how LANS earns its fee. Do you think many of these people will be losing their jobs?

Just check out some of the articles and the CAO function description on the CAO homepage to see where the future is.

Tell you what. I'd feel more secure with a job in CAO than I would in some of the weapons directorates. The former acting ADSR is in CAO. Some other guy in CAO was the DL of CST many years ago. I see at least one former GL in there and a bunch of TSMs as well.

Anonymous said...

OK, fine. But at some point EVERYBODY is going to be on overhead. Will that work?

Anonymous said...

Sure, it'll work.

Just ask any Democrat if our taxes are high enough yet, or whether evil profit-driven businesses (they make their money off the backs of the little people, you know) should be allowed to exist.

Shouldn't everybody be on the dole?

Anonymous said...

Nah, I think we should leave one person on direct funding, someone we don't like. Imagine how hard he'll have to work to keep the rest of us covered!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good reason to hire Eric back.

Anonymous said...

'If we ran Motorola the way that you run LANL, we would be out of business in a month'

The Galvin report - 1992

Anonymous said...

"Just ask any Democrat if our taxes are high enough yet, or whether evil profit-driven businesses (they make their money off the backs of the little people, you know) should be allowed to exist."

"Shouldn't everybody be on the dole?"

What the hell does this mean? It's ok to put the next three generations in debt, to waste billions on a war based on lies, but just so long as we don't have to pay any damn taxes? You stupid moron! And then the audacity to conclunde with "shouldn't everbody be on the dole?" Where the hell do you think you get your paycheck from bozo? From Bechtel? From UC? Try the taxpayer, idiot!

Anonymous said...

The Black Belt program was brought to your site courtesy of Bechtel - you have them to thank. We'll probably see that soon here at LLNL.

Anonymous said...

Everybody should calm down, Six Sigma, combined with Lean, for "Lean Six Sigma", or LSS, is just the latest incarnation of quality improvement. From what I've seen, this new process (at least for LANL - it seems to have peaked earlier and even has begun receding in favor in industry) at least has the benefit of being data-based. All LSS trainees go through a fairly rigorous process and are definitely not allowed to "make stuff up" - technical knowledge of a process is required in order to change it.

This too shall pass, but it seems any honest (i.e., based on facts and knowledge) attempt to improve the way things work and reduce costs ought to be given a chance. Conquer your gag reflex at the stupid terminology and give it the benefit of the doubt. It seems to have had a good and respectible ride in the private sector.

Anonymous said...

Whatever it is it sure sounds cool, so it must be good. Hmmm, let's see what Wikipedia has to say:

"This strives to mitigate significant failure modes of "Quality only" Six Sigma when it is applied to reducing variation in a single process step (sub-optimizing), or to processes which are not value added to the customer. The DMAIC steps can still apply, but the objectives ("Y's") and inputs ("X's") under study incorporate both quality (ppm) as well as speed (cycle time) metrics.

An example would be to add inter-process inspections to catch and eliminate defective units prior to further processing. The waste of processing defective units is eliminated, but at the expense of adding inspection which is in itself waste.

The first failure mode is partially mitigated by adoption of Rolled Throughput Yield analysis tied to cost [1], but is limited when costs are not tightly monitored at each process step."

Wow! This is going to save us! Seriously, how can you stand to be a manager and sit around all day talking about this stuff? I would jump off the Taos gorge bridge after a day of this crap. No matter how you wrap it up, it all comes down to common sense, reason, practicality.

Anonymous said...

Six sigma does make sense in certain contexts. I first heard of it at GE, although I understand it comes from Motorola. Over the years it has morphed into a business orthodoxy applied in absurd contexts with the goal being a career enhancing merit badge, err... belt.

Anonymous said...

Total Quality Management
Continuous Quality Improvement
Seven Highly Effective Habits
Integrated Safety Management
Integrated Security Management
Six Sigma
Management consultant BS flavor or the day. Whatever.

When I get RIFed, I'm going to write a how-NOT-to-manage book, based on what I've observed at NNSA/DOE/the Labs, go on the lecture circuit, and make a gazillion dollars. At least all the pain will have been worth it, to somebody (ME!)

Pinky and The Brain said...

Might I suggest a title?

Thinking outside the gate.

Anonymous said...

"Six Sigma" is a statistics based methodology originally designed for quality control of manufacturing processes, and as such make perfect sense in manufacturing contexts. Pit manufacturing, for example.

Anonymous said...

No argument there.

But, "Increasing the number of employee termination departure forms submitted on time"?

Anonymous said...

Fortune Magazine published an article with the statement "of 58 large companies that have announced Six Sigma programs, 91 percent have trailed the S&P 500 since." The article points out that [six sigma is] "narrowly designed to fix an existing process" and does not help in "coming up with new products or technologies."

Isn't the main challenge for LANS, given declining NNSA weapon budgets, to diversify; as in coming up with new products or technologies?

Dilbert was right, lean six sigma is just a discredited fad.

Anonymous said...

The main challenge for LANS, given declining NNSA weapons budgets, is how to get rid of excess scientists and engineers.

Anonymous said...

Tonya must be so proud! I bet she ran off and told all of her friends and family immediately.

I wonder how she sleeps at night?

Anonymous said...

Ah yes 10:52 that reminds me of several other programs I have attended at the lab, such as:

Building Understanding and Lifetime Learning with Structured Highly Intensive Training

Providing Optimal Information and Necessary, Timely Leadership to Ensure Six Sigma Creates Research And Productivity

Widely Aggregated Scientific and Technical Expertise Offers Freedom To Improve Management Efficiency

Anonymous said...

"The main challenge for LANS, given declining NNSA weapons budgets, is how to get rid of excess scientists and engineers."

Well, at least for the engineers there is some hope - it takes an awful lot of engineers to:

1) Build, modify, and maintain the infrastructure (facilities, hardware, tooling, etc.) to manufacture pits, and

2) Decontaminate and decommission all of the empty, unused structures when all the people that used to perform non-pit manufacturing R&D are long gone.

Anonymous said...

11:10 PM:

It's tough to apply statistical methods when you're only making 10 of something, and especially when each one is, shall we say, individually hand-crafted.

Anonymous said...

Hey folks, Tonya Grace is first rate. I'd pick her over the Ewok as Director in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

What are the costs of these so-called black belts, yellow belts, champions, etc., considering training, putting together the plan, presenting the plan, getting the plan approved, you get the picture. Let's just say that the burdened rate of these individuals is $200 x 5000 hours, well that's about $1M. And DOE is willing to reimburse this??? Well, this equates to about 2.5 FTEs. Somewhere in this picture are 2.5 FTEs who will get the pink slip all in the name of getting managers to fill out the frigging termination paperwork on time.

Anonymous said...

"Ah yes 10:52 that reminds me of several other programs I have attended.."

Nicely done

Anonymous said...

This black belt was based on getting workers with clearances to check out properly and not just walk out the door with their badge. This blog did a hype by posting a misleading title. I guess they think their CNN. Come on "Rest of the Story" we don't need any additional anxiety right now.

Pinky and The Brain said...

The title is not misleading, that's nonsense. Have you even read the title?

And if you meant to say the quotes in the story are misleading, complain to the the Los Alamos Newsletter. That's where we got them.

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...


We definitely understand that we are not CNN.

But, we do have certain spelling and grammar usage standards. For example, 'their', vs. 'they're', as demonstrated by your comment.


he1 /hi; unstressed i/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[hee; unstressed ee] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation pronoun, nominative he, possessive his, objective him; plural nominative they, possessive their or theirs, objective them; noun, plural hes; adjective
1. the male person or animal being discussed or last mentioned; that male.
2. anyone (without reference to sex); that person: He who hesitates is lost.
3. any male person or animal; a man: hes and shes.
4. male (usually used in combination): a he-goat.
[Origin: bef. 900; ME, OE hé (masc. nom. sing.); c. D hij, OS hé, OHG her he; see his, him, she, her, it1]

—Usage note Traditionally, the masculine singular pronouns he1, his, and him have been used generically to refer to indefinite pronouns like anyone, everyone, and someone (Everyone who agrees should raise his right hand) and to singular nouns that can be applied to either sex (painter, parent, person, teacher, writer, etc.): Every writer knows that his first book is not likely to be a bestseller. This generic use is often criticized as sexist, although many speakers and writers continue the practice.
Those who object to the generic use of he have developed various ways of avoiding it. One is to use he/she or she/he (or he or she or she or he) or the appropriate case forms of these pairs: Everyone who agrees should raise his or her (or her or his or his/her or her/his) right hand. Forms blending the feminine and masculine pronouns, as s/he, have not been widely adopted, probably because of confusion over how to say them.
Another solution is to change the antecedent pronoun or noun from singular to plural so that the plural pronouns they, their, and them can be used: All who agree should raise their right hands. All writers know that their first books are not likely to be bestsellers. See also they.


they're /ðɛər; unstressed ðər/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[thair; unstressed ther] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
contraction of they are.
—Usage note See contraction.

There (third usage form; note) , do you see the difference? You used 'their' when you should have used 'they're' in your criticism of this blog. Grammatically incorrect, and sub-standard quality for our posting standards. Please clean up your grammar, or cease posting to this blog.