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From the Director: M&O Improvement Agenda Update

As discussed in the October 5th editionn of SLAC Today, we are now in the process of planning the strategy and starting to identify the resources needed for successful implementation of the management and operations improvement agenda for the lab. Planning and thoughtful steps now are essential to ensure a successful outcome. However, we are now taking near-term actions to get the process started, even while the full plan is still being developed.

Recall that the goal of the management and operations (M&O) improvement agenda is to improve the functionality of SLAC M&O. As the laboratory becomes more multi-program in nature, we need to have an integrated approach to managing the lab performance that aligns with the lab’s more complex mission. We brought in McCallum-Turner to help us develop the strategy for the transition as effectively and efficiently as possible.

The first steps in the process are foundational and structural to the way we manage at the lab. They may not be very visible, but they are absolutely crucial to our success; we must ensure decisive, consistent leadership at the highest levels. If you recall my analogy of "remodeling the house while we are living in it," we need to fix the structural elements of the house first.

One recent step is obvious. I have made some modifications to the laboratory organizational chart and removed the word "Interim." Additionally, on Saturday October 13, I met with my Associate Lab Directors (ALDs) and the Special Assistant to the Director, Steve Williams, for an all-day executive management retreat. We focused on immediate questions for the senior management team:

  • What kind of lab do we want to be?
  • What is the vision for the lab?
  • What are our guiding principles and core values for managing the lab?
  • What are the high level goals required to achieve the vision of the lab we have defined?
  • What are some of the near term actions for the director and the ALDs?

By the end of the day, we had:

  • Produced a first draft of our vision and core principles
  • Listed a set of high level goals
  • Established the R2A2s (roles, responsibilities, authority and accountability) for the lab director and associate directors. This was an extremely important step because it is the foundation of clear communication and decision making processes, and it allows us to start to prioritize and tackle the specific areas of improvement identified in mission support functions at the lab (over the next months, each successive level of management will be asked to review its own R2A2s)
  • Identified near term actions for the directors and the ALDs, including developing a system to rank the improvement initiatives, developing a robust strategy for planning and allocating resources, and establishing a process for the development of the customer service model that will apply to all SLAC customers

I am encouraged by the lively discussions, the productivity, the commitment and the alignment demonstrated by the senior management team during the strategy session. In the near future, draft versions of the lab vision statement and the core principles of management will be publicly posted for your consideration and comment.

I would like to conclude by reminding you that we are embarking on a several year voyage here. Some of you may feel frustrated by the initial steps—too timid for some, too drastic for others. In the end, we must arrive, together, at appropriate management structures and processes to optimally enable the creativity and innovation that are the lifeblood of the lab.

Persis Drell, SLAC Today, October 19, 2007