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From the Director: The SLAC Improvement Initiative (SII)

We are embarked on a several year voyage to put in place the management structures and processes at SLAC that will optimally enable the creativity and innovation that are the lifeblood of the lab. We brought in consultants Bob McCallum and Kyle Turner to help us evaluate how we function and to propose improvements to the management and operation of the laboratory. Their final report, which contains their recommendations, will be released to the lab community after the holiday. The next leg of the voyage is to develop our own plan for improvements, based, in part, on their recommendations. The result will become the SLAC Improvement Initiative (SII), which will include an executable, resource-loaded implementation plan aligned with SLAC's vision and mission.

We have already been taking the early and in some cases foundational steps to move the lab forward. You have seen the organizational changes. A task force is working on the long-range scientific vision for the lab with an expected draft which we will share with you in January. A draft vision statement, mission statement and summary of core values for the lab were posted for your comment earlier in the week. We have been getting feedback, both positive and negative. I encourage you to engage in the debate by sending your comments to

I have worked with my senior managers to define their roles and responsibilities, as well as my expectations for their performance based on the core values you have seen. We are working well together and there are small victories we can celebrate. For example, over the past weeks, staff from PEP-II and BaBar have moved over to help the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) and LCLS Ultrafast Science Instruments (LUSI) projects, while Photon Science Directorate and Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL) Assistant Director Elizabeth Caplun-Cochrane has moved away from some of her duties to be the project manager for the SII for the next few months. For me, this is visible commitment of senior management to the "One Lab" concept, in which we decide to take action based on what is best for the lab as a whole.

A major next step is to establish the policy and decision-making bodies for the laboratory going forward. Many, such as the Business Improvement and Transition Team (BITT) and the Environment, Safety and Health Coordinating Council (ESHCC) already exist and may need their authorities and responsibilities clarified. Others will have to be established. We need to create some of the essential management functions such as Work Planning and Control to support the line organizations. One of the first steps of improving the mission-support functions at the lab will be to identify the appropriate staffing and leadership in areas that may be under-resourced and overcommitted.

By the end of December we will have a resource-loaded, projectized plan for the SII with milestones so that we can track progress. Choices will have to be made about the areas we should focus on first. As this plan is developed, we will be continuing in parallel with some of the foundational elements we have started to put in place.

I am personally struggling, as I expect many of you are, with my frustration that we are not making progress faster. I am also trying to be realistic and manage my own expectations for how quickly we can make changes while still continuing to operate. We are making progress and as we celebrate some of the very small initial steps, we must continue to be committed the larger steps that will follow.

Persis Drell, SLAC Today, November 16, 2007