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From the Director: SII Update

(Photo - Persis Drell)The SLAC Improvement Initiative (SII) is now six months old. Although the budgetary turmoil and the accompanying layoffs slowed our progress as we were distracted by the immediate crisis at hand, SII has continued to move forward and there are concrete improvement projects underway.

Recall that the SII is a process to improve the management structures and processes at SLAC to optimally support the scientific creativity and innovation that are the lifeblood of the lab. What we want is to be integrated as One Lab with coherent strategic and business planning for the lab as a whole. We want the processes by which we accomplish our mission to be consistent throughout the lab, we want to ensure that external and internal requirements are met, and we want Management Systems that will provide staff with the tools to do achieve the goals of the lab.

These projects that we have launched within SII fall into three categories (jokingly referred to as a 3-layer cake):

SII Project Management
These are the activities related to managing the SII as a whole. This is important as SII itself needs to be a model for the projects it spawns.

SII integrated management projects
These projects address the fundamental ways the lab manages itself as a scientific enterprise. They seek to integrate what we do (Business Planning and Self-assessment) and how we do it (Requirement Management, Management Systems Integration and Delivery Platform). These projects are designed to make sure that the vision, mission and strategic goals are aligned and translate into well understood priorities, and that the staff has the ready access to the tools to plan and do the job right, the first time around.

"In the Line" projects
These are projects that originate and are carried out in existing organizational units, such as Business Services (Procurement Improvement Project and Enterprise Systems Improvement Project), Human Resources (Roles-Responsibilities-Authority-Accountability and Performance Evaluation), Engineering and Technical Services (Work Planning and Control). Other projects that will increase the ability of the lab to provide the level of service needed to support a first class research enterprise will be added with time. This includes projects that provide better direct interface with the customers or help the departments deliver better services.

SII projects tackle systemic, foundational issues. We are starting slowly and deliberately, but we are making progress and people are becoming engaged. Scientists, managers and staff have been dropping by the SII offices, picking up magic markers, and adding their comments to the growing list of what the SII is expected to deliver. Whether they express unhappiness with the current situation ("A million people at SLAC each know one millionth about a problem"), describe the desired future ("I'm spending less time on non-useful work") or critical success factor ("The full SLAC team is committed to being the best lab as judged by peers, staff, and the DOE"), these comments confirm that the lab is ready to for change.

The SII has a three-year schedule to achieve its objectives. Six months in, we can start to see both the challenges we face and the opportunities ahead. We are already planning the party for October 2010 to celebrate our successes!

Note: To offer ideas, insights and advice, stop by Building 40, Rooms 141-144 and write on the walls or contact or directly.

Persis Drell, SLAC Today, March 28, 2008