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From the Director: "Work Group" Meetings Again

(Photo - Persis Drell)
(Photo by Linda Cicero.)

I've greatly enjoyed meeting with all of you in "work group" meetings this week. I'm using quotes around "work group" because we are trying an experiment this time. Instead of organizing the meetings by work groups, we organized by last names so that each meeting would have representation from groups across the lab. This has led to some interesting discussions and a different flavor from previous meetings as staff from different parts of the lab hear what is on each other's minds.

I've enjoyed talking about Linac Coherent Light Source project completion, commissioning and first science. Together we've talked about improvements in the mission support functions at the lab and areas where these is still frustration. And we've talked about the strategic vision for the lab in the next decade. In every session we've talked about the need for more and better communication down the line organization and back up again as highlighted in the Team 2 report. Some questions have been asked in every session:

Q: When are we going to get more government vehicles on the site? We need them!

A: We are looking into it!

Q: Will there be a raise this year?

A: Yes!

In some questions, I was asked to predict the future:

Q: Can you tell us about new buildings coming on the site?

A: I talked a new research support building next to building 50 and my dreams for a new Photon Sciences Building and a replacement for Panofsky Auditorium and the Cafeteria.

Q: What is going to happen to DOE funding for "curiosity driven" research like High Energy Physics? What about funding for "use inspired" research in Basic Energy Sciences?

A: I gave the best reading I could of the political climate for funding.

Sometimes I just sat back and the audience took over the discussion...

Example: I talked about the significant improvements in our safety performance in the past 3 years (just check out these charts if you want to be impressed) but whenever you see low numbers of reported events you have to worry about underreporting. So I emphasized that I would rather have a lab with open reporting and a large number of incidents than a lab with very few reported incidents, but where people didn't report dangerous situations. In one session, a gentleman raised his hand to say, "I just want you to know the lab is a lot safer and we are reporting incidents." He went on to say how helpful the ES&H department is in supporting the line organizations to work safely. He praised the improvements in work planning and control and said how they were helping to plan the work and do it right. After he spoke, a member of the ES&H department raised his hand to say he appreciated the praise but he pointed out that ES&H was there to support the line organizations and credit for the improvements in safety really belong with the line organizations and the good work they are doing. The whole room enjoyed the interchange.

Another example: In one session I got some detailed questions about computing processes at the lab. Since four members of the leadership of Computing Division happened to be sitting in the front row, there was an extended conversation between several members of the audience and the computing leadership that both seemed to enjoy.... The Computing leadership enjoyed talking about some of their process improvements and the members of the audience really appreciated how responsive, open and on top of things the Computing leadership was.

I really enjoy these sessions. I appreciate the willingness you all have to participate and ask questions about what is on your mind. I am trying to follow up on questions that I couldn't answer so if I didn't answer your question in the session, send me a note because odds are I have an answer now!

—Persis Drell
SLAC Today, April 2, 2010