Group examines plans to trim workload ‘burdens’

March 29, 2002

Group examines plans to trim workload ‘burdens’

Recently, NNSA Administrator John Gordon unveiled his plans to eliminate a layer of field management and to re-engineer the operations of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex. As input to NNSA’s re-engineering efforts, each NNSA lab and production site was asked to submit a report recommending measures that NNSA could take to reduce the “administrative workload burden” by 50 percent on the scientific, production and technical staffs. Reports have been submitted and several NNSA-wide work groups are tasked with defining those actions required to have a NNSA streamlined operation in place by January 2003.

The challenge of responding with meaningful recommendations within a short timeframe required us to focus on work processes with the greatest impact on our workforce. The “burdens” considered included: (1) activities that divert scientists from research, (2) time requirements or delays that affect research or production schedules, (3) unnecessary restrictions or barriers to work, and (4) total cost impacts that erode R&D funds.

Several sources of information were used including input from representative scientists and engineers from the program, technical and support organizations. We interviewed program and project leaders throughout LLNL to determine what actions could have the greatest positive effect on morale and productivity. In addition, there was active participation of the Strategic Operations Forum, which includes deputies from each of the directorates, guiding the development of LLNL’s recommendations.

Conclusions about the impact of excess administrative workload on the execution of our missions are sobering. Our report pointed out that administrative burdens have increased markedly in the past few years. This increase has been exacerbated by the inefficient implementation of safety-and security-related systems and processes, and by growing requirements for reporting and oversight.

Every area of the Laboratory has been affected, often in differing ways. Some areas such as experimental science and Work-for-Other (WFO) projects serve as a warning — much like canaries in a coalmine — where the impacts of administrative tasks are threatening project success. Similar reports and recommendations were provided in reports from other NNSA laboratories and contractors.

Michael Anastasio, deputy director for strategic operations, has directed us to take aggressive actions to improve processes that we control internally. “We must set the example that we can improve our own operational efficiency, while we continue to work with the NNSA to streamline the overall system.”

Unraveling and modifying work processes and requirements to improve efficiency, but maintain high standards for mission, safety, security and stewardship performance are commitments to be achieved over the next several months.

Ideas, comments and concerns are still being sought from employees. To provide feedback, an e-mail hotline, streamline [at] llnl.gov, has been established. Merna Hurd, Lee Younker and Lynn Cleland will review input to determine the best ways to utilize the information.

In order to keep you abreast of NNSA and our progress, articles on specific steps taken to improving operations will be reported in Newsline every few weeks. In addition, senior managers are actively involved with the NNSA Task Groups including Standards/Requirements, Performance Measures, Oversight and Reporting, PPBES/Budgeting and Security Clearances. Status on these activities will also be provided.