unfoldment of the calling”: As a line manager he was faced
with a very unusually situation. The Directors of the three of the
most prestigious government laboratories in the United Stated went
to the Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs
and said they could not do everything on their plate with the money
that was given. They said they could not do all the safety upgrades
and do the Weapons Program for the Department of Energy. No
speculation on their real motives are made here but within a matter
of hours, the author, as the Acting Director of the Research,
Development and Testing Facilities was sitting in the office of the
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense Programs for Safety and told,
“You and I are going to Albuquerque and meet with the three
laboratory directors. We are going to fix this problem and it is
your responsibility to make it happen.”
The Laboratory Integrated Prioritization System was important not
because of what it was and how it worked. That of course is
interesting in itself. But its is real important was for what it
revealed about how the decision makers were, or were not, making
their decisions. It had the capability, or rather its results had
the capability, to reveal too much about the decision makers, their
more private agendas and quirks in their logic. It began to reveal
much of what was normally kept unseen and what individuals preferred
to keep unseen and unexposed. This was not the intent of the System
but it can be said it was a direct by product of its application.
The essence of the problem being faced by the Laboratory managers
was that there were an extraordinary number of demands being place
on the organization infrastructure, circa 1992. Unfortunately the
demands were coming from a variety of different directions for a
variety of different reasons. Nothing any one person could do seemed
to allow them to get organizational control. So in some ways, the
plea by the Laboratory directors just reflected their own
frustration and inability to get control over a once very stable and
manageable situation. Yet, their plea was not totally unjustified
for there were excessive and unreasonable demands being made.
Because there were so many real problems, many individuals could
raise issues that were not really a concern but because of the
number of concerns one could not really differential what were real
issues as opposed to perceived issues.
In response to their plea a meeting was held and the author and his
Laboratory counterparts were told to fix the problem. Initially the
Laboratories were very reluctant to have the Department of Energy
even suggest they could help them prioritize the Laboratory needs.
Most Laboratory personnel just wanted the Department and others to
just back off their demands and let the Laboratories do what they
wanted. Also, for years the Laboratories did not really work
together. The tended to work separately in parallel fashions. They
resisted any attempt to have uniformity. Creativity and creative
freedom was of course the excuse.
However, that was not going to be the case this time. The Laboratory
Directors raised their problems to too high an individual. The
author’s counter parts were told rather simply and directly by the
author, “Either we fix this together in a way we can all live with
or I am going to fix it for you.” Several years later the author
asked one of his key Laboratory counterparts, “What made you all
finally work together?” The counterpart replied, “Well, after your
conference call we realized that you were serious. In the past,
Department people would talk but not act. Your reputation preceded
you and we knew you would act. We all figured it would be better if
we lead than you lead. So, we decided to work together for we then
could present a united front on our preferred and chosen approach.”
When we got started building the System, everything that needed to
be addressed was put on the table. There was a brainstorming session
to identify all that needed to be address and prioritized. What came
out of the brainstorming session were plenty of issues to put on the
table but something else came out. The integrated prioritization
system would be a tool for the decision maker. That is, the decision
make would use it to help them get clarity about an issue. Their
staff would participate but it was about giving unbiased information
on the issue. The goal was to allow the decision maker to make the
decision on the facts.
What was clear was that whatever was created had to integrate and
somehow effectively prioritize all that when into managing a large
Laboratory. It needed to address maximizing health and safety. It
had to address both public health and safety and the worker health
and safety for the types and kinds of health effects to include,
chronic, acute and loss of life. Environmental protection was high
on the list in a variety of ways. One needed to be aware of the
types and kinds of environmental resources impacted such as
sensitive or endangered species, wetlands, historic or archeological
significant land, surface or ground water impacts and the like.
Regulatory compliance and the types and kinds of consequences
whether Federal, State or Local, needed to be considered. As a
result of the National Security interests of some of the Laboratory
operations, safeguards and security issues had to be consider. The
types and kinds of potential information and/or material loss needed
to be included with sabotage and other types of threats.
But the Laboratories were in the business to do research. They had
programmatic interests and needs. If they could not do the program
work then their was not much reason for them to exist. The System
needed to somehow look a maximizing strategies for the position and
effective use of resources. The prioritization needed to look at the
impacts on the value of the applied science and technology related
to mission. One needed to understand how mission capability was
affected and whether or not proposed actions cause a benefit or loss
to mission capability. Similarly, the impact on the quality of
facility and equipment management needed to be considers. Were the
impacts long term or short term and did they improve capabilities of
the Laboratory or decrease them. Then, of course, one needed to look
at cost saving and effectiveness for anything that was done.
Often overlooked in other approaches but considered in this System
was the need to look at maximizing the employee ability and
efficiency and employee motivation. Then, last but not least, the
prioritization system needed to look at the public assessment. One
needed to consider if what was proposed was or was not acceptable to
the local population. Many mission had been stopped or impeded
because of public sentiment. The public had to be considered.
When all was put on the table it seemed almost like an impossible
mission. Was it possible to really come up with a way to effective
integrate the prioritization of these seemingly different issues.
But the list did not stop there. There were some other things that
needed to be considered.
It addition to addressing safety and workplace hazards. It had to
address the knowledge of the hazard and possible compensatory
measures one could take. It had to push towards control of the
hazard. The System had to address quality. It needed some way to
identify clear specifications and a way to meet those
specifications. It has address the context and environment of the
workplace. Somehow it needed to address: cultural beliefs of the
workers and public around the workplace for they differed from place
to place, the physical location of the workplace, alignment of the
workforce to or with the organizations, alignment of the workforce
with itself and alignment of the organization and the community. The
System had to somehow address the personal beliefs structure and
expectations of the individual that was brought into the workplace
for those beliefs often biased decisions. All this information then
had to be feed into the technical management decision process. One
had to not only become aware of the influences on the issue, they
had to become aware of the personal beliefs and expectations one has
and the awareness of the decision itself.
As the work on trying to create such a System, clarity came around
other issues. Namely, the System had to address responsibility in
some way. The System needed to bring an awareness of responsibility.
Namely, one needs to recognize and understand what one sees and why.
They also realize they have a choice of action. The decision maker
needed to recognize that no decision is a decision and they are
nevertheless responsible when they don’t decide.
In many ways the System needed to create a favorable call to the
adventure. A call to an adventure is about accepting or rejecting
the challenge of a choice of action that will significantly impact
your life. The call to adventure challenge raises the question in
the decision makers mind, “Are you able to do what is required are
you willing to do what needs to be done?’ In this regard, the issue
that came up was that training. The training must provide the tools
for discernment and give the understanding to provide the confidence
to accept the challenge. That is, the training must empower the
decision maker and those who use the System. The decision maker had
to know and have confidence that one could effectively and
adequately balance all these competing needs.
To add to the complexity, invitation were provided for the
stakeholders in the results of the prioritization could participate
in the process. Every attempt was made to get all parties involved.
Only one group really failed to participate, namely the safety
organization for the Department. But they did send a representative
to observe. The reasoning which was offered for their
nonparticipation was that if they became involved they would become
part of the problem and be helping to manage the problem.
Having spent a majority of his professional life in safety, the
author knew there was justification and logic not to participate.
However, the evidence suggested that many of the safety
organization’s “pet” projects were not totally justified based on
the facts as they could be determined. The safety organization was
the first to be revealed that many of their decisions were not
justified based on the facts as they wanted to claim. Although
sensitivity studies within the model on safety issues could be use
to demonstrate how to enhance safety, and where safety needed to be
further emphasized, the safety organization was of the opinion they
had to make their own decisions as to what was important and how
importance would be determined.
In the end, a System was found where all of these competing and
seemingly different needs could be prioritized against each other
and it worked. In fact, it worked too good. Decision makers found
that when they had to look at all the information, they were no
longer free to make the decisions the way they wanted to make them.
Rather they had to make them on the facts. There were other reasons
for their decision which they were not they were willing to express.
But in the time period the Laboratory Integrated Prioritization
System was used, the author began to understand the deeper issues
that were affecting how decisions were being made. The author came
to see often the decisions makes were unaware of the biases they
were carrying. The experience with the Laboratory Integrated
Prioritization System only further encouraged the author too look
deeper at creativity and how and why individuals seem blinded even
when presented with the information. The Laboratory Integration
Prioritization System was bringing to the light that managers were
making what appeared to be seemingly fact less based decisions. The
question was, “Why, why were managers making decisions in the way
they were making decisions?”
On a side note, the Laboratory Integrated Prioritization System
became the author’s first real exposure to the internet although he
did not fully understand what the internet was capable of providing
at the time. When the Laboratory Management and Department of Energy
Management failed to show interest in the System it was made
available on the internet in 1996. The description of the System and
the references available for the System at that time is was posted
on the internet our provided in the file “Laboratory
Integrated Prioritization System Description and References"
Funding ended with the retirement of several of the key individuals.
Its availability is unknown. However if you are interested in a
system that can integrate and prioritize all the types and kinds of
things addressed above, the references provided on the original
website should help you get started.
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