BLOG purpose

This BLOG is for LLNL present and past employees, friends of LLNL and anyone impacted by the privatization of the Lab to express their opinions and expose the waste, wrongdoing and any kind of injustice against employees and taxpayers by LLNS/DOE/NNSA. The opinions stated are personal opinions. Therefore, The BLOG author may or may not agree with them before making the decision to post them. Comments not conforming to BLOG rules are deleted. Blog author serves as a moderator. For new topics or suggestions, email jlscoob5@gmail.com

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Degree-less LLNS managers

Too many LLNS managers are promoted for reasons that do not include scientific or technical innovation. Many of them are degree free, earned degrees after their promotion, or earned historically meaningless degrees to leverage a promotion. This pattern is employee morale damaging to the LLNS innovators and our future.

62 comments:

Anonymous said...

for a guy who didn't finish his PhD, Campbell was and still is a very very smart guy. Maybe not quite smart enough to know that lying about his educational history can be bad for his career. But he is still starter than most honest PhDs.

Anonymous said...

What technical degree did LLNS Engineering Directorate Senior Superintendent Randy Pico have at his point of hire? A BS of Technology in Electronics? An AS Degree in Electronics? None of the above? How could that be?

Anonymous said...

Are you referring to Randy Pico's college credentials as a 500 series new hire tech compared to other new hire LLNL techs at the time?

Anonymous said...

Back in the day, 500 series new hire techs earned either an AS or BS in Electronics Technology, or had a 4 year electronics career in the Navy to meet eligibility requirements to be hired at LLNL as a 500 series electronics tech. There were exceptions to these hiring guidelines.

Anonymous said...

When UC ran the lab before getting into bed with Bechtel, a college degree for those on either the management and engineering tracks was a requirement. Not so much these days - makes it a lot easier for the industrial partners to send a "temp" type manager out to the Lab for a few years.

When I was hired at LLNL some 30 years ago as a engineer, you had to go through several hoops - multiple interviews, give a technical presentation, and as a career employee hire B111 actually had to sign off on the hiring package. Now its easier to get a job at the Lab (if there's funding for the position) than at Walmart.

Anonymous said...

It is much easier to influence or control managers that don't have material technical credentials to stand behind. They are for lack of a better term, indebted to the party line.

Anonymous said...

So who says that a PhD is a prerequisite for management?

Myself, I starved and worked my way to a MS. I was in a PhD program but at age 26 decided I was tired of living on a stipend, scholarship, and assistantships. After going to work for a DOE (now NNSA) lab, I'd observe that some of the dumbest people I've met have PhDs. Narrow in perspective and background, no sense of people skills or management skills, much less any practical hands-on engineering skills. All these gripes about the lack of a PhD ring very hollow to me.

Do I detect the pungent aroma of burning inferiority complexes?

Anonymous said...

They are for lack of a better term, indebted to the party line.

October 15, 2014 at 8:29 PM

Non-PhD managers can be open to the BS line that PhD staff try to put over on them. If they haven't surrounded themselves with trusted PhD advisors in their organizations, they can unknowingly sabotage their own careers by listening to BS artists with PhDs.

Anonymous said...

Three Vice Presidents of technical divisions at Sandia National Laboratories do not have a Ph.D.: Hruby, Walker, Vahle.

Adam Rowen a manager at Sandia Livermore does not have a Ph.D. either.

The previous 3 individuals are the first ever Vice Presidents without a Ph.D. in Science or Engineering to lead technical divisions at Sandia. A quick search on the internet shows that Adam Rowen went to a school in New Mexico.

Steve Renfro deputy AD Nuclear Weapons, BS without PhD (also comes from a New Mexico school)

Anonymous said...

Campbell is a smart guy, but he was not quite smart enough to protect his Achilles Heel against people he pushed out, like Lindl. That was not a lack of a Phd, it was carelessness and maybe arrogance. Though Lindl made his own Big Mistake recently and fell from grace, and his Phd did not help.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't take much to manage at a weapons lab. Very little accountability.

Look at the latest safety issue: "Door Foot Hazards". Don't LLNL employees know how to close doors, or do we need training. Talk about the dumbing down of a workforce.

Anonymous said...

Many management positions do not require an advanced degree.

Many line positions do not require an advanced degree.

Many technical positions do not require a baccalareate degree.

Many technical management positions do not require a baccalareate degree.

Just the way life works.

Kinda of surprized it needs to be written down.

Anonymous said...

I fondly remember a 500-series AA- degreed tech with 20 years experience arguing the fine details of laser performance with his Ph.D colleagues with 20 years experience. It was natural.

It is also arguable the the most important "engineer" on the entire Shiva/Nova/Beamlet/NIF effort was a 300 series designer.

During the course of a 40-year careers people grow beyond the boundaries and limitations of their academic degrees, which only represent a very good start to the work of the first 5-10 years of their careers.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I feel all warm and fuzzy now.

Anonymous said...

Leadership at LANSLLNS require someone with reasonable and well established people skills, a strong technical base of experience typically built on college credentials, are not afraid to make decisions "outside the box" or hide from the decisions they make. Managers and leaders are not interchangeable descriptors.

Anonymous said...

Managers and leaders are not interchangeable descriptors.

October 17, 2014 at 8:41 AM

True in general. However, they are also not separate positions or titles. The terms are used interchangeably at both labs, with some levels of management called "leaders," some "directors," etc., but all considered "managers." An exception is the Team Leader position at LANL, which is explicitly NOT a management position.

Anonymous said...

"...The terms are used interchangeably at both labs, with some levels of management called "leaders," some "directors," etc., but all considered "managers..."

There is a huge difference between capriciously assigned LANSLLNS titles and earned leadership recognition. That was the point.

Anonymous said...

My favorite has always been "upper management". Isn't above management mean leadership?

Anonymous said...

With this misplaced logic, Bill Goldstein could sub for director Steven Spielberg.

Anonymous said...

Isn't above management mean leadership?

October 17, 2014 at 1:11 PM

English as a second language, huh?

Anonymous said...

Very early on, when I started at LANL I was sent to the leadership institute, which was run by LANL and went for 3 days. It was off Lab property and had excellent presenters from outside. Of course that was one of the first thing LANS got rid of, when they took over.

One of the most important thing I was taught at that training was

Managers are not leaders, leaders are not managers.

It has nothing to do with degrees etc, but all with the job description. You don't need a PhD in physics to look after infrastructure, supplies, safe work practices etc..
Where it becomes problematic is if these people call themselves leaders. They don't lead anything.

A leader defines and finds a path forward in their field, in such a way that other people can understand the direction, agree with it and work together to get there. A leader in science does not need to force people to agree with them, they actually encourage discussions, and through new insight from these discussions can grow themselves.

At LANL, managers are not interested in having people agree on their proposed way forward, they get people to do what management wants only through threat.

Anonymous said...

In a few short years, LANSLLNS has taken us back to a "command and control" management style and have molded the NNSA Field Offices into passive ride alongs.

Anonymous said...

At LANL, managers are not interested in having people agree on their proposed way forward, they get people to do what management wants only through threat.

October 18, 2014 at 6:33 AM

Actually it is through legitimate, delegated authority. Which by your definition, "leaders" don't have. Which makes them pretty much irrelevant to the mission of the organization. Bet you're a small project guy who thinks that because he gets his own piddling funding each year, he should be independent of mission and management.

Anonymous said...

"...Actually it is through legitimate, delegated authority..."

If LANSLLNS leaders must take shelter behind terms like "legitimate" or "delegated authority", which are code for "command and control", the organization will not last in its current form anyway. It will devolve into an organization
of staff with no other career options. This undermines the goal to attract and retain the best and brightest, as if there weren't enough circumstances taking us in that direction already...

Anonymous said...

If LANSLLNS leaders must take shelter behind terms like "legitimate" or "delegated authority", which are code for "command and control", the organization will not last in its current form anyway.

October 18, 2014 at 9:57 AM

I wasn't talking about "leaders," but managers (using October 18, 2014 at 6:33 AM's definitions). Last I looked, words mean what they say. If you see "code" everywhere, the diagnosis is extreme paranoia. Do you "take shelter" behind your drivers license and insurance card when a cop stops you? No, you use them as legitimately intended. If you think organizations like national security laboratories can function without hierarchical management structure, think again. Hint: you don't decide what your job is, the government decides what your job is. The fact that the money they pay you comes from the taxpayers doesn't change that. In case you fell asleep in civics class, this is a Representative Republic, not a Democracy.

Anonymous said...

October 18, 2014 at 9:27 AM

You can bet whatever you want if I am small project guy...
That is irrelevant to the discussion and only a reflection on your own personality, when you have to try to denigrate someone who has a different opinion.

The last time I looked one of LANL's mission was stockpile work and not management. I have a hard time to see how someone with a bachelor in arts will lead the field and move us to a better understanding of how weapons work.

But you probably believe in science through milestones, so this might be a moot point.

Your small project guy.

Anonymous said...

"...If you think organizations like national security laboratories can function without hierarchical management structure, think again..."

A lab without a hierarchical management structure?
Who said this? Only you. Do you normally take an extreme position or take information out of context to validate your point of view? Oh I forgot, you believe you have legitimate authority to say or delegate whatever you wish.

Anonymous said...

"..."...If you think organizations like national security laboratories can function without hierarchical management structure, think again..."

I know a number great leaders and managers. But as these type of managers squeeze tighter in the attempt to maintain control, more employees vote with their feet to greener pastures. A sheepherder without the sheep is only a valid and prosperous career in LANSLLNS world.

Anonymous said...

A sheepherder without the sheep is only a valid and prosperous career in LANSLLNS world.

October 18, 2014 at 11:59 AM

Sheer nonsense. Without contract milestones and metrics being met the contract will be history quite rapidly.

Anonymous said...

"...Sheer nonsense. Without contract milestones and metrics being met the contract will be history quite rapidly..."

The comment was regarding sheltering of individual managers not the contract as a whole.

Regarding the contracts, you know milestones and metrics are malleable and in play. Do you think the NNSA field offices are the tail wagging the LANSLLNS dog?

How did the NIF failure to reach ignition and the incompetence for the WIPP mess impact the LANSLLNS contracts? Are they out for bid?

Anonymous said...

How did the NIF failure to reach ignition and the incompetence for the WIPP mess impact the LANSLLNS contracts? Are they out for bid?

October 18, 2014 at 12:59 PM

Show me where the contract metrics specified NIF ignition at some particular time.

Also, the scores that would reflect the WIPP debacle haven't been issued yet. It may still result in cancelling, or at least competing the LANS contract.

Anonymous said...

At LANL, managers are not interested in having people agree on their proposed way forward, they get people to do what management wants only through threat.

October 18, 2014 at 6:33 AM


Excellent post on the difference between leaders and managers. Thank you.

In successful organizations, leaders attract and inspire highly qualified staff. Employees willingly implement the vision established by the leaders. Managers administrate policies. Some leaders are effective managers.

In unsuccessful organizations, managers control employees. Employees do what they are told. They do not follow a vision. Typically, there is no vision. The best employees often leave to pursue organizations that offer leadership and vision.

As for the other person's comment, most managers at LLNL (and I assume LANL) do not manage through "legitimate, delegated authority." I spend about half my time on unfunded mandates. Indirect-funded managers often require me to use programmatic funds for tasks that are not authorized by sponsors. This is not legitimate. It is illegal.

Anonymous said...

"...Show me where the contract metrics specified NIF ignition at some particular time..."

Your NIF point supports the idea of weak or no binding metrics or milestones. I guess we must wait and see on the WIPP fiasco. Is LANSLLNS "too big to fail"?

Like the baseball records of Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, LANSLLNS needs a little asterisk * next to its self-proclaimed "for profit" status.

Anonymous said...

After their ~$500M taxpayer infusion, Solyndra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. They must have hastily written their milestones and performance metrics. They should consulted with LANSLLNS first.

Anonymous said...

Right after transition in '07 I was in a meeting with a senior LLNS manager (i.e., a manager that was not UC, had not been at LLNL before transition, by "worked" for one of the industrial partners).

We were briefing our "new" line management on our work and project plans. This LLNS manager basically said we were doing excellent work but his job was to "repackage" our work - with as little effort and cost to the LLNS parent companies as possible - to make it look to NNSA that LLNS was making positive changes. The reward would be "free money" (his exact words in the meeting) to LLNS.

He explained LLNS would take credit for improving LLNL without expending any effort for work that we were already doing or planning, and would use the work to meet contract performance measures for achieving the new multi-million dollar management award fee.

I seriously thought about calling the DOE IG, but realized no one in DOE or NNSA would care.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to be a critic. If you are truly unhappy then leave. Only employees with no prospects or drive sit and complain, and criticize the work of others.

That said, the lab is not a place for real doers. People voting with their feet is hemorrhaging out the lab's talent.

If the lab were truly interested in improving itself, it would invite back a few folks to sit on a panel for a workshop on "why you leave the lab". Tomas, of course, would be a special case.

Anonymous said...

"...It's easy to be a critic. If you are truly unhappy then leave. Only employees with no prospects or drive sit and complain, and criticize the work of others.

That said, the lab is not a place for real doers. People voting with their feet is hemorrhaging out the lab's talent.

If the lab were truly interested in improving itself, it would invite back a few folks to sit on a panel for a workshop on "why you leave the lab". Tomas, of course, would be a special case..."

I agree with your points except the "if unhappy then leave" one. Being concerned with a potential funding manipulation or account fraud doesn't mean he was unhappy with his job right?

Tomas just happened to be without a chair when the music stopped. There are others around the circle. If you are a protected manager, and find yourself without a chair when the music stops, someone will just start playing the music again for you. No harm no foul.

Anonymous said...

People at LLNL who refer to "Tomas" by his first name are obviously harboring homosexual fantasies about him. The prevalence of that trend is quite telling. He must be "the most interesting man in the world."

Anonymous said...

"...That said, the lab is not a place for real doers. People voting with their feet is hemorrhaging out the lab's talent..."

Is there a new LLNS Workforce PDF/Spreadsheet that supports the "hemorrhaging"? In the Spring of 2013
there was a multi-year workforce document released just prior to the 2013 SSVSP announcement.

Anonymous said...

Steve Renfro deputy AD Nuclear Weapons, BS without PhD (also comes from a New Mexico school)

October 16, 2014 at 4:09 AM

The LANL Weapon Engineering (W) Division Leader (James Owen) also only has a B.S. from New Mexico State. While that isn't a "crime", what is, is that he spent 2-years at the University of Colorado on campus while the Lab paid his full-time salary only to return to LANL without his M.S. degree. When you talk to Owen, it's very clear he lacks technical depth and knowledge on weapon issues.

Anonymous said...

In many cases, one doesn't require even an AS degree or material technical experience to move into a senior technical management position at LLNS. What you do need is an "uncle in the business" or to have been identified as a poster child to meet LLNS political objective X or LLNS political objective Y.

As a side perk of being the vehicle for political objective X or Y, you can not have a Tomas like career outcome for conduct that is far worse. You will instead be promoted.

Anonymous said...

What you do need is an "uncle in the business" or to have been identified as a poster child to meet LLNS political objective X or LLNS political objective Y.

October 19, 2014 at 9:51 AM

You just fall off the turnip truck? The phrase "it's not what you know it's who you know" was coined in the 1910's. You sound so surprised.

Anonymous said...

"...to have been identified as a poster child to meet LLNS political objective X or LLNS political objective Y...."

If you are in a very limited pool of candidates that can meet "LLNS political objective X or LLNS political objective Y", in career terms, you are in the "catbird seat" deluxe, and virtually impermeable to career stagnation, misfortune, misconduct review, or consequences for improper conduct.

Anonymous said...

"...You just fall off the turnip truck? The phrase "it's not what you know it's who you know" was coined in the 1910's. You sound so surprised..."

Yes there are more than one phrase that describes the situation but your point adds nothing to the discussion.

Anonymous said...

Yes there are more than one phrase that describes the situation but your point adds nothing to the discussion.

October 19, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Neither did the "point" about the advantages enjoyed by those who can take advantage of their positions. Who knew?

Anonymous said...

"...Neither did the "point" about the advantages enjoyed by those who can take advantage of their positions. Who knew?..."

Some who took advantage or abused their positions are gone and some doing the same or worse are still here (?). This is the key distinction overlooked in your comment.

Anonymous said...

The LANL Weapon Engineering (W) Division Leader (James Owen) also only has a B.S. from New Mexico State. While that isn't a "crime", what is, is that he spent 2-years at the University of Colorado on campus while the Lab paid his full-time salary only to return to LANL without his M.S. degree. When you talk to Owen, it's very clear he lacks technical depth and knowledge on weapon issues.

October 19, 2014 at 7:42 AM

We can hold Bret Knapp responsible for all the promotions of non-PhDs (Benner, Renfro, Owen, Montoya, the list goes on-and-on) during his tenure at LANL and also single-handedly "canned" PhDs (e.g. Aubert). PhDs make Bret nervous and insecure since he couldn't acquire one, most likely due to less than average grades in college.

Anonymous said...

Three Vice Presidents of technical divisions at Sandia National Laboratories do not have a Ph.D.: Hruby, Walker, Vahle.

Adam Rowen a manager at Sandia Livermore does not have a Ph.D. either.

The previous 3 individuals are the first ever Vice Presidents without a Ph.D. in Science or Engineering to lead technical divisions at Sandia. A quick search on the internet shows that Adam Rowen went to a school in New Mexico.

Anonymous said...

For a "degree-less LLNS management topic" there are comments inferring BS and even MS degrees are on one side of a great chasm of performance and leadership with only the PhD side being the categorical success story.

Maybe another topic called "PhD free LLNS managers" would be more appropriate for this point of view.

Anonymous said...

Maybe another topic called "Elitist PhD Nonsense" would be more appropriate for this point of view.

Anonymous said...

A nurse is perfectly capable of doing complicated surgery.

You could train a high school graduate to pull wisdom teeth correctly.

The MIT/Stanford/Harvard B.S. folks don't come to the national labs. It's starting, or for a while, to become that way for PhDs as well.

The quality is decaying. No one can argue that point.

But hey, we have diversity! That'll fix it.


Anonymous said...

A nurse is perfectly capable of doing complicated surgery.

October 21, 2014 at 10:59 AM

How many science and engineering PhD programs teach management skills? Is a PhD a good indicator that someone will be a good manager? Despite what you may have been led to believe in graduate school, you are not necessarily capable of anything you want to do. There are as many failed PhD managers as successful PhD managers.

Anonymous said...

"...The MIT/Stanford/Harvard B.S. folks don't come to the national labs. It's starting, or for a while, to become that way for PhDs as well...."

So attracting and retaining the "best and brightest" is a de facto futile goal?

Anonymous said...

Let's try putting people with a 6th grade education in charge and see whether it makes any difference.

Anonymous said...

Let's try putting people with a 6th grade education in charge and see whether it makes any difference.

October 21, 2014 at 7:40 PM

Right, so the choice is between 6th graders and PhDs? If PhDs are so good, why don't we require Nobel Prize winners? Fool.

Anonymous said...

I'm smarter than u because I have a piece of paper on my wall that says I'm edinicated.

POS

Anonymous said...

People with PhD's typically lack any common sense and should not be allowed into management's rank.

The labs are actually doing better now that the LLCs have taken over and use a business approach for running the labs, no PhD required.

Anonymous said...

The labs are actually doing better now that the LLCs have taken over and use a business approach for running the labs, no PhD required.

October 27, 2014 at 8:04 PM

De-nile is not a river in Egypt.

bilal sabir ali said...

for best Online Jobs without any rejection, no time limit required, no investment requires, just spend few minutes and earn upto $35 daily
www.adsclickearning.com

bilal sabir ali said...

for best Online Jobs without any rejection, no time limit required, no investment requires, just spend few minutes and earn upto $35 daily
www.adsclickearning.com

Anonymous said...

Three Vice Presidents of technical divisions at Sandia National Laboratories do not have a Ph.D.: Hruby, Walker, Vahle.

Adam Rowen a manager at Sandia Livermore does not have a Ph.D. either.

The previous 3 individuals are the first ever Vice Presidents without a Ph.D. in Science or Engineering to lead technical divisions at Sandia. A quick search on the internet shows that Adam Rowen went to a school in New Mexico.

Anonymous said...

Adam Rowen is no longer the manager of the materials chemistry department at Sandia! You should hear what many of the former staff members in his former department have to say about him.

Blog Archive