social—competitive factors, customer and marketplace drivers, etc. It captures the essence of “Here is the world we see in front of us in which we must succeed in our mission.” And it forms, in various versions, the base for much of the communication among the parties involved: the investors and beneficiaries of the S&E work, the S&E management and technical staff, partners, customers, and others involved in the enterprise. By its exposure to the relevant parties, and open discussion and debate about the assumptions built into the Outlook, inputs for change are continuously provided. A reasonable point to define as the beginning of the (annual) cycle is a fairy formal update of the Outlook, aimed at incorporating what has been learned in the past year, as well as identifying and dealing with newly emerging trends and developments in all the key driver areas.
With an updated Outlook having achieved some level of consensus acceptance, the Strategy and Planning work begins. This will update a durable long-term set of goals and approaches to their achievement, and lay out of a set of investment options for the S&E investment. This investment allocation process is clearly the most difficult part of the cycle, since the options inevitably cannot all be committed within the available resources. As is clearly the case for the NNSA labs, and also experienced in the industry sector, the resources for S&E must be allocated among three fairly distinct types of activities. First, the bulk of the S&E must support the mission and core project goals, and thus the prioritization of this portion is driven primarily top-down from the mission, but with significant input from and debate with the S&E management and staff, both on the “what” and the “how.” A second, and essential, portion of the resource—in NNSA’s case, mostly represented by the LDRD resources—is primarily allocated by S&E management, laboratory directors and their colleagues, with major bottom-up input. It is this portion of the resource which ensures the health of the labs; it aims to drive major breakthroughs and develop and exploit new areas of knowledge which are not on the direct and obvious path of the mission projects. The third source and use of resource, common in industry as well and in the NNSA labs, is external funding, in the best case driven by the outside party recognizing the potential of the S&T team to create major value for the outside investor. This is not simply “works for hire” but, with proper management, represents exploitation of unique resources and programs which are synergistic with the core S&E mission and creates value for both the external investor and the S&E organization. While one might aim for this portion of the portfolio to have stability of the same sort as the “base” programs, it will almost inevitably have more dynamics through the cycle than the others.
A key piece of this planning portion of the cycle is the allocation of resources for both equipment and facilities, driven by the strategic plan. The human resource aspects of the plan are also obviously key.
The output of this portion of the cycle is an updated strategy and operating plan for the period. Best-practice organizations have, as do the NNSA labs, multiple mechanisms of both internal and external review and advice on execution. These are best structured into a coordinated rhythm and calendar, with periodicities appropriate to the particular type of review. An obvious risk is excessive and intrusive reviewing and auditing, which distracts energy from the work at hand. Appropriate dashboards, metrics and indicators are useful during this process, although they do not substitute for deep dives into issues which are surfaced by the dashboards.
Closure in the cycle is typically represented by a series of higher level reviews focused on what has been accomplished relative to committed plans, other achievements, goals missed and causes, and some quantitative metrics constituting a balanced scorecard used for overall assessment of effectiveness. In addition to overall S&E assessment, a valuable output of this end-of-cycle summary is a set of lessonslearned, and inputs for the subsequent cycle.
There is evidence from industry that driving management and culture from this I/V framework and sustained use of such a process cycle can have major positive effects in many areas. These include sustaining support for the S&E enterprise, and building a coherent internal culture which effectively balances, for the scientist or engineer, the value system of his or her technical area with the value system uniquely appropriate to the institution in which his or her S&E in embedded.