Element 1: Clear Mission and Objectives

For an effective program, all participants in the endeavor need to understand its mission and objectives, how they contribute to achieving those goals, and why their work is important in that context. A laboratory cannot be successful if it proclaims it is undertaking all missions for the entire government. “Reinvention” may be required as the world changes, but this should only happen rarely. Without a clear, defined mission and objective, so-called “mission confusion” may lead to expansion into activities that do not directly support the objectives or that are duplicative of efforts in other laboratories. Lessons from successful laboratories (government and non-government) demonstrate that a shared mission understanding leads to long-term success.

Element 2: Continuity in Leadership

Strong leadership, and continuity of the stated mission and objectives during and after changes in leadership, supports the development of sense of mission within the workforce. In contrast, rapid changes in leadership and/or weak leadership can contribute to the mission confusion described above. Of course, sometimes rapid changes in facility directors or commanders is unavoidable, but in such cases, care should be taken to ensure that succession planning, pre-training, orientation of incoming personnel, and personnel continuity in senior positions is encouraged. These steps will help maintain a consistent vision and understanding of the facility’s mission and objectives, which is important for pursuit of programmatic and project-related goals. An additional benefit is that when individuals are in a position for a significant period of time, e.g., longer than two years, they have a greater ability to develop relationships and partnerships within the research and end-user communities than might otherwise be possible. This is beneficial for the identification of opportunities for collaboration.

Element 3: The Ability to Understand, Accept, and Manage Risk

RDT&E is a risky process, and a successful research and development program may have many false starts before achieving success. Thus, an essential element of managing such programs is accepting and balancing risks. There may be times when it is appropriate to undertake high-risk, high-payoff projects which may ultimately fail in addition to maintaining long-term focus on a specific area with low risk in order to provide fundamental understandings that support new developments. An effective program will create a balanced portfolio of these various research types. Similar to the process described in Chapter 4, in the section “From

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