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Best Practices in Assessment of Research and Development Organizations
processes for learning about problems in the field and for transitioning research findings to the farmer. In some other government organizations, the customers are focused narrowly and are easy to reach more directly. For the Department of Defense (DOD) the warfighters are represented by the training schools and the developers and keepers of military doctrine. The military organizations can communicate with these groups and can actually rotate their staff to and from these customer organizations. Holding regular planning meetings with its customers helps to ensure that the organization’s programs are relevant.
Effective processes for addressing customer and stakeholder satisfaction include the following:
• A systematic process to identify all stakeholders and make their identities part of the public record;
• The identification of individual(s) within the organization to be assigned the responsibility for interaction with each of the stakeholders or with organizations representing the stakeholders (e.g., industrial consortia or associations);
• A well-defined, open process for sharing information with stakeholders at all stages of R&D, including planning, execution, and delivery of results; and
• On a regular basis, internal review by management of this system of stakeholder interaction, and at intervals, review by outsiders using standing or ad hoc committees of expert advisers.
Appendix F describes the history of the process applied by the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to assess the relevance of its R&D. This case study demonstrates an approach to identifying and responding to the needs of an organization’s stakeholders. Appendix G provides a discussion of stakeholder relationships for laboratories at the DOD, the Department of Energy (DOE), and NIST.
An effective assessment is conducted in the context of the organization’s mission. In order to satisfy its mission, an organization will seek to be prepared to handle its current and future workload, and this will have a successful combination of the following elements:
• R&D portfolio—a collection of projects that are most likely to lead to the successful accomplishment of the organization’s mission;
• Resources—a workforce with an appropriate skill balance; the needed physical plant and equipment; and sufficient funding to enable the mission;
• Organizational leadership and management structure appropriate to the mission; and
• Planning for the future—the preparedness needed to ensure that the required resources will be in place as the mission evolves.
These elements are properly considered in context. Academic research focuses on generating new knowledge with relatively few mission objectives, whereas government and industrial research organizations have fairly clearly defined missions. An effective management assessment also recognizes externally imposed limitations, including but not limited to regulatory and budgetary restrictions.