In the Statement of Task for this study, the committee was asked to review the processes used by two representative programs in the RTD to move basic research results and technology through development. To fulfill this request, the committee necessarily focused on two relatively small parts, the mass spectrometry and bioremediation groups, of the RTD organization. Nevertheless, the processes that were reviewed are not controlled solely by these two groups. Management of the RTD exerts some influence on their ability to move research results and technology through development. Therefore, the committee also considered its findings in relation to RTD management. The committee recognizes that the findings in this report cannot be automatically extrapolated to other groups in the RTD but believes that some of the recommendations may have wider application and suggests that follow-on internal reviews of other groups be conducted.
The RTD is currently in a state of transition in terms of personnel and organizational structure. RTD management could take this opportunity to implement some of the committee's recommendations in conjunction with other changes.
Because the organization is managed so that different groups are forced to compete for resources (e.g., research dollars), the results of these reviews were to be expected. In fact, the lack of focus on the organizational mission, the absence of forward thinking, and the competitiveness between teams and team members at the time of the committee's review clearly reflect problems of organizational command and leadership. The remainder of this chapter discusses the committee's conclusions that reflect on RTD management or may be applicable to more than the two groups under review.
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--> 4 Management General Context In the Statement of Task for this study, the committee was asked to review the processes used by two representative programs in the RTD to move basic research results and technology through development. To fulfill this request, the committee necessarily focused on two relatively small parts, the mass spectrometry and bioremediation groups, of the RTD organization. Nevertheless, the processes that were reviewed are not controlled solely by these two groups. Management of the RTD exerts some influence on their ability to move research results and technology through development. Therefore, the committee also considered its findings in relation to RTD management. The committee recognizes that the findings in this report cannot be automatically extrapolated to other groups in the RTD but believes that some of the recommendations may have wider application and suggests that follow-on internal reviews of other groups be conducted. The RTD is currently in a state of transition in terms of personnel and organizational structure. RTD management could take this opportunity to implement some of the committee's recommendations in conjunction with other changes. Because the organization is managed so that different groups are forced to compete for resources (e.g., research dollars), the results of these reviews were to be expected. In fact, the lack of focus on the organizational mission, the absence of forward thinking, and the competitiveness between teams and team members at the time of the committee's review clearly reflect problems of organizational command and leadership. The remainder of this chapter discusses the committee's conclusions that reflect on RTD management or may be applicable to more than the two groups under review.
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--> Quality Management and Systems Thinking The committee noted a gap between improvements in quality management (QM), at the working level and the perceptions of QM by upper management. Staff members who were interviewed had not incorporated the principles of QM into their jobs, and neither group had established a uniform project management process. QM processes were not documented, approaches to improvement were not consistent, and performance metrics were not used by either group. Some interviewees even seemed cynical about QM, describing it as a "management fad." In short, even though the committee had been led to believe by RTD management that training in the principles of QM had been extensive, QM principles were not being implemented at the working level. Improvements in QM at the working level may also be necessary in other RTD groups. A change in organizational culture will be necessary to change deep-seated attitudes toward QM. Examples of QM practices the committee believes should be incorporated or strengthened are: a stronger focus on satisfying the needs of the customer; emphasis on teamwork; and identification and continual improvement of processes. This cultural change will require that senior management set an example and provide long-term, consistent leadership. The committee found that the mass spectrometry and bioremediation groups were receptive to "systems thinking," that is, a horizontal view of an organization (Rummler and Brache, 1990). Systems thinking requires elements that do not appear in traditional, vertical thinking: the customer, the product, and the flow of work. Systems thinking is based on processes that cut across functional boundaries and internal customer-supplier relationships through which products and services are produced. Most opportunities for improvement occur at the functional interfaces. Systems thinking is consistent with the principles of QM, and most interviewees seemed willing to revisit the idea that work is a process that can be continuously improved. The committee believes that ERDEC management would benefit considerably from training the mass spectrometry and bioremediation groups, as well as other groups in the RTD, in systems thinking. Training would be based on an analysis of the work flow for RTD's key processes. Balancing Project Portfolios One problem common to both the mass spectrometry and bioremediation groups was that their portfolios of projects were largely accumulations of
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--> unrelated projects rather than projects that would meet strategic objectives. This bottoms-up approach was confirmed during interviews with RTD management and staff, who indicated that this was an effective approach in the battle for funding. The committee understands the RTD's reasoning but believes that a more systematic approach would be more effective. During the second set of interviews, the committee noted in that some changes had already been made in the portfolio selection process. These changes notwithstanding, the RTD management should develop better ways of evaluating customer short-term and long-term needs and of communicating them to the mass spectrometry and bioremediation groups and, perhaps, to other groups in the RTD. Only project proposals that satisfy a customer's needs and fit into the RTD's overall strategy should be funded internally. The portfolio could then be assessed (by a technically competent panel) for gaps in meeting customer's needs, and proposals that filled the gaps could be funded. Networking and Internal Sharing of Best Practices The main reason for the lack of communication among the subgroups of the mass spectrometry group was a lack of trust among the PIs. If other groups in the RTD are also isolated from each other, senior management may not be putting enough emphasis on the sharing of information. The committee believes the lack of communication is really a cultural issue. The goal of RTD management, and of each group, should be to reach Maturity Stage 4, at which best practices are routinely shared, or even Maturity Stage 3, at which learning from others is encouraged. In an article entitled Network or Not Work, Norling (1996) describes networking at DuPont, where individuals work together in many ways, not just on their work assignments. Thus, networking promotes socialization in the workforce. RTD management may wish to consider training the two groups that were reviewed, as well as other groups in the RTD, in networking. Contractors and Technicians In the process of developing its findings about the mass spectrometry group, and at the request of contractors, the committee interviewed contractors and government employees separately, which enabled the committee to hear different perspectives. Contractors brought issues involving the
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--> RTD's use of contractors as researchers in the laboratory to the committee's attention. Contractors are sometimes used to provide expertise in areas where no available government personnel are available or in areas where additional expertise is needed. Sometimes the funding for contractor assistance is temporary. Under current regulations (Contracting Officer's Representative (COR) Course; Student Study Guide, 1991), it is impossible for government PIs to oversee the work of contractors on a daily or weekly basis, which makes it difficult to coordinate contractors' work with the work of government staff members. (In fact, some contractors reported feeling isolated.) This coordination problem also makes communication difficult and contributes to the overall lack of focus on the mission. The committee found that the contracting system works better in some subgroups than in others, depending on the working relationships established in the contract and the interpretation of contractual requirements by government personnel and contractors. RTD management should look into ways to make the current contracting system more efficient. For example, it might be possible to take a strategic view of the contracting system and establish general requirements for work to be done in-house as opposed to work being contracted out (e.g., because the expertise is not available in-house). RTD management should try to develop ways, consistent with the legal requirements of government contracting, to improve the coordination of work by contractors with work by government personnel and to encourage teamwork. An on site contractor-manager might be able to facilitate coordination with contractor personnel. The committee also received numerous complaints from interviewees about the shortage of technicians, which necessitates scientists doing routine work that cuts into the time they can spend on tasks that require their expertise. The committee suggests that RTD management review the mix of scientists and technicians and determine whether there are feasible alternatives that would make laboratories more efficient. Management might consider increasing the ratio of technicians to scientists, thereby leveraging everyone's talents. Long-Term Basic Research Because projects are funded annually, the current procedure favors applied research over long-term basic research. Also, the time horizon of long-term basic research is less adaptable (but not entirely opposed) to scheduled milestones. One-year funding forces PIs to achieve results in a
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--> year or risk losing the next year's funding. Even when RTD funding is promised for two or three years, scientists in the mass spectrometry and bioremediation groups consider their projects to be in jeopardy every year and feel compelled to show short-term results. This atmosphere is not conducive to long-term basic research projects that may yield results only after several years of slow progress. This problem may also be interfering with long-term basic research by other RTD groups. To alleviate this problem, RTD could sponsor more long-term basic research projects by external Army agencies, university laboratories, and industry laboratories and de-emphasize in-house, long-term basic research. This does not mean that in-house basic research should be eliminated. Some basic research will always be necessary to keep scientists current in their fields and to attract well qualified scientists. Nor does the committee mean to imply that RTD does not need the results of long-term basic research. However, the committee believes that the RTD laboratories are better suited to applied research. Conclusions and Recommendations Conclusions The following conclusions, which pertain to the two groups reviewed by the committee, may also be applicable to the RTD at large. Conclusion 1. The corporate cultures of the mass spectrometry and bioremediation groups are not conducive to a free exchange of information among the staff. Conclusion 2. Quality management principles have not been incorporated into the everyday operations of the mass spectrometry or bioremediation groups. Conclusion 3. The project portfolios of the mass spectrometry and bioremediation groups are not well balanced and are not coordinated by an overall strategy. Conclusion 4. Both contractors and government staff in the mass spectrometry and bioremediation groups are dissatisfied with their working relationships.
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--> Conclusion 5. Because of the time limitations imposed by the annual funding mechanism and the corresponding procedure favoring the selection of applied research projects, neither the mass spectrometry nor the bioremediation group can effectively conduct long-term basic research. Recommendations Because these conclusions and recommendations are based on a small sample, the committee strongly suggests that the management of the Research Technology and Directorate review other groups to determine if the following recommendations are applicable to them. Recommendation 1. Senior management should ensure that cultural changes are made that support quality management. Recommendation 2. Senior management should establish a strategy, set goals, and define the mission for all of the laboratories. Coordinated portfolios of projects should be based on the needs of the customer, the overall strategy, and the mission of the Research and Technology Directorate, as well as on the resources and capabilities available both in-house and from outside contractors. Recommendation 3. Management should encourage a spirit of teamwork between contractors and government staff; investigate types of contracts that allow better day-to-day management of contractors on site; ensure that both government staff and contractors are completely familiar with the rules under which they both must work; and eliminate unnecessary obstacles, perceived or actual, to the contractors doing their jobs. Recommendation 4. Senior management should consider hiring more technicians to leverage scientists' and technicians' singular capabilities. Recommendation 5. The Research and Technology Directorate should de-emphasize in-house, long-term, basic research and should use these funds to sponsor research with universities or transfer projects to external Army agencies that are more clearly suited to long-term basic research. The organization could then focus on practical applications of new technologies. (This recommendation may not be applicable to all groups but should be considered in future evaluations of the organization.)