National Academies Press: OpenBook

Governance and Management of the Nuclear Security Enterprise (2020)

Chapter: 5 Looking to the Future

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Suggested Citation:"5 Looking to the Future." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and National Academy of Public Administration. 2020. Governance and Management of the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25933.
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Page 53
Suggested Citation:"5 Looking to the Future." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and National Academy of Public Administration. 2020. Governance and Management of the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25933.
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Page 54
Suggested Citation:"5 Looking to the Future." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and National Academy of Public Administration. 2020. Governance and Management of the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25933.
×
Page 55
Suggested Citation:"5 Looking to the Future." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and National Academy of Public Administration. 2020. Governance and Management of the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25933.
×
Page 56
Suggested Citation:"5 Looking to the Future." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and National Academy of Public Administration. 2020. Governance and Management of the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25933.
×
Page 57
Suggested Citation:"5 Looking to the Future." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and National Academy of Public Administration. 2020. Governance and Management of the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25933.
×
Page 58

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

5 Looking to the Future The credibility and technical strengths of the nuclear security enterprise are essential to a strong nuclear deterrent. The Augustine-Mies report stated that “Demonstrated performance is … the foundation for credibility and trust,”1 and effective governance and management are the lever to ensure that the enterprise performs well. Progress has been made, but no amount of progress would be sufficient for sustainment without ongoing organizational attention and a solid track record of aligning organizational actions and policies with stated goals and values. This chapter presents the panel’s view on how the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) can build on its improvements in governance and management of the nuclear security enterprise to fully embed a culture of mission focus, performance, accountability, and credibility. NNSA’s 2019 Governance & Management Framework echoes those same goals. Its preface “From the Administrator” says We will enhance mission awareness, break down stovepipes, continuously improve performance, and build enduring and trusting partnerships that will enable us to accomplish our mission. This Governance & Management Framework will minimize processes that are duplicative and push back against the unrealistic goal of zero risk.2 Those cited goals to “enhance mission awareness, break down stovepipes, … and build enduring and trusting partnerships” are, in the panel’s view, the right steps to “embed a culture of mission focus, performance, and credibility.” The drive to “minimize processes that are duplicative and push back against the unrealistic goal of zero risk” is consistent with this report’s urging to further reduce burdensome practices and emphasize risk management over risk avoidance. The Framework’s promise to “continuously improve performance” is therefore a necessary step to achieving all of these end states. Much of what needs to be done to permit NNSA to continue to move toward a high-performing organization was spelled out in the Augustine-Mies report and others, but NNSA and the Department of Energy (DOE) have not always followed through with urgency. The Augustine-Mies report, for example, in its Recommendation 6, said “To begin reforming the DOE & NS culture, the Secretary and Director [of NNSA] should develop within six months a plan for continuous learning and improvement,” but that plan was not released by DOE-NNSA until December 30, 2016, 9 months later than was specified by Congress. The specific steps recommended for that plan were to include establishing metrics for assessing and improving enterprise management, routinely surveying personnel, aggressively communicating reform plans and objectives, establishing strong career and leadership development programs, and 1 Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise, 2014, A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise: Report of the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise, http://cdn.knoxblogs.com/atomiccity/wp- content/uploads/sites/11/2014/12/Governance.pdf, p. xviii. 2 NNSA, 2019, Strategic Vision: Strengthening Our Nation Through Nuclear Security, unnumbered page, http://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2019/05/f62/2019-05-06%20NNSA%20Strategic%20Vision.pdf. PREPUBLICATION COPY—SUBJECT TO FURTHER EDITORIAL CORRECTION 53

requiring rotational assignments. These steps have still not all been taken fully, and it is still vital that they be pursued actively. As of the writing of this report, the panel was told that NNSA is developing a Governance & Management Action Plan to further this effort. That plan is intended to build on NNSA’s governance and management focus groups from late in 2019, governance peer reviews, leadership input, and Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results. The panel has been told that the plan has been presented to and discussed with leaders across the enterprise as a means to create buy-in. Given that these plans are still under development, the panel emphasizes the need to build on progress by continuing to focus on the following:  Creating a strategic culture. The leadership of NNSA has made progress in recent years to alter the agency’s culture to emphasize mission performance, shared priorities, better risk management, and other attributes consistent with the end state articulated in the Augustine-Mies report. Changes such as improved strategic thinking and collaborative planning, broader participation and communication across the enterprise, and adjustments to some reporting relationships, have positioned NNSA well. Embedding that strategic approach through all levels of the workforce—setting as the norm a focus on achieving mission goals and proactively removing impediments—is a necessary step if NNSA is to continue the progress it has made and enable reliable performance into the future.  Adopting an enterprise-wide perspective. The success of NNSA depends on good working relationships with and effective performance from its management and operating (M&O) partners. As a joint enterprise, effective performance is needed from each of the parts. That being the case, NNSA needs to cement unity about the mission, and an enterprise-wide perspective, in its planning and operations. This would mean that roles and authorities emphasize collaboration and working relationships for NNSA entities and M&O partners that reflect a shared fate— succeed or fail together.  Developing and utilizing performance metrics. It is essential for NNSA and its M&O partners to develop goals and measures to assess performance and progress toward the desired state of governance and management. Recognizing that NNSA’s Governance & Management Action Plan is currently under development, the panel emphasizes—as it has in previous reports—the need for specific and meaningful metrics that can be easily understood, communicated, and used to drive data-driven, continuous improvement. This topic is addressed in more detail below. Monitoring progress and holding responsible organizations and individuals accountable are potential roles for the change management leader called for in Recommendation 3.5. ATTRIBUTES OF THE DESIRED CULTURE A concrete way to assess NNSA’s governance and management is to benchmark the agency against other organizations facing similar challenges of partnership, engagement, and learning. Entities that are characterized as “learning organizations”3 offer one possible set against which to benchmark, because those organizations are considered to embrace the shared vision, team orientation, and flexibility and adaptability in operations that the nuclear security enterprise needs. The basic concepts of a learning organization suggest that NNSA’s prospects for successful long-term performance will be enhanced if it can incorporate the following practices: 3 See, for example, D.A. Garvin, 1993, Building a learning organization, Harvard Business Review, July– August, and P.M. Senge, 2006, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, Doubleday, New York. PREPUBLICATION COPY—SUBJECT TO FURTHER EDITORIAL CORRECTION 54

1. Solve problems systematically. What is the frequency and ease with which the organization collects data to measure progress and uses a fact-based management approach to evaluate success or improvements? 2. Experiment with new work approaches. Is the organization looking for new work practices or technology as well as incremental gains in knowledge? Central to this approach is an incentive system that favors risk taking and does not unduly penalize staff for failures. 3. Learn from past experience. Does the organization learn from its history? Does the organization systematically review successes and failures with the notion that knowledge gained from failures is often instrumental in achieving subsequent success? 4. Learn from other organizations and from customers. Does the organization benchmark itself against other organizations and look for outside perspectives on how well it is doing? Does it look to its customers for their thoughts and insights and is it open to constructive criticism? 5. Transfer knowledge efficiently and effectively throughout the organization. Is knowledge shared broadly throughout the organization and does that knowledge sharing that is achieved through reports, site visits, or education and training programs lead to implementation of real change? NNSA’s governance and management have demonstrated some of these desired behaviors. But their adoption needs to be more widespread and methodical throughout the enterprise. Creating a culture in NNSA that embraces such practices is the foundation that will help NNSA meet known and not-yet-known challenges. Certainly, the organization’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has challenged the enterprise. What also is needed as NNSA and the M&O partners learn from this challenge is a governance and management esprit, what Augustine-Mies called the “management culture,” that responds to stresses with agility and alacrity. That would be a management culture that comes together in the face of challenges with unity of purpose and that learns as it goes, embracing new methods and technologies and ideas to improve performance—which will lead to improved credibility and reputation for the enterprise. Getting to such a state calls for changing not just individual practices and procedures, but for changing norms throughout the enterprise. Overall, the goal is to change not only processes but also the unwritten presumptions that influence priorities, judgments, and behaviors so that the enterprise is characterized by a culture of mission focus and high performance, trusting relationships and unity of purpose throughout the enterprise, and risk management rather than risk avoidance. Such characteristics are consistent with NNSA’s Strategic Vision. Changes embraced in recent years can be seen as steps toward attaining such a state, but a conscious, persistent, and strategic effort is necessary. Such an effort will include continued leadership commitment and focus; frequent, coordinated communication of carefully crafted messages; using data to monitor what is working and what is not, and changing strategy as necessary; and holding people accountable for change. While the leaders of NNSA play an important role in shaping the vision and culture of the organization, the staff throughout the agency must master solving problems systematically, collecting data to measure progress, and using a fact-based management approach to evaluate improvements. The 2019 Strategic Vision and Governance & Management Framework put NNSA in a good position to build on those stated values and goals and to reflect them in metrics or indicators to be monitored as NNSA moves toward fulfilling its objectives. A key consideration in establishing a culture of data-driven management is to identify the information to be collected, also specifying those responsible for carrying out this role and ensuring that the data are kept fresh. Recommendation 5.1: National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) leadership themes such as “one NNSA” and “getting to yes” have established the tone for needed management improvements. These themes need to be reinforced through systematic efforts to instill these desired behaviors and values throughout the enterprise. PREPUBLICATION COPY—SUBJECT TO FURTHER EDITORIAL CORRECTION 55

Especially when developing metrics for governance and management, it is important to recognize the need to rely on qualitative as well as quantitative data: employee experience is the most illustrative measure of what is happening and of progress being made. Data can be collected through focus groups and other feedback loops; the focus groups conducted by NNSA in fall 2019 produced a great deal of value, not only for NNSA but also to help coherence across the enterprise. Surveys, questionnaires, and interviews all become part of “learning audits” to assess cognitive and behavioral changes that typically precede improvements in performance. These are useful for checking whether concepts of self-direction and teamwork are truly understood. They also reveal the level of trust within the organization and how people in the enterprise relate to one another. Improvement in the quality of these relationships then leads to improvement in the quality of actions and ultimately in the quality of performance. For these reasons, assessing views throughout the enterprise—in both federal operations and the M&Os—is core to success. The panel is not recommending that NNSA adopt any particular style of management or that it follow one specific model. In fact, that would clearly not be desirable. What is needed is not to move from one static state of governance and management to another, but instead to build the capability for continuously identifying problems and opportunities for improvement throughout the enterprise, for methodically crafting steps to mitigate problems and seize opportunities, and a culture that encourages and rewards such steps. The essence of any high-performing enterprise is its ability to self-assess, learn continuously, and adapt accordingly. CHANGING THE CULTURE IN NNSA Chapter 3 includes a discussion of how NNSA’s management practices have improved and need to continue to improve, and that accomplishing continued, well-targeted change amounts to adjusting the culture throughout the agency. Norms and assumptions must change to foster a continuously improving mode of governance and management, one focused on achieving the mission reliably, accountably, responsively, transparently, and innovatively—nimbly adjusting as stresses and context evolve. Such an organization assesses and tracks its success via metrics, and the new culture will tend to persist even through leadership turnover. What remains to be done to ensure that the needed culture change continues into the future? The agency needs to flesh out the goals articulated in its Strategic Vision and its Governance & Management Framework. This need is largely unchanged from what was described in the panel’s first interim report, from 2017: [NNSA change leaders have not] identified what success looks like for the many activities under way, do not have measures (quantitative or qualitative) for monitoring progress, and have not yet developed reliable methods for knowing whether the steps being taken are accomplishing what is intended, what else is needed, or whether those steps should be modified to be more successful. The use of appropriate metrics would enable NNSA to monitor its efforts to achieve and sustain change. Experience with large-scale change management has shown that developing and testing metrics is an iterative process that can extend over years, so it is important that this work begin soon. Sustained attention to managing a culture of engagement and collaboration is needed if NNSA is to be an adaptable, high performing, and accountable agency.4 The following challenges remain:  Sustained attention—it is still too early to tell whether culture change will be successful, as culture change takes many years and sustained attention. 4 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the National Academy of Public Administration, 2017, Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., p. 33. PREPUBLICATION COPY—SUBJECT TO FURTHER EDITORIAL CORRECTION 56

 Acceptance of the need for change below the senior management levels is not complete, and the initiative is not very visible to the M&O staffs that, while maintaining their unique cultures, will also be affected and must embrace a unity of purpose around the mission and its goals.  The change effort must still be institutionalized so that it will continue when leadership transitions, so that progress is not dependent on individuals.  Clear statements of the goals and measures of progress are needed.  A systematic means of identifying and removing barriers to full implementation of the desired culture is needed.  A single accountable person with both time and stature needs to shepherd the change initiative (see Recommendation 3.5). Recommendation 5.2: National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) next steps to steer governance and management reform should specify the actions to be taken—by whom and when, with associated budget and metrics—to a degree that allows progress to be tracked and changes made as necessary. Metrics should be specific enough to support data-driven, continuous management improvement and be suitable for informing periodic external reviews into the effectiveness of governance and management of the nuclear security enterprise. STEPS FOR CONSIDERATION BY CONGRESS Last, as this report is delivered to Congress, the logical question is “What should Congress do now, to support the steps recommended in this report, and to follow up in the future?” The national security mission of NNSA and the overall nuclear security enterprise is critically important to the nation and needs to be carried out in the most effective way possible. The recommendations in this report will be embraced by some, perhaps many, of the leaders within DOE and NNSA and its partners, but there will also be inertia, and possibly resistance, within the system. Recommendation 5.3: The panel encourages the relevant committees of Congress, especially the Armed Services Committees and the Appropriations Subcommittees, to follow up on the recommendations in this report. The panel recommends that Congress convene a small group of knowledgeable experts, perhaps three to five, approximately every 3 years, to conduct a brief review of the status of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) governance and management. In order to enable the “brief reviews” envisioned in Recommendation 5.3, it is critical that NNSA identify and track key measures of its adoption of data-driven, continuous improvement management practices (per Recommendation 5.2). Those measures will provide a snapshot of the quality of governance and management of the nuclear security enterprise. The nuclear security enterprise is critical to the nation, and NNSA needs to build on progress made to ensure that improvements in governance and management percolate throughout the enterprise and become ingrained. NNSA must maintain a conscious, persistent, and urgent drive to build a culture of continuous management improvement. PREPUBLICATION COPY—SUBJECT TO FURTHER EDITORIAL CORRECTION 57

PREPUBLICATION COPY—SUBJECT TO FURTHER EDITORIAL CORRECTION 58

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The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)leads a nuclear security enterprise that includes three national laboratories, several production facilities, and an experimental test site. NNSA's mission is protect the American people by maintaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear weapons stockpile; by reducing global nuclear threats; and by providing the U.S. Navy with safe, militarily effective naval nuclear propulsion plants.

The FY2016 National Defense Authorization Act called for the National Academies, in partnership with the National Academy of Public Administration, to track and assess progress over 2016-2020 to reform governance and management of the enterprise. Governance and Management of the Nuclear Security Enterprise assesses the effectiveness of reform efforts and makes recommendations for further action.

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