On Emphasizing the Programmatics

Ortiz_ James226x170¬†Our office has recently completed the second drop of forensics analysis where we look at SRB reports over the last two years looking for systemic trends in strengths, issues, and concerns reported by our review teams. SRB reports are a reflection of the performance of our Program and projects. The most significant area of issues and concerns reported deals with cost and schedule, or as we call it, programmatics. The continued challenge for our office is how to better support our SRBs with analyses that provide clear insight to the Agency to inform setting realistic cost of schedule commitments and on the viability of our Programs and projects to meet these commitments as they continue down the life-cycle. Over the last two years we have taken very deliberate steps to develop the capability to perform true integrated programmatic analyses. By that I mean, to assess the combined effects of risk on cost and schedule and the interplay between them. This has required significant improvements in our schedule and cost programmatic analytical capabilities (people, methods, and tools), the cross training of our analysts, and a very arduous effort to prepare our SRB members, our Program and project personnel, and our management staff at the Center, Missions Directorate and Agency levels to receive and to act on the results. Working with CAD we have made great progress but we still have a ways to go. We have stepped into an arena where programmatics are informed by statistical analyses with these analyses expected to be initiated by the Programs and projects themselves to justify the approval of their baselines. Our role has been expanded to not only model the project’s programmatics but to validate their statistical analyses. As we go forward we need to continue learning how to explain, at all levels, the underling risk posture that drives the results. We need to become extremely proficient at “story telling”, by that I mean, communicating in the most simple terms possible, not solely the mathematical information but the “story” the statistical curves and confidence levels are telling us in terms of the challenges the project has moving forward and the resources and timing for those resources (phasing of cost and schedule) that are needed to mitigate those challenges. The story telling I refer to is very hard to do but I believe it is not until we conquer that skill that we will significantly increase our impact to the Agency. The “we” I refer to is not only the programmatic analysts in PAG but RMs in EAG and IPAO leadership, including myself. The analogy of the elevator speech comes to mind. So if at the time we are done with our review, we cannot succinctly explain to any of our leaders as we ride the elevator together at NASA Headquarters the “story” our review is telling about the project or Program; then we are not there yet.

As I close this last blog of the year, the following thoughts come to mind. 2010 has been a very challenging year for the Agency and IPAO. I am very proud of the way you all have continued to move forward meeting the ambitious review manifest of the agency while improving the Agency’s review process as we go.

I wish you all and your love ones a very happy and safe holiday season and I anticipate a great new year.

James N. Ortiz, PhD