The IPAO Environment

As is customary this time of the year, I reflect on the year we are completing and look forward to the year ahead.  This time I think we should not only reflect on the accomplishments from our work (and there have been many) but to reflect on the environment in which we accomplish our work.   You may be wondering what I mean by “environment” so let me elaborate.  The environment I refer to is the context in which we perform our work.  The IPAO environment is complex, challenging, and dynamic and everyone that is part of our organization needs to have full cognizance of this environment and understand that acceptance of these conditions is part of life in IPAO.

So let me summarize the features of the environment:

  • IPAO is involved with the highest priority efforts that carry out the agency’s strategic plan
  • IPAO is at the cross roads of policy expectation and the stark reality of implementation
  • Work in IPAO is high-stakes and time-driven and as a consequence is stressful but also highly rewarding
  • Work in the “art” of independent assessment is never finished
  • IPAO’s high visibility role, subjects our work and procedures to additional scrutiny
  • IPAO’s work (no matter at what level of review) cuts across center, mission directorate, and agency lines
  • Our work requires a difficult balance of technical, programmatic, legal, business and interpersonal knowledge and skill executed using a geographically disperse workforce
  • Credit for mission success will go the programs while we have to help answer for mission failure
  • The function of IPAO is unique at NASA and is performed with high expectations internally and externally to the agency
  • Our work is the last line of defense to help ensure overall mission success

I think you may say you know all of these but it is important to revisit this once in a while to remind us of the commitment we make when we become part of this organization.  That commitment consist of doing a difficult job in a complex, high stakes, and stressful environment.  The rewards are in the satisfaction that comes from having a meaningful opportunity to help the agency succeed.

So given that environment, I have setup time in the afternoon of the first day of the DSR to discuss the following topics with EAG and PAG:

  • Who is IPAO?
  • Do we have a realistic grasp of the environment when we assess ourselves and our organization?
  • Do we see ourselves in a way that moves us forward?
  • What are the expectations on each other and in support of the office? Are we here only to support our assigned reviews?
  • What is the appropriate balance between communicating and integrating our work versus the need for autonomy?
  • Are we organized in the most effective way to be successful in this environment?

I am looking forward to our discussion.