Outlook for the rest of 2015 and into 2016

As we meet for this Director Status Review (DSR) I wanted to reflect on a couple of important topics: our people and our manifest.   First and foremost is our people. As it was mentioned at our Dec 2014 DSR, we are embarked in a significant workforce transition directed to enhance the stability in our civil service review manager workforce and to strengthen our civil service programmatic analyst staffing. The details of the transition will be covered during the meeting and please know that we are on plan to bring this talent into our civil service competent.   Also, as part of the regular career tempo some of our team members have/are transitioning into retirement, are moving to take on other challenges outside of the organization, or are completing the detail assignments in IPAO. The combined effect is significant changes in personnel with the ripple effect into assignments.   As with other periods of change there are disruptions to the organization and the SRBs but there are also lots of opportunities to take on new and challenging assignments and to work with new people.   I appreciate everybody’s continue support and patience while these changes are implemented as they will continue into the following calendar year.   As we will also discuss during the meeting, we are continuing our efforts to understand our working relationship to address areas where adjustments can be implemented to enhance the overall level of satisfaction of our workforce; this is an activity that also includes OoE.

As for the content of our work, I think it is interesting to observe that the composition of our manifest is evolving into a larger number of reviews involving more complex missions such as Europa and Asteroid Robotic Retrieval Mission, Landsat 9, the re-engagement with JWST, amongst others.   These missions given their complexity, require more involved discussions and elaborate planning. I don’t see that many “standard” Cat 2 entering our manifest. Even the PIRs seem to be less “standard” as they seem to be planned more and more as highly customized “topical” reviews such as the upcoming SCaN PIR.   We have also seen recent “acceleration” of lifecycle reviews and a few that have “popped” into our manifest in unexpected ways.   We will need to remain vigilant and flexible to engage in support of these efforts as we manage the workforce transition mentioned above and as we also respond to OoE direction to improve the execution of our procurement and travel dollars.   This is what makes life in IPAO challenging.

Let me hear from your thoughts

With regards,

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.