Staffing

This month I want to address IPAO staffing. We are going through significant changes within every group in our office. The review management staff, the programmatic analysis staff, the administrative staff and the Director’s suite are all experiencing changes in staff.

As a consequence, you are seeing review managers who were on detail assignments return to their home centers. On the EAG side, we have new detail RMs come into the organization from three different field Centers, as well as the addition of long-term rotational RMs within the next few weeks. PAG has recently added an additional in-situ cost analyst and will add two more in-situ schedule analyst soon. In the front office, our resource analyst is transitioning and we will be hiring a business manager for the office in the next few weeks. Also, our acting deputy director completed his developmental assignment, and we are hoping to have the new director in place soon.

Anticipating these changes, we are deploying a new training program called “boot camp” to help enable a quick integration of new personnel. Also, several of you have been tapped as formal mentors and as such you will perform a key role in showing our new team members the “ropes” to get them up to speed quickly with the least amount of pain. We all need to make ourselves available to help them in any way we can and to make they feel welcome into the organization. We also need to take advantage of the new perspectives these additions bring to us as they may point better ways to do and manage our work.

One of the key elements to success in our quest for excellence is to be able to depend on each other. This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate our “esprit de corps”.

As always, please let me know your thoughts (any way you choose to do so).

Pursuit of Excellence

This fourth blog is dedicated to the topic of excellence. By now you have heard me stress at staff meetings and at our director’s management reviews that we, as a team, should strive to better communicate our plans and needs. We need to set clear expectations and relay these plans to our customers and stakeholders. We need to pay attention to detail in our planning products, reports, and other documentation to make sure they are error free and consistent with Agency policies and direction. Our goal should be to pro-actively address issues so that our working relationships, internally and externally, are developed and maintained in an environment of trust. Perhaps you remember our push for continuous improvement, in which we are dedicating our organization to improve our processes to provide value added to the Agency’s investment in independent programmatic assessment. Our goal is to help define and implement a holistic programmatic analysis capability that fully integrates elements of technical, cost, schedule and risk. IPAO is becoming further challenged to better adjust to the scope of work we are chartered to perform across the Agency and to provide enhanced recruitment opportunities to a broader spectrum of talent from the field centers.

All of these are part of our drive for excellence. In my view, our office is more than capable of achieving excellence, and as you can see from the examples that I mentioned above, we are well on our way. Why drive for excellence? The answer is simple – the Agency deserves no less for the important role we have been entrusted. We have a strong foundation to build upon. Remember excellence requires an extra effort. In my view, excellence is achieved by a vibrant organization whose products, at all levels, are known for their quality. It is an organization that is trusted as a willing partner in achieving the Agency’s goals; and in our case, an organization that is trusted to be a competent, objective, and fair assessor in all our engagements. This is a high bar but one that we can certainly achieve!

I know you all want to be part of such an organization. As we continue moving forward, your support and dedication will be a key enabler. As always, let me hear what you think.

James Ortiz
Director (acting) IPAO

IPAO SRB Assessors or Consultants

Last year was an eventful and productive year for our office. You completed a significant number of assessments which, along with your team’s findings and recommendations, provided valuable input to the Agency helping to shape the Agency’s commitments for these, our most important activities. You managed to stay on track in spite of the many management changes that occurred during the year and it ended on a very high note with the Agency’s leadership endorsing the results of the continuous improvement activities that you carefully researched and worked with your stakeholders. You should all feel proud! I know I am!!

After a well deserved pause, it is time again to re-engage. In this 3rd edition of the Blog, I would like to address the following question: When do the SRBs exceed their independent assessment role and spill over into a consultant role? This question keeps popping up time and time again, and the truth be said, the line between assessor and consultant is sometimes a fine line that is hard to define. In its most essential role, the SRB is an independent advisory team to the NASA leadership. The SRB provides advice, not direction, related to the readiness of the Agency’s Programs and projects helping them successfully execute their commitments. Perhaps the best way to help define the difference is by providing examples of activities that are considered specific to each role. A good example of going into a “consultant” role is when SRB members advocate technical or programmatic solutions to the Program or project (note that this is different from the SRB recommending that a technical or programmatic approach be evaluated by the project or program). The distinction between these two activities makes all the difference. By advocating a solution, the SRB becomes a co-participant with the Program/project and has compromised its ability to further evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed solution. SRBs are interested in helping the Programs and projects be successful; but because of their expertise and experience, SRB advice may sometimes be considered direction by the Programs and projects. In their zeal to be helpful, the SRB could offer to perform work on behalf of the project…one of such cases could involve analysis that should be performed by the program or projects but instead is completed by the SRB. The SRB role is an “assessor” role and not a “consultant” role and we must remain vigilant and steer clear of those situations so that the independence of the SRB is not compromised or SRBs do not exceed their intended role. In this, like in many other challenging questions we deal with, there are no easy answers. As always, I welcome your opinions.

IPAO SRB Assessors or Consultants

Last year was an eventful and productive year for our office. You completed a significant number of assessments which, along with your team’s findings and recommendations, provided valuable input to the Agency helping to shape the Agency’s commitments for these, our most important activities. You managed to stay on track in spite of the many management changes that occurred during the year and it ended on a very high note with the Agency’s leadership endorsing the results of the continuous improvement activities that you carefully researched and worked with your stakeholders. You should all feel proud! I know I am!!

After a well deserved pause, it is time again to re-engage. In this 3rd edition of the Blog, I would like to address the following question: When do the SRBs exceed their independent assessment role and spill over into a consultant role? This question keeps popping up time and time again, and the truth be said, the line between assessor and consultant is sometimes a fine line that is hard to define. In its most essential role, the SRB is an independent advisory team to the NASA leadership. The SRB provides advice, not direction, related to the readiness of the Agency’s Programs and projects helping them successfully execute their commitments. Perhaps the best way to help define the difference is by providing examples of activities that are considered specific to each role. A good example of going into a “consultant” role is when SRB members advocate technical or programmatic solutions to the Program or project (note that this is different from the SRB recommending that a technical or programmatic approach be evaluated by the project or program). The distinction between these two activities makes all the difference. By advocating a solution, the SRB becomes a co-participant with the Program/project and has compromised its ability to further evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed solution. SRBs are interested in helping the Programs and projects be successful; but because of their expertise and experience, SRB advice may sometimes be considered direction by the Programs and projects. In their zeal to be helpful, the SRB could offer to perform work on behalf of the project…one of such cases could involve analysis that should be performed by the program or projects but instead is completed by the SRB. The SRB role is an “assessor” role and not a “consultant” role and we must remain vigilant and steer clear of those situations so that the independence of the SRB is not compromised or SRBs do not exceed their intended role. In this, like in many other challenging questions we deal with, there are no easy answers. As always, I welcome your opinions.

Pause and Learn

So you may be wondering, “what is all the fuss about the Pause and Learn (PAL) sessions we are conducting?”

The principle is very simple; on a routine basis, we need to take some time to look back at what we are doing, discuss it with the people that are involved, and then have us (the larger “us” meaning our organization and the people that we work with) figure out what needs improvement so that we can perform our jobs better and to get along better. Make sense?

I consider the IPAO an operational organization. By that I mean, we have set of products we deliver on timelines that are part of the tempo by which the Agency delivers its products. Because the tempo of the Agency, and thus IPAO’s tempo, is so high, it is easy to get immersed in the day-to-day activities necessary to get these products out; and as all of you can attest this hardly leaves time for anything else. We need to be careful that we don’t fall in the self-fulfilling prophecy that we are so busy doing our day-to-day jobs that we don’t have time to improve our processes so we continue falling further and further behind. Breaking that cycle is the driver behind the PAL sessions.

The PAL provides a structured way to look back, assess, discuss, formulate areas of improvement, and set out to implement these improvements…and doing all of this jointly with the people we work with outside the organization and in an environment that is less stressful. So, we are performing PALs. We conducted the first one a few weeks ago with SMD and it went very well. A follow-on PAL is now planned with a few of the SMD divisions in early December; and an ESMD PAL is planned for the first week of December. So we are learning how to do this and we’ll improve as we go along, but I am very encouraged about the great planning our organizations POCs are doing, about the engagement we are getting from the organizations that work with us, and about the preliminary results that we (the larger “we”) are achieving

As always, please let me know your thoughts.

James Ortiz,
Deputy Director IPAO

On Communication

This is the first entry on the IPAO Director’ Blog. This blog will be updated periodically and I will use it as an avenue to improve communications in the Office. In the Blog, I will share information that is relevant to the whole Office and that involves items that are not “the news of the day” but items that need some discussion or consideration in the IPAO community. The information in the Blog is intended to share views and ideas and to stimulate discussion not to provide direction.Following that line of reasoning; it is pertinent that this first Blog entry be devoted to communication. When I joined IPAO a month ago, Mark gave me the action to improve internal communications in the Office. Since then, I have gathered some of your ideas and started taking small steps to improve the flow of information such as providing a standard template for the staff meeting agendas, distributing the agendas before the staff meetings, and the creation of this Blog. I have also started to look at other communication means such as the IPAO web site (which I think needs a major face lift!) and the PBMA web pages. Also, there are other tools available that we could utilize to our advantage such as wikis.

So, we have several communication tools and repositories at our disposal such as staff meetings, one-on-ones, e-mail, weekly reports, web pages, wikis, blogs, share drives, etc…but the secret is, I believe, to avoid duplication and to select the tool that is better suited for each job while considering not only our internal needs but the needs of our stake-holders. “Easier said that done” you say and I agree! The overall goal is to provide clear, concise, accessible, and timely information. If we get this right, we should be able to make a dent in the number of redundant e-mails that clog our inbox while improving the level of situational awareness of activities and information that affect and are affected by our work. We will be working on cataloging types of information and matching those to communications means and repositories… more to come as special topics in the staff meeting.

Communication is the blood flow of every organization and the majority of organizations struggle with it. The ones that succeed have to work hard on it. Let’s work together to improve ours. Let me hear your ideas!

James Ortiz
Deputy Director IPAO