The Laboratory Operating System

By Amy Treece

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Laboratory Operating System

A big step on the continuous improvement journey

Dave Douglass

Deputy Labs Director Dave Douglass

A highly anticipated new management model known as the Laboratory Operating System, or LOS, was introduced to the Sandia community in an all-hands meeting on June 13. Deputy Labs Director Dave Douglass described LOS as a set of behaviors, processes, and tools that enable an engaged culture to operate effectively and deliver customer value (see videostream here).

Dave noted that the Sandia LOS is based on best practices from industry being tailored for a Federally Funded Research and Development Center by a cross-organizational steering committee appointed by the Labs’ senior leadership. The members of the committee, Dave said, bring decades of collective experience at the Labs to the table, adding that their knowledge will help formulate the LOS for Sandia’s unique environment.

“This isn’t something we were told to do,” Dave said, “this is the right thing to do.”

Honeywell, Sandia’s new parent company, has experienced great success using its own operating system since the early 2000s.

Josh Parsons, director of Business Excellence Center 10100, is heading up the LOS effort. In remarks at the all hands, he outlined the three essential elements of the system: an engaged culture, operational effectiveness, and customer value (see chart at top right).

“Those essential elements really tell you why we chose to embark on this journey,” he said. “But what it takes to make all of this work is people. They are the ones who integrate resources to achieve excellence in those areas.”

Embedded within the three essential elements are six enablers, or lean management tools and processes, being rolled out as a part of the LOS (see image below). They include strategy deployment, tiered accountability, data-driven and visual management, rapid problem solving, user experience, and velocity technology development.

Laboratory Operating System
The three essential elements and six enablers of the Laboratory Operating System.

Corporate Lean Six Sigma manager Rick Sherwood (10111), whose team is supporting the deployment of the LOS, noted in the all hands that “We’re starting with tiered accountability, which is a regular cadence of short 15-minute meetings enabling quick information-sharing up and down the organization. When the meetings are done right, they should identify and escalate issues and aid staff in obtaining the needed support to get things done.”

Tiered accountability boards will soon be going up all across the Labs’ campuses. Mission Services Div. 10000 Associate Labs Director Scott Aeilts noted that he is familiar with the boards from his experience at Honeywell.

“The boards give a quick status of each team’s priorities and the progress being made,” he said. “In my experience, they bring complications to light much more quickly and allow teams to be proactive in addressing them.”

The Tier 5 board used by Sandia Labs Director Steve Younger, Dave, and their staff members, went up on June 19.

Dave said he and Steve agree that the complete LOS deployment will take time and is another important step on Sandia Labs’ journey of continuous improvement.

“I know,” Dave said, “that our scientists and engineers would love a formula or equation that really helps identify how the LOS works. There isn’t a prescriptive answer. It isn’t just a set of tools. It involves employee empowerment and engagement, quick decision-making, and fast communication of issues resulting in rapid problem-solving. When we do all that well, one of the outcomes is that it becomes easier to do our jobs.”