Strategic Priority No. 7

By Scott Aeilts, Associate Labs Director, Mission Services; Mark Sellers, Associate Labs Director, Mission Assurance; and John Myers, Senior Director, Human Resources & Communications

Photography By Randy Montoya

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Unleashing Sandia's power

Scott Aeilts, John Myers and Mark Sellers
From left, Scott Aeilts, Associate Labs Director, Mission Services; John Myers, Senior Director, Human Resources & Communications; and Mark Sellers, Associate Labs Director, Mission Assurance.

For more than 70 years, Sandia has provided exceptional service in the national interest. What does it take for Sandia, the premier science and engineering laboratory for national security and technology innovation, to become even better? What is our desired future state 10 years from now? What focus areas and investments will unlock Sandia’s full potential? These are the questions behind Sandia’s Strategic Priority No. 7: Unleash the power of Sandia.

Strategic Priority No. 7 is a call to action to identify better, easier ways to do our job on behalf of the nation. We need to be more agile, make more focused decisions to create and sustain an exceptional institution and remove organizational barriers that are slowing us down and reducing our impact.

To successfully move toward our desired future state, Sandia must become more agile. There are essentially five trademarks of an agile organization: 1) a shared purpose and vision, 2) a network of empowered teams, 3) rapid decision and learning cycles, 4) a dynamic people model that ignites passion and 5) next-generation enabling technology. Each of these trademarks will be used as a metric to gauge our overall success in meeting our vision for the next 10+ years.

In fiscal year 2019, we developed four pillars for Strategic Priority No. 7: 1) Operational Effectiveness, 2) Creative Thinking and Innovation, 3) Empowered Workforce and 4) Exceptional Institution. We also created a roadmap to achieve our desired end state by identifying near-, mid- and far-term objectives for each pillar. Moreover, we have engaged with the Labs’ other strategy teams to ensure the unleashing initiatives we developed are in alignment with needs from their mission and technical priorities.

The first pillar, Operational Effectiveness, seeks to increase engineering through intuitive, automated and effective operations. Simply put, this will require us to identify operational inefficiencies that are slowing us down as an organization. Several near-term objectives (one- to three-year timeframes) will be recommended to provide solutions that are motivated by, and accountable for, increasing the effectiveness, efficiency and agility of the Labs. Some recommendations include analyzing impacts before implementing change, enhancing search capabilities on the internal Sandia Restricted Network, providing consistently capable and functional conference room equipment and Skype capabilities, and promoting a more advanced service-oriented approach for better internal and external operational experiences.

The second pillar, Creative Thinking and Innovation, seeks to provide employees with the space, time and mindset to innovate. This equates to encouraging unstructured time to advance diverse planned and spontaneous interactions and fostering strategic endeavors and creativity for more rapid innovation. Near-term recommendations include providing the time and means for focused creativity, removing unnecessary need-to-know barriers, rewarding staff adaptability and flexibility and increasing our overall innovation output through a more risk-tolerant approach.

The third pillar, Empowered Workforce, seeks to ensure that every employee is equipped, trusted and vested in institutional and mission success. This includes diversity and inclusion, as well as an acknowledgement that every member of the workforce is appreciated and valued for their contribution to the various missions of the Labs. We must unleash the power to foster workforce satisfaction through exciting onboarding and training, world-class opportunities and benefits, wide-ranging flexible career trajectories and promotions and mechanisms for staff expression of ideas, as well as implementing managerial standards and accountability for performance. 

The final pillar, Exceptional Institution, envisions Sandia as the most agile, responsive and innovative laboratory in the nation by reinforcing Sandia’s brand and reputation for exceptional Federally Funded Research and Development Center work. As an institution, we would like to cultivate purposeful research and development through focused attention on clear Labs priorities, as well as provide disinvestment principles for areas that are innovation-exhausted. Some near-term recommendations to pursue include solidifying acceptance of core Labs roles outside weapons work, displaying more agility as an FFRDC and breaking down silos by promoting more cross-disciplinary teaming Labs-wide.

Through advancements in these four pillars, Sandia can unleash transformational changes that advance operations, innovation, workforce satisfaction and our reputation as a leading FFRDC. Several near-term recommendations have been included in the Labs’ fiscal year 2020 objectives.

Thanks for letting us share some of the Strategic Priority No. 7 team’s ideas to position Sandia for the future. For questions or comments, contact team lead Tracy Wilbur.