Into the future

By Nancy Salem

Photography By Randy Montoya

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Sandia’s goals and objectives look ahead to keep the Labs on track — now and down the road

James S. Peery
STRATEGIC DIRECTION — Labs Director James S. Peery says the strategic-planning process that produces Sandia’s goals and objectives is “powerful and vital,” and rooted in measurability and accountability. “We own these, and we are going to talk about and hold ourselves to them,” he said.

It’s small enough to put in a pocket, but it packs a big-time message.

Sandia has released its Five Year Goals and FY21 Objectives, summarized in a familiar trifold pamphlet, mapping out how the Labs will achieve its long-term strategic direction of anticipating and solving the most challenging problems that threaten security in the 21st century and render exceptional service in the national interest.

“Spending time developing our strategy is one of the most important responsibilities of the Senior Leadership Team because it sets the direction of the Labs,” said Labs Director James S. Peery. “As a team, and with input from many, SLT collectively decides and commits to these goals and objectives.”

Senior strategist Elizabeth Roll said the core of Sandia’s strategy approach is based on the standard industry practice of identifying long-term direction and breaking that into actionable nearer-term pieces.

“The Labs-level strategy is organized into three parts,” she said. “At the top level, we have strategic priorities that outline the Labs’ strategic direction on a 10-year horizon, designed to ‘create the future’ or shape the Labs to better achieve the mission. Underneath the priorities are five-year goals that are achieved through annual objectives.”

Off the shelf

Like many multimission organizations, Sandia uses a hybrid strategic management approach — planning centrally at the Labs level and extending into the divisions and program portfolios. Sandia’s strategists believe this allows more responsive, innovative planning while elevating cross-cutting needs to higher levels to get the attention and resources they require to be accomplished.

The team rejects the common belief that strategic plans take a lot of time to shape, then sit idly on a shelf. “We bring strategy off the shelf and into the day-to-day work of the Labs,” said John Foley, manager of Executive Strategic Planning. “Our objectives are real, tangible activities that look to advance the overall strategy. And we are always making tweaks and improvements to our planning approach to better impact the mission and connect across the organization and into business processes, this year in particular.” 

Labs strategist Cally Maloney said key changes were made to the FY21 Goals and Objectives. “The four updated Labs-level goals have more detail than in the past and better describe where Sandia wants to be in five years,” she said. “And the timeline for producing the goals and objectives was deliberately pushed up a few months, from July to April, to better align with budgeting and performance management processes.”

Where we’re headed

Five-year Goal No. 1 is to increase Sandia’s value to our sponsors, clients and National Security Enterprise partners while enhancing their trust in us. “This means we deliver on our commitments and also serve our Federally Funded Research and Development Center role of being trusted partners and advisers,” Deputy Labs Director Dori Ellis said. “We have to fulfill our missions as the price of entry to do anything else.”

The FY21 objectives that will help Sandia achieve the goal include delivering on top programmatic commitments such as the W80-4, B61-12 Life Extension Program and Mobile Guardian Transporter; enhancing partnerships with the Kansas City National Security Campus, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and deepening sponsor relationships with NNSA Defense Programs (NA-10) and Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (NA-20).

“We are committed to strengthening our partnership with the other labs and plants. It’s crucial to our ability to deliver on our commitments,” Nuclear Deterrence Associate Labs Director Steve Girrens said.

To accomplish that, Goal No. 2 seeks to radically improve how, and how quickly, Sandia delivers the mission. The objectives lay out new approaches to engineering to bolster innovation and speed on weapons programs. “That we have something so specific to accelerating engineering and mission work is a new focus of the Labs strategy,” Steve said. “It will take all of the Labs to achieve.”

National Security Programs ALD Mike Burns added that Sandia must do its most impactful work for national security. “Our work must align with our capabilities and mission as an NNSA laboratory,” he said. “We must find applications of our core capabilities to make significate and unique national security impacts in order to develop those capabilities for NNSA.”

FY21 Objectives include partnering with NA-10 on independent peer reviews, expanded use of modeling and simulation, and advanced portfolio strategies to shape future programs for the Labs.

Goal No. 3 is about people — that Sandia continues to be recognized as a great place to work and have exceptional national impact. Objectives address flexibility in work schedules, telecommuting, benefits and career opportunities. “We want people to enjoy what they do and perform important work with national impact,” Global Security ALD Doug Bruder said.

Human Resources and Communications Senior Director John Myers said the goal “moves us toward a stronger work environment that engages all employees, develops talent throughout employees’ entire career and cultivates impactful, inspiring leaders.”

Advanced Science and Technology ALD Susan Seestrom said Sandia has a well-known and robust research portfolio and set of strong university partnerships. “That helps us ensure we have engaging work and a pipeline of diverse talent,” she said.

Goal No. 4 looks at operations — to effectively and efficiently operate with agility and resilience. Key objectives are to modernize Sandia’s information technology and develop facilities and infrastructure master plans. It includes a continuing effort to streamline processes and reduce the administrative burden on managers so they can focus on supporting staff, developing teams and working with customers and partners.

“We need to ensure our operations are agile, adaptable and responsive to changes in the environment so that we can continue to execute our important work under any circumstance,” Mission Services ALD Scott Aeilts said.

Integrated Security Solutions ALD Andy McIlroy added that it is crucial to improve the integration and efficiency of Sandia’s mission-enabling services. “We plan to innovate by expanding the Integrated Service Delivery approach we’ve practiced in California through targeted pilots in other parts of the Labs,” he said.

Data, themes and a plan

The FY21 Goals and Objectives were developed over three months. Each SLT member was asked for thoughts on what Sandia should be preparing for over the next five years. Data was collected and the leaders came together in a meeting where themes were developed and a final set of goals took shape. Directors and fellows provided feedback that was incorporated into the goals at a second SLT planning meeting.  

The goals were finalized and, in a scoping process, owners of the objectives defined what was achievable and outlined milestones by quarter, resources, benchmarking and funding.

“We were able this year to put our money where our mouth is and allocate more than $1 million specifically to make it possible to achieve those objectives,” Dori said. Sandia’s Portfolio Management Tool will be used to track and report progress on the milestones back to SLT in quarterly check-ins.

“Each goal has a team behind it led by SLT members, directors and staff to help with the reporting,” Elizabeth said. “It’s an exciting, dynamic process as themes arise and take shape.”

In his first set of goals and objectives as Labs director, James emphasized measurability and accountability. “These objectives are going on our (SLT) and directors’ PMFs (performance goals), thanks to the timing change,” he said. “I want SLT to dedicate more time each quarter to discussing each of the objectives. We own these, and we are going to talk about and hold ourselves to them. Accountability is important.

“I’m excited about building on these themes and owning the future of the Labs. All parts of the Labs are touched by them, especially in how we deliver the mission,” he said. “Any organization can look at these and say, ‘How can I contribute? Who are my customers and how am I advancing those relationships? What do I need to do to better deliver the mission? And what am I doing for our people, for our operations?’ People can lean into the goals and align with them. That’s a powerful and vital process.”

Check it out and get involved

Employees can read Sandia’s FY21 Goals and Objectives and visit strategicplan.sandia.gov to learn more about the Labs’ strategic planning process and find out how to get involved.