On Nov. 11, I attended the concluding session of the Strategic Laboratory Leadership Program (SSLP) at the Gleacher Center of the University of Chicago. In the session, five independent teams with members from Fermilab, Argonne and Jefferson Laboratory presented the results of this year’s project. In its most succinct form, the goal of this project was to design a presentation for a congressional committee or a group of influential voters unfamiliar with our work that would give a convincing strategic message for the value of basic research in our national laboratories. The groups worked independently, putting to work what they learned in the program and approached the problem in strikingly different ways. It was a fascinating and stimulating afternoon. I will borrow freely from the different approaches that these groups presented.
The origin of the SLLP program goes back to 2007 when Fermilab and Argonne jointly participated in the development of a unique executive leadership program with the University of Chicago and the Booth School of Business. The result was the SLLP. The goal of SLLP is to develop the leadership skills of potential future laboratory leaders and to foster closer working relationships between Fermilab and Argonne. Although initially designed for Fermilab and Argonne, Jefferson laboratory decided to participate on its own nickel. Fermilab participants are nominated by their managers and division heads and then selected by senior management. To date, 50 Fermilab staff from scientific and staff functions have completed SLLP in five cohorts.
The program takes place in three time blocks spread out over several months. The topics include leadership, strategic thinking, leading change and innovation. Throughout the program participants apply their new knowledge by working in small groups on a project focused on a specific issue or problem that is important to the laboratory or to science in general. After the program, each participant completes an elective course from the UC Executive Education curriculum based on personal development interests.
The feedback from participants has been hugely positive. The Booth School of Business is arguably the premier business school in the country and we are very fortunate to benefit from their superb teachers and from the university’s commitment to our laboratory.