Job well done

Tim Meyer

We are drawing close to the end of 2014, and it is a time for reflection on progress and accomplishment. Each of us, personally, may have a few milestones, a few scars or maybe some special moments that we pin on the bulletin board of memory. Fermilab has its own record of achievements as well, and these are all driven by the great dedication and good work to which all of you have contributed.

Just as we each received a report card in grade school to measure our performance, Fermilab, too, received an annual report card from the U.S. Department of Energy to evaluate our work over the course of the fiscal year. This grading process, called the Performance Evaluation and Measurement Plan, is a crucial comment on the lab’s accomplishments and the confidence that DOE has in our laboratory. The report card is seemingly simple but reflects a very sophisticated system of weights and measures that rolls up into eight distinct letter grades.

In addition to the letter grades associated with the eight performance areas, DOE designates certain "notable outcomes" that identify specific milestones for the laboratory that support the overall expectations.

In FY2014, Fermilab earned the following scores (available online):

A-   Mission accomplishments (quality and productivity of R&D)
B+  Construction and operation of research facilities
A-   Science and technology project/program management
A-   Contractor leadership/stewardship
A-   Environment, safety and health
B+  Business systems
B+  Facilities maintenance and infrastructure
A-   Security and emergency management

We were also rated as “successful” on each of eight different notable outcomes.

How do we interpret this? I offer three comments, and if you are interested in more detailed conversations, please find me or Mike Weis from the Fermi Site Office to talk further.

The expected performance for goals 1 to 4 is A- to A+. So by achieving three grades of A- and one B+, we have learned that Fermilab is very much on the path to success and performing well. The place that needs most improvement is the area of project management and planning for the construction of new facilities, a topic that we’ll report on in a near-future column.

The expected performance in goals 5 to 8 is B+, similar to the adage, “If you never miss a flight, you are spending too much time at the airport.” What we learn from these grades is that teams led by people such as Martha Michels, David Esterquest and Bill Flaherty are doing really well. In fact, the A letter grades (including A-) indicate that in these areas Fermilab is not only performing very well, but also contributing to the overall excellence of DOE.

Of course, if you remember, the most important aspect of report cards when you were a kid was the parent-teacher conference. Similarly, Fermilab had its parent-teacher conference on Dec. 4 with Fermilab leadership attending a meeting with the DOE Office of Science leadership.

The bottom line was two-fold, both empowering and sobering. Fermilab was acknowledged for undergoing a “remarkable transformation” from the Tevatron era to a new, international long-baseline neutrino era. At the same time, we were cautioned that this level of excellence will require twice the effort to maintain as we move from talking about success to actually beginning construction and execution. Extra vigilance and diligence will be required to keep us on this track.

And this is perhaps the best message for us all: Job well done, there is more to do, the going is going to get tougher, so keep up the good work, but work harder!

I challenge each of you to spend a few moments thinking about these questions: What did you tell your supervisor was a success this past year? What are you striving to finish this year? What will it take for you and your team to sleep well, knowing that success is near?