NASA Langley Research Center
Site Visit Report (phone conference)
May 13, 1999

Dr. Belinda Adams
Assistant Director, Planning

NPR Team Members: Curt Marshall, Betsy Currie

General Organizational Information/Chronology

Langley Research Center is one of NASA’s 9 centers. It has an 80 year history and prides itself on its sound technical work. Some of its very early research is still being used today.

NASA began a reorganization effort in February, 1994. TQM was being used at the time. The new directors were migrating towards their own "smokestacks" and this concerned Belinda. She steered Langley towards a BSC to avoid the directors’ divergence. There was an offsite retreat to establish the performance measures with senior managers. (Directors were only peripherally involved – they focus more on external matters.)

Around this time, there was a Baldrige site visit that was mandatory for them as one of the NASA centers. This led to some good feedback.

It took about one year before Langley’s BSC was published. The team that oversaw its creation met early Monday mornings, before work, to complete it. It was a very bit and piece approach.

Langley has been challenged by changing world effects of the end of the Cold War. Langley’s use of the BSC does not fit with NASA’s overall performance management system.

There are 3 critical success factors (sets of measures). These are the most macro levels and the other levels are shown below:

  1. Customer ---------->>
  2. Stakeholder (now funders)
  3. Organization
Strategic goals---->> Annual goals ---->>

Projects to be implemented

This framework took several weeks to develop.

The critical success factors have since been amended. They are in their second iteration (FY) of using the BSC.

Establishing a Balanced Set of Measures

  • Senior officials and labor partnerships were involved in establishing Langley’s "Strategic and Quality Framework" or BSC.
  • There were about a dozen focus groups held with unions and employees
  • They published a booklet with the critical success factors and strategic goals – they knew these would not change anytime in the near future. They also created a large poster with this information on it. The lower level goals were expected to change and therefore were not publicized as widely.
  • Some enablers that made their process successful were top management support and resources.
  • Senior staff made the decision to use the BSC as a measure of achievement of the Center’s critical success factors.
  • Langley is being examined for an ISO 9001 registration. They are using their BSC as a keystone for this management system. Their first audit is in the beginning of August.
  • Langley did not target a specific number of sets of measures.
  • There was great buy-in throughout the Center. There were a couple areas where the system fell apart.
  • The current Director of the Center was one of the key people who participated in the development of the BSC – this is very fortunate. Helps keep it going.

Establishing Accountability

  • NASA is responsible for developing the agency’s strategic plan, annual performance plan, etc.
  • Each Enterprise has a strategic plan.
  • Each Center has an implementation plan.
  • Each Center has a Program Management Council that meets bi-monthly to review progress against plan.

Measuring Performance – Data Collection and Reporting

  • Senior officials have access to the data.
  • They are moving towards creating an annual performance review each January.
  • The performance information is communicated as required.
  • The performance information is not available electronically.
  • Struggled a lot with developing appropriate measures for an R&D organization. Have worked a lot with a positive technology transfer measure. There is an automated collection system for this measure only.

Analyzing and Reviewing Performance Data

Evaluating and Utilizing Performance Information and Reporting it to Customers and Stakeholders

Linkage Between Strategic Plan and Resource Allocation

  • ISO 9001 encourages this.

Lessons Learned

  • Metrics are tough – they spent a lot of time developing their metrics to make them appropriate for a R&D organization
  • The top two levels of their Strategic Quality Framework were well understood – other lower levels were confusing to people.
  • Keep overall number of performance measures low.

Next Steps

  • They are formalizing their planing process.
  • Hope to more closely tie resources to performance.
  • Will be developing a formal measurement report on an annual basis. Will combine this with the ISO quarterly basis results.
  • Will have a retreat in January to discuss and develop a new strategic implementation plan for the Center.
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