Reorganization: Dryden Prepares for a New Future
By Jay Levine
To meet the needs of today and tomorrow, Dryden's leadership structure is undergoing realignment.
During the past year, Center Director Kevin Petersen has introduced elements of the new structure during informal Town Hall meetings. A July 7 All Hands meeting gave employees an overview of the new, streamlined organizational chart that's shaping up as the chosen path - with NASA Headquarters approval anticipated after minor adjustments, Petersen said. Among goals of the reorganization is allowing the Center to better mesh with changes also taking place at Headquarters (see related story, below).
Diversification of Dryden's work will entail new partnerships and the new management structure will allow the Center to be more agile, with a more flexible workforce capable of adapting to new customers and to changes within NASA, Petersen said. The realignment also features clear lines of responsibility and "a controlled focus," he said.
The realignment becomes effective after a transition period that will end Aug. 1, with Headquarters expected to review the changes by Oct. 1. Vacancies within the management structure, including several acting managers will be filled or advertised within the same time frame.
"Staffing up of a more focused program planning activity under Rich Christiansen's leadership and then transitioning to (leadership by) John Sharkey (who replaced Christiansen as planning director in early 2004) is an activity that's already bearing fruit," Petersen said. "The new planning team has really focused not only on looking at opportunities within NASA and not only on aeronautics, but also in Earth science and space science and certainly the Exploration Systems division.
"Seeking business with other federal agencies also produced a lot of leads and a lot of contacts, with some approved program activity coming in from other government agencies."
The realignment plans' vital signs look good so far, he added.
"The organizational change is already reflecting that this was a step in the right direction. Another thing we'll be focused on is responding to the business practices side (of operations) - how do we bid, how do we insure that the costs we give our customers are costs we can actually live with over time? The business planning office, under Vince Chacon, will help us move in that direction and ensure we have a better operational structure for future business opportunities," Petersen said.
The bottom line driving the reorganization is that the Center needs to align with Agency transformation and business practices.
"We realized that Dryden needed a substantial effort to attract new business," said Bob Meyer, who recently accepted the post of associate director for programs. "What was happening was that we were relying on program managers or directorate chiefs to seek new business. But they had conflicting priorities; when we had flight research project activity in the near term, that had to take precedent. So that was the point of developing a business planning office - to focus on new business opportunities while the line organizations focused on executing projects.
"There was spirited debate about where the aerospace projects directorate would go (in the new management structure) - operations or programs. It made sense for the planning office and the projects office to be in the same operational leadership line," he explained.
The new structure reorganizes Center leadership into three primary reporting chains. Meyer's deputy is Vance Brand. Also on that leadership branch is Jack Mechanic, who has been selected as business strategy manager. Vince Chacon was chosen to head the business planning office, and John Sharkey was selected to lead the program planning office. Jim Stewart and Tom Mace lead flight projects, which combined the former projects and airborne science groups and completes this reporting chain.
On the second chain, Larry Schilling is associate director for operations and Gary Krier is his deputy. Schilling and Krier will oversee engineering, test systems, flight operations and safety and mission assurance. The latter incorporates both safety and the newly formed Independent Technical Authority, an arm of the NASA Engineering and Safety Center.
As associate director for management, Gwen Young heads the third chain, which will focus on infrastructure and mission support. Her acting deputy is Mark Pestana. Under this organizational umbrella are academic investments, public affairs and commercialization, acquisitions management, human resources management and development, equal opportunity, facilities design and maintenance, security and the office of the chief financial officer.
The three main operational branches and the Center Director's office, including Petersen and newly named Deputy Director Steve Schmidt, comprise the executive leadership team responsible for the Center's overall strategic direction.
The two branches headed by associate directors for programs and operations, together with the office of the chief engineer, comprise the Operational Leadership Team responsible for carrying out programs and running day-to-day Center operations.
All of the above leadership functions, including that of Center chief counsel, comprise the Center Management Team, tasked with overall Center management responsibility and accountable to Headquarters and Dryden customers.
"For decades, the Center has had more business than it could do," said Meyer. "We didn't have the concern of attracting new business. But during the last few years, we've begun to see our business base drop significantly. I think we can turn that around. We're restructuring to increase and enhance our business, and reverse the trends."
And so far, new business prospects are good. Members of the management team cite multiple opportunities already identified.
"We see we have a problem, we now have the organization to fix it, and we see benefits long term for the Center," Meyer said. "Part of our strategy acknowledges that aeronautics as a whole is level. We look to keep aeronautics work at similar levels and also look at what space exploration and other outside business opportunities are available."