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December 2003 VCAT Letter Report to NIST Director

December 16, 2003

Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr.
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Gaithersburg, MD 20899

Dear Arden,

The VCAT and I were extremely pleased with the focus and content of the December 9-10, 2003 meeting in Gaithersburg. The presentations, particularly those by Bill Koch and Harry Hertz directly responded in an effective way to our earlier requests for information. Although we need to review programs at a fairly high level, it is necessary for us to understand some of the operational details to verify that plans and strategies are effective.

We appreciate that NIST management is placing increased emphasis on improving safety, and that you made substantial positive changes that should improve personal safety at NIST. We urge you to continue to benchmark your performance against the best in the industry, not just within the Federal government. You should continue to develop positive rewards to reinforce and encourage reporting of safety incidents, hazardous situations, etc.

Merit pay, or pay-for-performance, is an effective management tool to reward and motivate employees. It is also difficult to implement correctly and thus it is appropriate to periodically review and update the plan to ensure that it is fostering the desired actions. Although we strongly support the pay-for-performance concept, we do not at this time, have sufficient knowledge to suggest any specific changes that should be made to the plan. We do recommend that the salary distribution within pay bands be examined, especially across different Operating Units and over time, to determine if there is reasonable consistency.

Leadership and management development is a critical issue that every organization is dealing with. GE, for example, considers leadership and management development a core competency. Some insight in how to handle this situation may be obtained by comparing your plans to industry practice. Most companies are very willing to share that information. We also support examining the issue of diversity as a business case to determine its value to the organization.

Marc Stanley made an excellent presentation, extolling the benefit of the ATP. Marc is a great spokesperson and could possibly be useful in helping to provide strategic thinking to disseminate NIST's core mission message.

The laboratory tours during this meeting were excellent. Splitting the group into two or three smaller groups allowed the members more interaction with the NIST staff. As expected, we were impressed with the outstanding work and the quality of the people. Now, one challenge for NIST is to communicate the availability of that talent to potential external strategic partners.


signature of Juan Sanchez

Juan M. Sanchez, Chair
Visiting Committee on Advanced

cc: VCAT
Bruce Field

Created August 18, 2009, Updated August 22, 2018