Status Report

Response by NASA Langley Research Center Director Roy Bridges to Employee Communication Concerns Raised on NASA Watch

By SpaceRef Editor
January 21, 2005
Filed under ,

Mr. Cowing,

I am currently serving as the executive intern to the Director of NASA Langley Research Center, Roy Bridges.  What follows is Mr. Bridges’ response to some recent comments on your site [NASA Watch]:

Paul Tartabini

Executive Intern, Office of the Director

NASA Langley Research Center


Regarding your comments about management openness – or lack thereof – at Ames, Glenn, Langley and Marshall, I would like to bring your attention to the efforts of Langley’s leadership to communicate with employees at LaRC.

It became apparent last year that NASA Langley had to transform itself or wither and die on the vine.  Consequently, in February 2003 I created eight “Kick Start Teams” to examine and make recommendations for addressing the numerous issues confronting us.  I established the teams to look at culture change, business tools and practices, a Center-wide reorganization, long-term transformation, exploration, aeronautics, atmospheric sciences, and systems analysis. Many subteams were created within the Kick Start teams, among them a communications group to inform employees about the team activities and to solicit their input for ways to improve communications.  In addition, employee forums and focus groups were held to solicit input and seek opinions about how to improve communications.

We established a web site linked to each team, where its charter and ongoing activities were posted. We created a web-based discussion forum linked to those teams and solicited input and commentary. Through this mechanism from March through October 2003, employees posted 1,112 comments, both anonymous and not, and team members and others responded to them.

We took a number of other actions to improve the flow of information up, down and sideways among all employees, including contractors, at all levels. We created the position of Internal Communications Officer, and a team was established to look at gaps in our communications processes and to recommend ways of filling them and involving all employees in an ongoing dialogue and information exchange rather than using a centralized top-down approach.

Meanwhile the Culture Change Team recommended – and Langley instituted – a Letters to the Editor forum in the biweekly Langley newspaper, the Researcher News, with very few constraints except on length and a requirement to sign your name. In addition, every all-hands town hall meeting has been reported on in the Researcher News. We also are working on establishing a Center-wide web-based discussion thread so that everyone, at any level, can be heard.

One of the very early outcomes of the Kick Start initiative was the realization that there was a pressing need for “open and honest communication,” without fear of retribution, which we are trying very hard to foster in the workplace. This realization was based not only on the observations of advisory groups such as the Columbia Accident Investigation Board but also on the personal insights and experiences of the civil service and contractor employees at Langley obtained during our Safety and Mission Success Week.

In addition to all of this, I instituted “Can We Talk” forums held monthly with employee groups throughout Langley; 11 have been held so far. I have recently begun monthly Researcher Forums. I also delivered to employees 43 Center Director Communications – “CD COMMs” – in the last 17 months via e-mail and the Langley internal home page, @LaRC. Since I have been here, I have hosted 23 all-hands town hall meetings on a variety of Centerwide and Agency topics. I also walk around the Center to look at safety and technical issues on a frequent basis.

With regard to the buyout, we began communicating as soon as we were allowed to do so. At my insistence, NASA Headquarters allowed me to kick off the buyout with an all-hands meeting. I followed up with an e-mail letter to each employee who was potentially eligible for the buyout to assure that all were informed given the short notice. The effort to engage employees on this subject really started, however, in August 2003, when we communicated the Center’s desire to have a buyout and asked everyone to begin thinking about it as a possibility.

This is just a snapshot of the efforts being made at Langley to not only communicate with employees at all levels but also to engage everyone as much as possible in the dialogue that is so crucial to the success of the Agency’s transformation initiative, the Vision for Space Exploration, and our own Langley efforts to be part of that.

In summary, we are making a substantial effort to have a dialogue with our employees. We are committed to survive and thrive as an organization, with continued value to the nation’s investment in us – and substantial open and effective communication is critical to our success.


Roy D. Bridges, Jr.
Director, NASA Langley Research Center

SpaceRef staff editor.