Many Voices Working for the Community
Summary of the Annual Planning Retreat of the
August 13, 2005
The Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB) met for
its annual planning retreat on August 13, 2005 at Pollard Auditorium on the
campus of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities in
In attendance were:
Steve McCracken, Deputy Designated Federal Official, Department
of Energy -
Pete Osborne, Spectrum, ORSSAB support staff
Ralph Skinner, Department of Energy -
Catherine Whitworth, Spectrum, facilitator
The meeting began with facilitator Catherine Whitworth asking everyone present to say something about themselves. Prior to the meeting she had asked everyone to wear a T-shirt or bring an object that had special meaning and explain to the group what it meant to them. The exercise was a way for everyone to learn something they might not otherwise know about their colleagues.
After the introductions Ms. Whitworth reported the results of a telephone survey she conducted with present and recent former members prior to the retreat. Her questions focused on collaboration among members of the Board, processes for doing work, and resources. The results of the survey are noted on Attachment 1.
Review of survey results
In general she shared some of the main points of the survey with the group.
Her interviews revealed overwhelming support for the mission of the Board. It was noted that there was some work done outside the scope of the mission, but it was not considered a negative.
Respondents were generally satisfied with Board structure, although there were some concerns that Board meetings were too highly structured.
Some particular points about Board meetings:
Respondents, for the most part, felt that presentations done at committee meetings clearly defined problems or were properly related to committee work.
Regarding standing committees, comments included:
Access to materials
Regarding access to materials, most agreed that materials were accessible, if not readily accessible.
Most felt access to key personnel was available, but they may not know whom to call.
There is support for of outreach efforts and more is needed:
When questioned about how disagreements are handled, most felt that differences were usually handled well. Some thought conflict was handled better at the committee level because of the less formal structure and the absence of cameras.
On the questions of member participation, a little more than half of the members said it takes one to two years to understand the issues and learn other members well enough to participate fully. Some said they felt overwhelmed, discouraged, or lost during the first few months.
When asked about the work load, almost everyone said the work load was not shared equitably, but there was no resentment associated with those responses. Most recognized that a small number of people do most of the work, so there is understanding as to why it is not shared equitably.
Ms. Whitworth said there seemed to be a concern there would be a loss of history and knowledge as those who provide significant input rotate off the Board. There were questions concerning who would take the lead. One suggestion was to have a non-voting technical advisor to keep the membership informed on issues.
Strategies for solutions
After going over the main points of the survey Ms. Whitworth used the information to identify issues and devise strategies to implement solutions to those issues. She asked for additional ideas from the group and then established ground rules for participation during the day.
From the survey results, Ms. Whitworth drew some general conclusions she felt should be discussed more by the members.
She suggested a number of topics the group should address. From that list she suggested selecting no more than three for the day’s work.
Her suggestions included:
Ideas that came from the floor included:
1. what topics are selected and studied?
2. who analyzes the topic?
3. how are issues prioritized?
After some discussion the group decided to work on three areas:
The group divided into three smaller groups to discuss the selected issues.
Process for developing recommendations
The result of this group’s work was the development of a flow chart (Attachment 2).
In presenting their work to the group they reviewed the process of identifying topics. Many topics for consideration come from suggestions by DOE, the regulators, and from results of the stakeholders’ survey.
Topics are assigned to the appropriate committee and the committees develop their work plans. From the work plans the committees gather information about topics through presentations and other sources and decide if a recommendation is needed. Someone is assigned to write the recommendation, which is submitted to the Board through the process spelled out in the bylaws.
Ideas to improve the process include:
Ms. Whitworth asked what the next step should be. Ms. Bogard suggested assigning the issue to Board Process for discussion and implementation.
Committee structure and member participation
The group working on key roles identified responsibilities of members, committee chairs, project liaisons, and issue managers.
Issue manager – all committee members should serve or at least try to serve as an issue manager
Project liaisons – provides link between committee, DOE, Environmental Protection Agency, and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
Shortening the effectiveness curve
This group developed ideas to shorten the time it takes for new members to understand the issues and be able to participate in a meaningful way.
The group suggested specific person-to-person mentor assignments to be either Board specific or issue specific.
It suggested that the mentoring program be structured to:
1. new member orientation
2. initial two-hour training session
3. assignment to a mentor
1. initial assessment of individual training needs
2. mentor rotates
3. multiple readings of committee and Board issues
4. new members given homework and track time.
The group also suggested creating a list of contacts for resource. Contacts should be familiar with the ORSSAB, be friendly toward the ORSSAB, and consist of key personnel of DOE, regulatory agencies, and primary contractors. Mr. McCracken suggested not only developing the list but actually introducing new members to key contacts.
This issue was not assigned for further development, although the Board Process Committee was looking at new member training and continuing education prior to the annual meeting.
After lunch the group reconvened and each Board committee chair reviewed committee accomplishments for fiscal year 2005 (Attachments 3-8).
Following the committee reports the group looked at all the
suggested topics for consideration from DOE, EPA, TDEC, and the results of the
stakeholder survey. With assistance from
Summary of the day
Ms. Halsey noted that the committees and the Board will take assigned topics and prioritize how those topics will be placed on the work plans. She said DOE and Bechtel Jacobs liaisons will assist with prioritization.
She reminded everyone that the committees will begin developing the work plans at the August meetings and committees will elect new chairs for fiscal year 2006.
She said upcoming events included a scheduled tour September 10 of the facilities on the Oak Ridge Reservation for new and interested current members.
At this point Board members were asked to declare what committees on which they would like to serve (if they had decided). It was noted that new members in particular could visit committee meetings before they decided which committees to join.
Mr. Trammell concluded the annual planning meeting by saying it was a productive day and much was accomplished. He said he hoped the Board would be successful in implementing some of the ideas discussed.
He concluded the annual meeting and immediately convened the Board for its monthly meeting.
Attachments are available through the ORSSAB Support Office.