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Oak Ridge Reservation

Oak Ridge Reservation: Guidelines and Procedures Assessment Work Group

Historical Document

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Guidelines and Procedures Assessment Work Group

May 27, 2004 - Meeting Minutes


Members attending:
James Lewis (Chair), Peggy Adkins (phone), Karen Galloway, David Johnson, and Susan Kaplan

ATSDR Staff attending:
Loretta Bush (phone), Marilyn Horton (phone), and Bill Taylor

Others attending:
Tim Joseph (DOE)

ERG Contractor:
Liz Bertelsen (phone)


Karen Galloway called the meeting to order. Ms. Galloway made a motion to approve the minutes from the May 10, 2004, GPWG meeting. Marilyn Horton noted that she had a one-line change from Susan Kaplan, which would be incorporated into the final minutes. The meeting minutes were unanimously approved with minor changes.

The purpose of the meeting was to review and edit the recommendations that were developed during the May 10, 2004, GPWG meeting.

Discussion of the GPWG Draft Recommendations

Facilitator: Karen Galloway, Chair

Karen Galloway explained that this meeting would be a "working meeting" to refine the recommendations prepared during the previous GPWG meeting. According to Susan Kaplan, during the last meeting Kowetha Davidson (ORRHES Chair) requested that the GPWG develop rationales for all of the recommendations.

Karen Galloway referred the group to the first paragraph on the first page of the draft recommendations, which was presented as the following:

Rationale: Subcommittee members have pointed out that the handling of the EPA controversy over the PHA on Y-12 uranium releases by ATSDR's management illustrates how the Agency's public-participation process has broken down, threatening to undermine the public's trust in all of ATSDR's Oak Ridge efforts. As a result of concern over this issue, a recommendation was passed at the April 13, 2004, ORRHES meeting to have the GPWG analyze the issues surrounding the EPA controversy and the generic implications it has on the Subcommittee's efforts, in particular how ATSDR interacts with the Subcommittee and other government agencies such as EPA when they submit comments on ATSDR documents (e.g., PHAs, Fact Sheets, etc.) or are needed to provide additional information for the deliberations. Note that a case study on the EPA controversy was presented to the work group by one of its members to help identify the issues being raised and to summarize the EPA Controversy Timeline that was submitted to the Subcommittee at the April meeting. Many of the problems being discussed appear to fall in the following areas:

  1. The Agency's and the ORRHES Chair's attempts to control the following:
    1. What is discussed in ORRHES and work group meetings (e.g., of particular concern are attempts to limit discussions to the ORRHES Chair's interpretation of what should be discussed despite what the group's interpretation is),
    2. What is documented (i.e., the Agency's long-standing refusal to provide the resources for detailed minutes/transcripts of all work group meetings),
    3. What recommendations are submitted to ORRHES by the work group and, hence, what potentially can be submitted to ATSDR
    4. What recommendations are submitted to ATSDR by ORRHES (particularly, the use of the 2/3 majority vote rule to enable a small minority to block recommendations that are generally accepted by a majority of voting members-a hurdle that it seems (i.e., not officially confirmed yet) none of the other Health Effects Subcommittees have operated under,
    5. Input that ORRHES and the work groups need to develop their recommendations (e.g., the long-requested discussion with EPA Headquarters regarding its comments on the Y-12 PHA),
  2. How ATSDR responds (or does not respond) to Subcommittee recommendations,
  3. The overall issue of trust of the Agency's managers, particularly trust for them to do what's right as opposed to defending the Agency's positions, actions, and decisions.

Karen Galloway had already received one comment that there was a run-on sentence toward the end of the first paragraph. She added that this referred to the second sentence, which was long and needed to be broken into smaller sentences. She said that the sentence began with "as a result" and ended four or five lines after with "deliberations." Susan Kaplan suggested placing a period after "efforts" and beginning a new sentence with "in particular." Ms. Kaplan also thought they could separate "when they submit comments on ATSDR documents (e.g., PHAs, fact sheets, etc.)" and "are needed to provide additional information for the deliberations" into two numbered items. David Johnson suggested changing "are needed to provide additional information for the deliberations" to "as additional information as needed." After discussion, this was changed to "as additional information is needed."

Susan Kaplan suggested that they place "EPA" into parentheses and Karen Galloway agreed. Ms. Kaplan also recommended removing "for the deliberations." Ms. Galloway asked for additional comments on the first paragraph; no one replied.

Karen Galloway asked if anyone had questions on the three bulleted sections that followed the first paragraph. Susan Kaplan said that she received a comment about the item in "1.(e)." The commenter asked how the work group knew what input it would want before developing its recommendations. Ms. Kaplan said they did not need to know in advance because they requested input from agencies as issues arose and information was needed.

James Lewis suggested that they receive input and general comments from Peggy Adkins, and then continue to "wordsmith" the recommendations. He added that he did not think that the minutes needed to be taken while the group reworded the recommendations.

Peggy Adkins appreciated the work that went into developing the recommendations. She thought that they were "good" and was most interested in the following recommendation that referred to group climate:

Recommendation 6: ORRHES should authorize an internal group climate/process survey to help the Guidelines and Procedures work group in its effort to identify systemic administrative/programmatic problems in ORRHES and ATSDR that impede effectiveness and productivity.

She explained that there were several climate assessment pieces that they could use for their survey. However, she thought the most helpful resource for their purpose was from a Fred Pryor team building seminar. She asked if anyone had attended one of these seminars; no one had attended. James Lewis had been to team building seminars, but not to any conducted by Fred Pryor Seminars.

Peggy Adkins asked the group to imagine headings across the top of a chart, including decision-making, communication, commitment, training, planning and goal setting, as well as other headings. She explained that these were characteristics of a "healthy team." She said they could use this list or generate their own list of criteria that they felt would be part of a healthy team. Under each heading, they would number 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and 0. They would ask people to rate their experience and to give their perceptions of group effort and group process. Ms. Adkins explained that they would tabulate these ratings and have a grading scale to assess if they were performing well in certain areas.

Peggy Adkins noted that the survey would also include space for people to provide comments and definitions of each area (for example, commitment) at the bottom of the page.

Peggy Adkins said that they could use more subjective processes, where people describe their experiences as a group member or different actions they would take if they were in a management position. Though, Ms. Adkins thought the objective process was an easier way for people to speak who may be reluctant to do so.

Bill Taylor noted that Peggy Adkins had told him about part of the analysis. He explained that they would separate areas that fell high and low among the totals for the entire ORRHES. Ms. Adkins explained that as evaluators, they would look at the items that scored highest and analyze what they were doing well, and then evaluate the lowest scores to assess how they could improve and address areas for change.

Susan Kaplan asked Peggy Adkins if she would be able to produce a sample to bring to the ORRHES meeting since they were making a recommendation to conduct the survey. Ms. Adkins said she could easily prepare a sample for the meeting. She asked if anyone had a particular area to include on the chart that may not be on Fred Pryor's list.

Susan Kaplan asked if Peggy Adkins could fax a sample to Bill Taylor and then the group could evaluate the document and discuss it "off-line."

James Lewis asked if Peggy Adkins would be willing to consider other examples if they had them. She replied that she would certainly be willing to look at anything else.

Bill Taylor suggested that Peggy Adkins bring a sample to the ORRHES meeting to receive "buy-in" from the subcommittee. After this, the work group could work on the specifics of the survey. Ms. Adkins said that she would place "rough draft" on the sample.

Bill Taylor said that if they had more time before the ORRHES meeting, then he would recommend that they have another work group meeting to develop the survey. However, Peggy Adkins was out of town until the middle of the following week and there would be another ORRHES meeting soon after that time.

James Lewis asked about the objective of the effort. He noted that they would need to prepare and document a rationale for why the work group was conducting this survey. Karen Galloway read the rationale that had been prepared to correspond with the recommendation to conduct the group climate/group process survey.

Rationale: Because of the absence of administrative/programmatic follow through by ATSDR's front-line management on numerous issues, the GPWG feels that such an analysis is needed to assess the state of the Subcommittee and the Subcommittee process in a manner that is open and unrestrained and maintains anonymity.

Peggy Adkins suggested that they word the rationale in a more positive manner. She proposed the following language: Our purpose is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of our ORRHES experience to determine areas of weakness for us to address. Bill Taylor added "for further discussion and analysis" to the end of Ms. Adkins's rationale.

Peggy Adkins proposed also adding "to expedite our efforts" or "to get things done." Susan Kaplan suggested, "to improve the efficiency," but Karen Galloway recommended, "to improve our effectiveness" and the group agreed.

Peggy Adkins said they would be able to look at their strengths and try to build upon these areas. They would also be able to examine their weaker areas and develop methods to improve these aspects.

Susan Kaplan asked if Peggy Adkins had any comments on the other recommendations, but she did not.

James Lewis noted that he had seen a lot of these issues among groups. The group needed to select and choose what it thought was needed, and sometimes this depended on the phase of the group (for example, in the beginning, middle, or crisis stage). He added that any survey conducted by ATSDR would have to go through a long drawn out process. However, since they were working on this survey on their own, they would not need any "bells and whistles."

Karen Galloway suggested that they wordsmith the other recommendations off line, and James Lewis agreed. Ms. Galloway asked if anyone had overall comments on the gist of the recommendations. Mr. Lewis stated that there have been lots of discussions about frustrations, and noted that many of these comments and frustrations were documented. Because these were documented, they could work toward their goal to try and resolve some of the issues. He thought this could be accomplished in a positive manner.

Susan Kaplan thought that these recommendations took them away from their "whining phase." She also believed that the evidence included in the recommendations showed that these types of "people effects" among groups are well-documented and well-studied within meeting communities. She noted that references would also be included.

James Lewis thought they could work properly to develop an action plan that combined these issues, and then discuss these issues with a mediator in an unbiased manner.

Susan Kaplan asked if they still needed the minutes to be taken.

Karen Galloway motioned to adjourn the meeting. Susan Kaplan asked how they would vote on the recommendations if they adjourned the meeting. James Lewis moved to accept the gist of the recommendations as they were written with the implication that they will accept them after "wordsmithing" has been conducted. David Johnson seconded the motion.

At this time, the work group agreed to work off-line to further prepare the recommendations for ORRHES.

Karen Galloway adjourned the meeting at 6:50 pm.

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