Meet John Cornuelle
Cornuelle, Chief Operating Officer (Photo by Diana Rogers)
By Linda Dushane White
This is the first article in a series to introduce staff to the SLAC senior management team.
Among the new faces in the Directorís Office in recent weeks is John Cornuelle, Chief Operating Officer (COO). The Operations Directorate is one of four new Directorates created by Laboratory Director Jonathan Dorfan as part of the recent reorganization.
In his new role as COO, Cornuelle will be a part of the Labís senior management team with John Galayda (Director of LCLS Construction), Persis Drell (Director of Particle and Particle Astrophysics) and Keith Hodgson (Director of Photon Science). "Many things are new for me," said Cornuelle. "Working as a team with my peers, and then the four of us working with Jonathan, not to mention much of the staff and functions of the new Operations directorate."
The new Operations Directorate comprises 14 divisions and groups covering Lab functions from computing to safety to metrology to publications. "I need to get to know everyone, what their successes are, and where they need assistance to make things better," said Cornuelle. "This Ďflatí organization tends to force me to do that. I also have a background goal of trying to build an organization that works with me being less involved in day-to-day decision-making and problem-solving, by empowering managers in this Directorate."
It will take time for those who make up the new organization to learn how to work together most effectively with themselves and with the other groups on the site. Cornuelle explains, "The job of my group is to work with everyone else to make the site a success. What we need to determine is where we can best contribute, where our efforts can benefit from some enhancement, and where we may be missing the boat entirely. We will then try to work within the budget we have to do a better job."
Right now the most critical priority on the site, said Cornuelle, is the success of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), a BES project, with the B Factory right on its heels. "Both represent major customers for the support we need to provide. But in addition to these just about everyone on the site uses the services of our group, and we cannot afford to short-change anyone in this process." A major project which affects everyone at SLAC is safety, now under the umbrella of the Integrated Safety Management System (ISMS).
Open Door Policy
In terms of management style, Cornuelle maintains an open door policy. This is something that he wants everyone to be aware of. "Anyone who wants can just stop by and talk to me. I believe in that."
If there is one theme to highlight, it is the breadth and depth of the skills and the competencies of the people in the Operations Directorate. "It will take a bit of time for me to get my hands around all of it. At this point that is the most challenging part of the job. I have some management skills and experience that will help a little, but understanding what everyone is doing and the impact and the importance of our activitiesóthat is going to take a while. I would like to ask everybodyís forbearance while I try to assimilate all of this."
Another area Cornuelle is working to learn about in depth is SLACís central relationship with the DOE. "The DOE is what we refer to as our prime external stakeholder, meaning they are interested in our success but also need to ensure that we are spending their money effectively. A lot of information goes back and forth. Learning about this takes a lot of time and specialized knowledge, which fortuitously our group already has," he said. Cornuelle said it is essential to him as well to remember that the taxpayerís money which funds SLAC must be spent wisely and well.
Blending Science and Management
With a BA in Physics from Yale and an MBA from Carnegie-Mellon University, Cornuelle combines scientific and management skills. But he says he is not a scientist working as a manager. Instead, he said, "Iím a manager that works in scientific or technical areas. I understand just enough of what our scientists are talking about, but I cannot do the work myself. I was always interested in science, since I was very young, astronomy especially," he said.
Cornuelle brings 30 years of private sector management experience to his role, in production and manufacturing management and in operations management. In 1999 he came to SLAC where he worked on R&D for the Next Linear Collider (NLC). By 2004, Cornuelle was an Assistant Director for the Technical Division where he helped Ewan Paterson (TD) manage the departments providing SLACís mechanical support.
Born in San Diego and raised in Hawaii, Cornuelle calls himself a many-generation Californian. He said, "It was nice growing up in Hawaii. Back then, Hawaii was still primarily an agricultural economy, more of a sleepy, idyllic place. I moved back to California in 1970."
Often asked about the pronunciation of his last name, Cornuelle joked: "I canít even pronounce it the right way. Itís pronounced differently here than in France." Here in the U.S., it is ĎCornellí as in Cornell University.