Artist's illustration using binary numbers

As of the first of July, all of the rule books at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory became obsolete. The books, not the rules. JPL has abandoned paper manuals in favor of putting its official documents online on a computer "intranet" visible to Laboratory employees. The book pages are being recycled and the binders donated to a school.

At 12 noon on Thursday, July 11, JPL Deputy Director Larry Dumas and John Casani, JPL's chief engineer who oversaw an effort that created the new net site, will lead a team of collectors and recyclers in a "Manual Round Up/Recycling Event" on the Laboratorys mall. All PL employees have been invited to attend, and those with rules manuals were invited to bring them along to throw onto the pile.

In addition to the mall event, a tree will be planted to symbolize the savings in paper the changeover will make. In fact, the new process will save two and a half trees a year just by stopping the printing of annual updates alone. On average, 1,700 manuals were updated with new sheets and rule changes 150 times a year. (The tree planting is purely symbolic; the tree is not a paper producer but an attractive flowering tree, a Crape Myrtle which is native of China and grown widely in the United States.)

The effort grew out of a JPL employee survey conducted last year that examined some of the Laboratory's processes. Employees who took part in the survey suggested changes in several processes, among them, the way rules are accessed. They found them difficult to understand and not always applicable.

Casani was named to head a reengineering team, called "Define and Maintain the Institutional Environment," or DMIE, to improve the rule-making process and make the rules clearly accessible and meaningful to all employees. In doing that, the team also recognized the value of dispensing with paper documents and putting the entire system online.

"The most basic tenet of this system is that every rule is associated with a process," Casani said, adding that it supports a Laboratory-wide initiative towards making JPL a "process-based" organization.

The DMIE process generates, maintains and continuously improves the documents which define the operations of the Laboratory. Those documents include organizational charts, charters, roles and process maps in addition to policies, procedures and rules.

Permanent computer kiosks have been set up in JPL's library and two cafeterias to allow all emoployees access to the intranet site. On July 11, a computer kiosk will be set up on the mall.


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