Public Administration ETDs

Publication Date



The study of personnel advancement systems as related to management effectiveness in research and development (R&D) laboratories was chosen because of its relevance in this period of change in attitudes toward science and the scientific community. This change involves a shift in interest from basic scientific research to scientific and technological advances that have practical applications. Also, there is increased concern by legislators that facilities involved in federal R&D programs demonstrate sure fiscal responsibility and efficient operating methods.

The personnel advancement systems discussed in this thesis are the single - and dual - ladder systems. The single - ladder system is one in which advancement is based on employees, professional and nonprofessional, assuming positions of more supervisory responsibility. The dual - ladder system is one in which, (1) supervisory personnel advance up the managerial ladder and (2) scientists and engineers are provided advancement opportunities based on professional competence, with benefits equivalent to those available to management personnel, but without having to assume supervisory responsibilities.

This study considers the hypothesis that federal laboratories which employ the single - ladder system meet management effectiveness expectations as measured by evaluation of specified performance indicators and compared with established standards.

A search of the literature revealed that most studies approached the subject of advancement systems from the standpoint of describing preferences of the professionals, scientists and engineers, and the resultant laboratory benefits. A common trend was for the authors and analysts, in expressing approval of the dual - ladder system, to imply that the single - ladder system does not serve the best interests of either professional employees or the laboratories and that the single - ladder system has a reductive effect on management effectiveness.

Sandia Laboratories - Albuquerque and White Sands Missile Range were selected as data points for the research, primarily, because it was found, in a recent study at these facilities, that a considerable number of professionals who rated themselves as administrators expressed a preference for the dual - ladder system and, also, because both laboratories employ the single - ladder system.

The approach used was to take standard or commonly accepted performance indicators (absenteeism, longevity, disciplinary actions, resignations, safety, security consciousness, management training, and evaluations by the responsible government agency or the higher headquarters) which, when analyzed and compared with standards, could be assumed to present an overall indication of management effectiveness of the laboratories. It was also postulated that if management at a laboratory was shown to be effective, a desired level of productivity could be assumed.

Based upon criteria established, the hypothesis was proved. However, the premise regarding productivity was not proved, it remains assumptive.

The final conclusion was that the single - ladder system does not have a reductive effect on the management effort in federal laboratories. The research showed that both advancement systems have drawbacks. The most prominent are: (1) Under the single - ladder system it is usually necessary for professionals to leave active practice of their disciplines in order to advance; therefore, this system is wasteful of professional talent. (2) Under the dual - ladder system ambiguous status exists because there are no universal meanings to titles. This system could result in stresses in identification both inside and outside the organization, with a resultant failure to achieve satisfaction of egoistic needs by those who advance by way of the professional ladder.

Chapter 1 covers the significance of the problem, background in - formation, and research design. In the section on background information the salient points of the single - and dual - ladder systems are discussed. Chapter 2 provides the reader with physical description, organizational make-up, and general missions of the two laboratories. Chapter 3 presents results of the study. The performance indicators and comparison standards are discussed and results of the comparisons are tabulated. Chapter 4 summarizes the thesis and offers conclusions.

Degree Name

Public Administration

Level of Degree


Department Name

School of Public Administration

First Committee Member (Chair)

Frank X. Steggert

Second Committee Member

John Mace Hunger

Third Committee Member

David R. Jones


NASA, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission



Document Type