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NRC's Transformation Journey

Colored Cloud Burst (resembling a supernova) on a black, square background, with yellow, red, green, orange, purple portions – which incorporates the color scheme of the NRC's Transformation Vision Four Focus Areas – Our People, Accepting Risk, Using Technology, and Innovation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is preparing for an evolving future.  While the NRC has been successful in planning for near-term changes in its environment, the dynamic changes envisioned in the future across all mission areas require a more anticipatory and longer-term approach to planning, adjusting, and executing.  NRC is using this changing environment as an opportunity to reshape our workforce and enhance the technology, skills, and other tools we need to continue to accomplish our important safety and security mission.

NRC has embarked upon a transformation effort to become a modern regulator that promotes and embraces innovative approaches to achieve our mission.  Our vision is to become a "modern, risk-informed, regulator."

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Why Transform?

The paradigm is shifting.  Things are changing around us.  We have new requests and challenges coming to us that touch on every aspect of our agency.  To maintain our presence as a top-notch technical organization and world-class regulator, we must take a step back and critically think about how to most efficiently address the needs of today.

Historically, the agency has implemented change initiatives in response to events in the nuclear industry or in response to changes occurring within the Federal governmental framework.  While the NRC will continue to react promptly and appropriately to unforeseen circumstances, the staff is building a culture to proactively consider how the future may unfold and to shape the agency to be well-positioned for a variety of future scenarios.  Balancing the ability to be both reactive and proactive in shifting the agency's efforts is paramount in ensuring an agile organization.

In this time of transformation, it is important to underscore aspects of the agency that are unchanging anchors.  The NRC's mission, values, and principles of good regulation are among the most substantial grounding forces for the agency.  In addition, the staff continues to focus on ensuring the safe and secure use of radioactive material as our most important priority.

The below sections provide an overview of how the NRC's transformation journey started.

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Initiation of the Futures Assessment

In October 2018, the NRC began the Futures Assessment to develop scenarios of potential futures that can inform our current programs, strategies, and plans (e.g., budget formulation, strategic workforce planning) to ensure that we will continue to be well-positioned to meet our mission in future years (i.e., beyond 2030).  Knowledge of various and diverse potential futures, and associated changes across all NRC mission areas will enable the NRC to make proactive adjustments to account for changes in workload, workforce, and the technology we will regulate.  Being mindful of these various futures that could develop will also promote increased efficiency through better informed decision-making and enable the NRC to be a more effective regulator in the near term.

In January 2019, with the assistance of a leading global management consulting firm, the NRC published a report, "The Dynamic Futures for NRC Mission Areas." The report described four possible, future scenarios for NRC's mission areas, how the NRC could be impacted in each future, and key takeaways that the NRC could consider to prepare for any future scenario.  Additionally, the consulting firm helped the NRC develop "markers" that the staff could track to determine whether or how a scenario might be unfolding.

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Agency-wide Conversation on the Future

Using the report, "The Dynamic Futures for NRC Mission Areas" as a tool, the staff wanted to have an agency-wide conversation on how best to plan and prepare for our future.  The purpose of the conversation was not only to stretch the staff's thinking towards preparing for an evolving future in the long-term (e.g., beyond 2030), but also to tap the collective wisdom in order to inform our transformation strategy.  The staff also wanted the conversation to be held in a virtual platform to maximize participation across geographical locations.

Through research, the staff found that a Jam would be the ideal way to engage the staff.  A Jam is an event held over a period of time, typically multiple days, to engage participants in a strategic discussion around a focused topic.  Given advances in technology over the last decade, IBM and other organizations have combined the Jam concept with technological solutions to enable the discussion to happen in a virtual environment.  A virtual Jam allows for wide-scale participation like a traditional survey, while also incorporating dynamic two-way communication and collaboration like a traditional workshop or focus group.  The key features of a Jam include: 

  • Multi-day collaborative discussion in a virtual environment 
  • Promotes transparent, inclusive communication by involving all staff 
  • Taps the collective knowledge and experience of the staff to uncover new insights about a topic
  • Supports culture change to be more receptive to new ideas and willing to speak up

The NRC Futures Jam was held on June 18-20, 2019 and it built upon the futures scenarios and key takeaways identified in the report.  An agency-wide conversation was initiated with the staff about how the NRC can prepare for the future, regardless of how the future unfolds.  Using real-time analytics, active facilitation, and subsequent data analysis, the staff mined the over 4,000 conversation threads and used this information to inform our transformation strategy.

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How will we meet our Vision?

From the NRC Futures Jam, four focus areas emerged:

  • Our People
  • Accepting Risk
  • Using Technology
  • Innovation

Conversation threads from the NRC Futures Jam indicated that if the agency focused its attention in these areas, our vision of becoming a "modern, risk-informed regulator" would be realized.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, January 16, 2020