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FCW : March 15, 2016
SHUTTERSTOCK Deidre (Dee) Lee joined the gov- ernment in 1978 as a GS-4 contract specialist buying supplies at the U.S. military base in Okinawa, Japan. From there she rose up through the ranks, moving to NASA Johnson Space Cen- ter in 1984 and becoming the senior procurement official at NASA in 1992, where I got to know her during my time as Office of Federal Procurement Policy administrator. In 1997 she succeeded me as admin- istrator — she was my choice for the job,andIwashappytoseeitgoto a career civil servant — and from there she went back to the Defense Department in 2000. Lee also worked at the General Services Administra- tion and ultimately retired from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2008. During her government career, she twice won Federal 100 awards, in 1998 and 2004. Six years ago, she went to work for Fluor Government Group as chief of compliance and operations, a job from which she retired last year. She now works as an independent consultant focusing on government contracting issues. She is blessed with a lot of smarts and common sense. Like me, she loves to illustrate her points by making anal- ogies to the way we buy things for ourselves in our everyday lives — a perspective often missing among con- tracting folks — and she has a winning personality to boot. She is an icon, especially among an older generation of federal procurement professionals. Hoping to take advantage of her wisdom, I recently asked her to share her views on post-award contract management — a topic I have been writing about a great deal lately. Lee did not disappoint. I started by asking her about the differences in the behavior of the top 25 percent of government organizations in terms of post-award management versus those in the bottom 25 percent. “The key job in contract manage- ment is to monitor performance in terms of what the contract is trying to accomplish,” she said. “The top 25 per- cent understand what they’ve trying to accomplish, and that’s what they pay attention to. They look at what really matters, and they evaluate that. The bottom 25 percent track inputs, such as whether [they’ve] submitted monthly reports to the government.” She added that “the top 25 percent look at things that really matter and evaluate [them]. They recognize that it’s more important that you deliver the service on time than that you sub- mit reports on time. The bottom 25 percent have no idea whether they’re getting a result. So they focus on nits, which are easier to measure but aren’t real performance drivers.” Furthermore, “for the top 25 per- cent, if there’s an issue, they act — in a timely way. You don’t have to get a lawyer on the phone. What’s the prob- lem, what are your and our options, what is it going to take? They act like business people. They are not afraid to have a discussion, not afraid to answer a phone call. Government folks need to be attentive, to know what’s going on, act on it [and not] just hope it will get better. Sometimes industry is hesitant to bring up issues, especially if the government team is going to rate them in past perfor- mance as being difficult to work with.” Lee went on to explain that “often the origin of the problems for contract management is that the government didn’t really know or describe what they wanted in the original RFP. So in the contract they measure things that are easy to measure, like submit- ting a report or measuring the num- ber of corrective action reports. If the contract is poorly written or doesn’t solve the mission problem, the bottom 25 percent will just stick to doggedly administering the contract as written.” BY STEVE KELMAN Procurement guru Deidre Lee shares her insight into the challenges agencies face when it comes to managing contracts An icon’s view of contract management TheLectern 28 March 15, 2016 FCW.COM 031516fcw_028-029.indd 28 2/18/16 2:45 PM
March 30, 2016