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FCW : June 30, 2016
June 30, 2016 FCW.COM 15 tice is inconsistent. Moving from annual to quarterly or even monthly feedback could improve outcomes and reduce risks. Making it a rou- tine practice — and perhaps incor- porating it into job descriptions and training — would also signal a pivot to post-award performance. As a number of participants noted, “Acquisition is a team sport.” So an important part of a COR’s job description should be to improve communication and break down barriers among program managers, contracting officers, colleagues in the finance and legal department, among others, to get people pull- ing in the same direction. Agencies could consider evaluating the per- formance of the acquisition team in achieving desired outcomes as a way to reinforce the importance of this point. Effective CORs and acquisition professionals more broad- ly don’t just say no — they work with program leaders to identify and evaluate alternatives so they can design an out- come that delivers value for the government and achieves the goals and objectives of the project or program. CORs should ask hard questions, such as whether the government is getting value from a contract and vendor — and why or why not this is the case. Such inquiries should be supported by predefined measures and testable value questions. Reducing time spent on low value-added or resource- intensive paperwork activities could free CORs for more important efforts. They should closely examine “template” contracts and remove contractor reports that add no value in order to focus on actions that matter in delivering outcomes. Often the COR, when working with the contracting officer, has the discretion to modify or remove reporting require- ments that don’t add value. Even minimal steps to standard- ize invoicing would save CORs a lot of time. 3. Broaden communications CORs should work with program managers and contracting officers to get out of the office and into conversations with teams and colleagues. Much can be learned from frontline interaction. CORs should reach out to project managers, do regular “drop-by” visits for informal status checks and take other steps to keep communication lines open. Contracting officers should not assume that agency lead- ers are too busy to talk about contracts and should reach out to engage executives. CORs should also meet with contracting officers once a quarter to review progress on performance metrics for con- tracts, as well as meeting on a regular basis for general discussions. 4. Emphasize training and sharing Agencies should accelerate devel- opment of expertise among CORs and project teams that could benefit from an agile approach to software development, which involves meeting requirements in an iterative way with customer feedback incorporated. The CIO organization at the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services was cited for its best practices, and the Treasury Department’s Office of the Comptrol- ler of the Currency is one of several agencies testing agile-based approach- es to contracting. Agencies should provide additional training — especially in-person train- ing — to support professional development. The Partnership for Public Service’s acquisition training program, sponsored by the General Services Administration, was cited as a best- in-class example. CORs should receive training on leadership skills and how to manage effectively in a multistakeholder environment. One participant said, “We deal with a lot of conflict. We facilitate and bring parties together. We need training in soft skills of how to get people together to deal with conflict.” Specific training in how to evaluate contract deliverables, including evaluating performance against metrics, should be considered. Agencies should consider industry/government training sessions that allow CORs to understand life from vendors’ perspectives and perhaps even allow for industry rotations. Reverse industry days, in which vendors talk to the govern- ment about their internal processes and how they react to government requirements, have also proven to be a useful tool. Another suggestion is to integrate training on how to work with CORs into the Senior Executive Service training. Lastly, the government should create networks of CORs that would enable them to develop as a community and share best practices and lessons learned. The Office of Man- agement and Budget and/or the Office of Federal Procure- ment Policy could lead the effort. n Steve Kelman is a professor of public management at Har- vard University’s Kennedy School of Government and for- mer administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. His blog can be found at fcw.com/thelectern. Dan Chenok is executive director of the IBM Center for the Busi- ness of Government. Dan Chenok 0630fcw_012-015.indd 15 6/6/16 2:00 PM
June 15, 2016
July 15, 2016