- February 2008 (1)
- News (1)
“Providing public sector value is not solely the domain of the federal government.” No?
Those are words I heard at a conference last fall. They were uttered by Anthony Williams. No, not the former Mayor of Washington, D.C. This Anthony Williams is a co-author of the widely acclaimed book Wikinomics. It’s a study of the impact of collaborative technologies on social and economic life. They are words that struck a chord in me as I find my way in the private sector after 32 years of public service.
I was big on collaboration with the private sector during my time in government. I saw many examples of less than optimum results when not enough communication occurred between government and industry in a variety of situations. And that lack of communication occurred in both pre-award and post-award contractual relationships.
Now I fear that lack of experience in the acquisition workforce in government is causing more so-called blackouts than are necessary, blackouts being when government officials maintain they are unable to talk about what will be coming out as a requirement.
That’s a copout! It leads to a lot of guesswork by industry, keeping us from submitting our best possible proposal to meet a requirement.
I wasn’t out of government more than a month before I saw this playing out on a proposal my company was preparing. On a red team I heard a lot of confusion around a requirement. Half the team interpreted it one way and half the other way.
“Call and ask!” I said.
The reaction? “We can’t do that, they’re not allowed to tell us the answer.”
To which I said, “Nonsense!”
Sure enough, when I called the agency contact the reaction I got was, “We can’t tell you because if we did, we’d have to tell everyone else.”
What’s wrong with that picture? Surely there are better ways to communicate.
Similarly, the lack of experienced program and project managers on the government side often leads to a lack of meaningful communication during performance. We all know how quickly time flies. And it’s amazing how quickly costs amass in a contract and how far off trajectory a project can get when there’s not enough oversight and communication each step of the way about what is really needed and when. Earned Value Management, or EVM, is nothing more than a metric. It takes close working relationships between both the government and industry to stay on target and produce a valuable outcome.
It has always amazed me how many of my colleagues in government had the attitude that our contractors, our providers, our “partners” as contractors were sometimes called, were out to get us.
At a macro level—are you listening, Rep. Henry Waxman [chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee]? The government cannot possibly perform its duties without private sector support. We all want a stronger and better America. We in industry all want happy government customers who will be good references for our work and reward us with more opportunities.
I don’t have all the answers, but in my opinion these are things that have to be addressed head on.
(The views expressed above are those of the author, and not necessarily the views of Nortel Government Solutions.)