By Michael P. Fischetti, Executive Director, National Contract Management Association
A colleague recently mentioned a small, but very significant, refrain learned early in what became a long, distinguished career; “Instead of ‘No, because,’ say ‘Yes, if’.” Acquisition challenges and hurdles, both external and internal, within one’s control or not, whether financial, structural, organizational, regulatory, programmatic, etc. can be great and potentially overwhelming. Thus, there are many factors or variables that can impede, if not derail, program execution and progress. Program and contract managers can find no shortage of reasons why deliverables won’t arrive when planned or needed. This, while unfortunate, is the reality of working in today’s complex, highly scrutinized system.
ACQUISITION MANAGERS ARE OFTEN THE MESSENGERS OF BAD NEWS INVOLVING MANY VARIABLES OUTSIDE OF THEIR CONTROL; BUT ALSO MUCH WITHIN THEIR INFLUENCE.
Acquisition managers are often the messengers of bad news and the pointy end of a spear of an environment involving many variables outside their control; but also much within their influence. Many constituencies believe more could be done if the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) were modified, new offices were created, other review and oversight authorities abolished, or education and training modified. While much of this may be true, it is also clear to most with the knowledge and experience, as well as an important reminder to all, that while the FAR Council limits some actions, it actually permits or encourages much, much more. Most contract managers will recall being taught that unless expressly prohibited, it is allowable.
Today, acquisition customers and those who advocate changing the process should understand this and not accept responses that shift responsibility to the “system,” existing process or regulation. Those working in acquisition today have a simple duty to provide creative and innovative solutions, based on many various alternatives and strategies available, which is almost anything not clearly illegal or immoral by most standards. Acquisition managers have a duty, when given a requirement, desired outcome, and recommended approach, to reply not with rationale as to why that particular approach is unworkable or not feasible. Instead, a proactive response must include a recommended approach that meets customer’s needs, including the pros, cons and tradeoffs involved. If such a response is not forthcoming, it more likely results from lack of creativity, innovative approach or openmindedness by one or more parties.
There are factors that have repeatedly advanced our nation and historically developed and maintained its pre-eminent economy. These factors include the uncanny ability and nature of American entrepreneurial-oriented business leaders to; constantly look for different and more effective approaches, display a tenacity and goal-oriented perseverance, and more recently, a team-oriented nature that puts all ideas on the table. This spirit (and not regulatory encouragement) is what defines a successful government acquisition. Thus, acquisition success depends not on expending energy developing rationale for not moving forward, but instead is dependent on spending the limited resources and human capital available on the important criteria necessary for success.
While this philosophy is already embodied and documented in the FAR, perhaps the cover page should lead off with a simple statement prohibiting all acquisition managers from responding “no, because,” in favor of a required “yes, if ” response. These few simple words seem understandable enough, but they represent the crux of government program success.
Please note: This article contains the sole views and opinions of Michael P. Fischetti and does not reflect the views or opinions of Guidepoint Global, LLC (“Guidepoint”). Guidepoint is not a registered investment adviser and cannot transact business as an investment adviser or give investment advice. The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute investment advice, nor is it intended as an offer or solicitation of an offer or a recommendation to buy, hold or sell any security. Any use of this article without the express written consent of Guidepoint and Michael P. Fischetti is prohibited.