From the Government Business Examiner
by Donna L. Quesinberry
As the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) champion for driving and accelerating improvements to business operations across the DoD and federal government – the Business Transformation Agency (BTA) is supposed to serve as a magnet that attracts talented and dedicated professionals thereby creating a model for transformative leadership. That is a lot for an agency to achieve – to transform leadership through the creation of a robust and agile organizational model that remedies while leading is quite the undertaking. How are they doing in the first few years of their existence?
As recently as September 2009, while working with the BTA in the Enterprise Planning and Investment (EP&I) Directorate for the Planning Division, it became fairly obvious that transforming leadership across the federal government is hardly an accomplishment that the BTA can boast in all of their Directorates. At the very least, EP&I Directorate’s Planning Division is anything other than transformed as a 21st Century model. Purporting to be dedicated to the warfighter while enabling financial accountability through the depiction of “Agilitas Et Ratio” or “Agility and Accountability” – BTA’s EP&I hardly meets modern-day challenges through their current “Planning Division” paradigms.
In the performance of subcontract service support, which was to last at least eleven months and stated to include three years forthcoming, my role wound up being a two-week whirlwind. Delivered to a rancorous atmosphere in the Planning Division under the EP&I at the BTA, flagrant Title 5 violations (Prohibited Personnel Activities) were not only part and participle of the environment – they were pretty much day-to-day contract performance requirements.
This reality, of course, resulted in my filing a grievance that cants federal law and federal acquisition regulations (FAR) violations, which resulted in the old heave ho and Whistle Blower Retaliation (apparently – transformation in federal government doesn’t mean it is okay to have a voice and file a concern or grievance when things are wrong), but let’s get from here to there.
With a female at the helm of the Planning Division, on day one of subcontractor service support it was conveyed from SAIC’s Senior Project Manager (the contract lead) and the Acting Division Head (the Division Head’s government subordinate) that the “real work at hand” was to undermine and unseat Planning’s Division Head. Not only were disparaging and defamatory commentaries exchanged regarding her (e.g., crazy, bi-polar, given to fits, unknowledgeable, etc.), within the initial eight hours of work, facts were conveyed that included, “human resources (HR) has no legitimate cause to demote ‘or remove’ the Division Head, so the Director of EP&I and the Acting Division Head are working out other ways to remove her from office.” These conversational gems were exchanged sparing no expense to the government or taxpayer. In fact, it was furthered that due to the lack of reasons for HR to step in, the Acting Director of EP&I, the Acting Division Head as well as SAIC’s Project Manager were working together in consortium with the team to dismantle the Division Head so that her reign of terror would be put to an end.
As a subject matter expert (SME) and expert journalist that was to report directly to the woman everyone was talking about and working feverishly to unseat – my role at BTA in EP&I Planning Division started out as both a physical and temporal conundrum. The individual I was to work with in the most direct manner, in the day-to-day, was ascribed the attributes of a hormonally enraged Medusa. To be honest, worried doesn’t quite describe my mindset at the time all this was transpiring. As my first private session with this Queen of Terror ensued anticipation of gnashing of teeth and wailing as all hell broke loose was no stretch of the imagination. With intrepidation, grabbing a tablet of unrecycled paper (BTA isn’t on the green initiative yet) I was ready for festivities to begin, but much to my dismay (after all the build up) the woman who sat across from me as we discussed impending efforts (where my expertise was to be put to use for fiscal year 2010 as subcontractor) was a really nice lady. There was no fiend, no Medusa, instead there was a warm, receptive, articulate, perhaps a little nervous, somewhat endearing woman sitting across from me at the old wooden highly polished government conference table.
Certainly this wasn’t the bane of existence of the EP&I Planning Division that I had heard of? Actually, I was almost disappointed, because after all the ruckus I was beginning to believe there was reason for these adult professionals to be so conniving, rude and inappropriate. Why, this woman didn’t even give hint of an overstated ego that needed to be stroked. She wasn’t pounding her fists on the table (I’ve seen male counterparts do that), her office wasn’t dressed up with plaques, certificates and personal accolades (seen those in everyone else’s offices). Rather than the…”I’m on top of the BTA world” persona, there was a muted, but pleasant personality presenting the fact that micro-management wasn’t her thing, which suited me just fine. The only personal exchange she provided was that she was very anxious for the initial online release of the Enterprise Transition Plan (ETP) and that she couldn’t wait to see it after the past year’s work. Pretty normal Planning Director stuff. So I left wondering where the witch was hiding? To say the least it was a confusing situation.
In the same 24 hour period the first “team” meeting was held. There were approximately eleven contractors in attendance who each earn in excess of $100.00 per hour respectively (so that’s between $1100.00 and $2000.00 taxpayer dollars per hour of effort and in this case meeting time).
So what would you presume was the topic of discussion? Contract requirements? Metrics for the Enterprises and Components to go on the ETP online? Maybe a short this is the new gal introduction?
Well, the first fifty minutes of conversation centered on the Division Head and how much everyone loathed her and her decision-making – so being the low man on the totem pole and new to this “team” it appeared this was a good time to sit and listen. So I listened, and I listened, and I listened some more. And, during a two week period, I heard over $100K worth of negative and defamatory conversation about a “government” Division Head that took place on the sweat and blood off the backs of the American taxpayer. About mid-way through the initial meeting it dawned on me how unaware these people were that tax dollars were being severely wasted. I must admit I was irritated no one seemed to realize that simple reality.
These same folks might stomp, cry or holler about bankers or stock brokers who waste our taxes, but this was a demonstration of that same level of waste as far as I was concerned and I caught myself wondering, “Just how many meetings had taken place like this one where conversation never encroached on products to deliver, rather was centered on infractionary behavior and nay saying at over $1100.00 per hour?”
For the completion of this article read Department of Defense (DoD) Business Transformation Agency (BTA) EP&I Title 5 violations – part two
About the Author: Ms. Donna Quesinberry, is President of DonnaInk Publications (DP) a small woman-owned sole proprietor government (federal and state) and commercial consultant business. A published technical non-fiction and fiction author she is also a university courseware developer | instructor and recognized poetess. Donna has interviewed on CNBC and is a single parent of 5 adult children with 7 grandchildren. With over 18 years of professional expertise DP features high 90% performance measurements and an 85% win ratio for multiple | diverse genres.
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(Copyright © Donna L. Quesinberry-2009)