How Getting Married is like Working on a Procurement

I got married a few months ago, and I noticed how getting married is like working on a procurement.

  1. They take a long time to plan. Unless you get married overnight in Reno, weddings can take months, sometimes years, to plan. The amount of time put into an acquisition before an RFP is released often takes a similar amount of time.
  2. Hiccups happen. Even with wedding rehearsals, mistakes happen. During my wedding, I made a few minor mistakes during the ceremony (in addition to knocking over a wall lamp during the reception dinner). The minor mistakes weren’t noticed even though most people were watching, but if you make a big noise like knocking over a wall lamp like I did, people will notice. Fortunately, the DJ made an “unexpected” announcement and drew attention away. The dinner went on and everything was okay. The same happens during acquisitions. Most mistakes are minor, easily and legally corrected, and won’t get noticed. However, if big noise is made, team work is necessary to correct the issue and things usually move on.
  3. Both involve legal documents (marriage license). There are lots of legal documents involved in procurements, including the contract itself. The state of Virginia required that I had a marriage license.
  4. Compromise. Concessions have to be made on both sides to reach optimum efficiency and outcome. Remember, you’re in this together. Speaking on being in this together…
  5. They’re relationships. Procurements, like marriages, are relationships. Getting married isn’t all there is, just like getting a contract signed isn’t all that matters; it’s what happens afterwards. You have to live with each other afterwards. Work at it and make it happen.
  6. There’s a lot of excitement at the beginning. When you get engaged, everyone is happy. Champange flows and congratulations fly. When a new procurement starts, people are excited to work on something new and they get to know each other.
  7. There’s a lot of stress in the middle. Tough decisions have to be made. People may not always get along. Feelings sometimes get hurt. This applies to both procurement, whether it’s cutting hours or labor rates, and wedding plans like not getting all the guests you want on the list.
  8. There’s a lot of relief at the end. Take a deep breath. It’s all over with. You’re married/have a contract signed.

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Profile Photo Terry Weaver

You can add that they both have a honeymoon period where both parties see nothing but success in the union. Getting that first deliverable accepted – whether it be a dinner or a household repair or a web site – often ends up with a lot of finger pointing about missed communications…

Profile Photo Julie Chase

Procurement is also like getting married when the whole famdamily comes out of the woodwork and feels it’s their job to be involoved too. You are dealing with Great Aunt Bessie (whom you have never met) who lives in Quantico and has to have her hand in everything. She involves all your second cousins, twice removed (you have never met them either) who live in DC. They too must have their input. Then there is the husband of the second cousin twice removed (I’ll call him the “contractor”) who has to make sure the wedding gift arrives in pristine condition. In the end, the small gift you started procuring 6 months ago involving no less than 25 people (aunts, uncles, cousins twice removed) arrives and it has already become obsolete (last years model). You suggest to your parents that when the first baby arrives, “don’t involve Great Aunt Bessie”. Sadly, your parents say, “Well you know the rules of the family, dear. Get out the family Bible and read chapter NAVXXX.401 CFRXX, part 3 of the FAR.101 section C, para. 7. Great Aunt Bessie and the DC kin “shall” be involved in all procurement. I don’t understand, Uncle Simpson and Aunt Selma live 2 blocks away, can’t they get our wedding gifts to us? I know them, I grew up with all my cousins…and…they are two blocks away. I “know” them, they “know” us. I just <sigh> and shake my head.

Profile Photo Valerie Baldowski

I love this, this is so true!! It should be read to all engaged couples undergoing premarital counseling, and given to all newly-married couples. It’s also good for couples who have been married awhile to re-read.

Profile Photo Pattie Buel

@Julie – Love it!!!

@Terry – Don’t forget that both sides are eager to please/compromise during the honeymoon period but then you start getting into the “you promised to” phase.

Profile Photo Steve Ressler

@julie – hilarious

I’d also add there’s an optimal amount of planning. From personal level, I know friends that spent 1.5 years planning a wedding and they changed their money 10X, overthought every small decision, and spend 100X more energy for basically the same amount of work we put in planning in 6 months. Same is true in a procurement – definitely want to plan but at a certain point there’s a diminishing amount of return in that planning time up front (spend that time more on monitoring and oversight)

Profile Photo Jaime Gracia

I want to be a bit of a contrarian on this one (big surprise , right?).

A wedding, and a especially a contract, should take a long time to plan, of course depending on the complexities.

However, it is the lack of acquisition planning that really hurts the outcomes. Shotgun weddings do not take much to plan. Go to Reno as you say, and done. License and everything. Saved time and money.

However, that does not work when the bride wanted her dream wedding. It should take as much planning as necessary to make it “perfect.” It is her day (marriage advice Sterling – she is always right!)

What we are finding more and more often is the lack of acquisition planning, combined with a continuous depletion of numbers and quality of the acquisition personnel. There are simply not enough qualified individuals to go around.

The outcomes continue to be troubling. “Fail to plan and plan to fail” is almost status quo, but it does not have to be. Use the tools at your disposable, take some risks, and maximize performance based contracts and the “proper” use of FFP.

Planning should be fun for a wedding, and it should be motivating as well. I do not see much difference there in the procurement world.

Profile Photo Julie Chase

Jaime, a Shotgun Wedding is like the end of FY spending. Get your wish list together you have less than one week to spend. Organizations know, it’s now or never. And trust me the “vendors” know about the feeding frenzy at the end of the FY. It takes 1/2 a day to clean out my email box of this or that vendor having a sale or what they have left or something or other. Oh and ordering IT give “complexity” a new definition. There aren’t enough acquisition personnel because there are hiring freezes and no one wants to get into acquisition because the rules change on a hourly basis.

Yes, Carol, it is depressing. For me on a professional level. Planning my wedding was alot easier and less time consuming. I didn’t have to “consult”, “get permission”, “make sure I’m using a “mandatory” source, what the micro threshold limit is, ad nauseum.

Profile Photo Julie Chase

Sterling. I thought you knew. Anyone who works for Uncle Sam knows, it’s “process” that is “depressing”. The “hurry up and wait” mentality. I now know why the taxpayers are frustrated. It takes “forever” to get anything done and it involves a who group of people I don’t know and don’t care about. My local installation has every “body” I need to get my organizational needs and services accomplished. I don’t need to go through miles and miles of Fed Tape for a simple procurement of goods and services my organization needs to accomplish it’s mission. The 20 people cc’d in emails for IT (that I don’t know) are not necessary for the process. Our installation has a “contracting” office, a “comptroller office”, a “budget office”, a “gov property office” and an IT organization. These are the people/organizations I look to for support. I don’t need Quantico, the Pentagon or DC folks. Yeah, it’s depressing.