What myths would you like to see busted?

Mythbusters are in Government — and it’s not just a TV show!

I had the pleasure of joining colleagues and friends at the AFFIRM luncheon today where we heard Daniel Gordon, Administrator, Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Office of Management and Budget candidly talk about his priorities and a few myths they are trying to overcome. (Sidenote: if you get the chance to talk to him, ask him about the day/evening he was confirmed)

At OFPP, they are focusing on these three things:

  1. Strengthening the Acquisition Workforce
  2. Enhancing their Fiscal Responsibility = Spending Less and Buying Smarter
  3. Re-balancing the Relationship between Government and Industry/Contractors

While Mr. Gordon went into more detail about each of these priorities, there was one common theme: COMMUNICATION. Without communication none of these priorities can be accomplished. To strengthen the workforce you have to communicate internally, to buy smarter and spend less government needs to communicate what they clearly need and to strengthen or re-balance the relationship between government and industry, like any relationship, they have to communicate with one another.

In order to allow for all of these various conversations to take place, Mr. Gordon and his office have become mythbusters. They have heard on (sadly) too many occasions these myths “I can’t meet vendors one-on-one”, “I went with this contract (even though it was more money and not totally ideal) because I knew someone on another contract” or “it has always been done that way, so I just thought that’s how it should be done”. Though, this is going to be a cultural change for the contracting officers, contracting officers technical representatives and their industry counterparts it is a mental barrier that needs to be broken.

What myths would you like to see busted?


If you liked this post, check out the Acquisition 2.0 GovLoop Group, AFFIRM (a non-profit, volunteer, educational organization) and ACT-IAC’s Better Government IT Site where you can insert myths, ideas to improve communication and vote on ideas you like that have already been submitted.

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Dannielle Blumenthal

I would like to see organizations bust the myth that “logic rules.” Really, we are driven by irrational, often unconscious emotions, and the workplace is saturated with feelings that drive behavior at every level.

If we could only come to terms with emotion, we could actually deal with the seemingly impossible-to-solve bureaucratic blockages that waste so much time and money.

Maybe it made sense to treat people like machines in the Industrial Age, but it doesn’t in the Knowledge Economy.

I like what organizational culture expert Edgar Schein says in the current issue of Strategy + Business: The best companies have a “helping culture” characterized by constant mutual interdependence.

Jaime Gracia

I participated in a parallel event with ACT/IAC, specifically focusing on the #3 you listed. This focus group was for industry, and what we in industry would like to see from government, and the forum to engage with government. This is also a mythbuster campaign, so I am glad that OMB & OFPP are working through these issues as noted in Vivek Kundra’s 25 point IT reform plan.

One issue that came up is PMs, and even COs, not wanting to do market research because it may open the door to a protest. It is mandated in FAR Part 10, and not just industry days. The one-on-ones are the most important communication forums there are, yet are rarely used. We need to change the paradigm so that government announces its needs to industry, so we can work on solutions together and as early as possible in the pre-acquisition phase. This allows small businesses to participate more productively, evens the playing field, lowers costs, defines requirements much better, aligns budgets better, allows for innovation, and ultimate the elusive best value.

It falls on communicating early and often, but it rarely happens. Why? Fear and lack of direction. Who buys the first car they see on the side of the road? What about a home? We as consumers do our due diligence, yet we step into the federal acquisition workforce and it is not done. Time for a change. In fact, a complete paradigm shift.

Candace Riddle

It sounds to me like the best place to go to source these myths would be the a) the supplier community, and b) the internal stakeholders/ agency that is being served by the procurement.

It is, however, no secret that the government acquisition communication process with the supplier is exactly opposite than that of the private world. In other words, in private acquisitions communication with the supplier increases from cradle to grave….in government the communication levels actually decrease with the supplier from cradle to grave. I have heard two very experienced (30+ yrs) government acquistiion profesionals, point out this same problem. It seems to be a problem of policy, so where do we begin to change it?