Is A Statement Of Work The "Same Page" Government Officials and Contractors Need To Get On?  

March 09, 2022 00:57:42
Is A Statement Of Work The "Same Page" Government Officials and Contractors Need To Get On?   
I See What You Mean
Is A Statement Of Work The "Same Page" Government Officials and Contractors Need To Get On?  
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Show Notes

The government's solicitation is its best attempt to define a problem. A contractor's proposal is its best attempt to define a solution. When faithfully executed, both should combine to meet a mission requirement. But can they? Contracts of even moderate complexity can obligate contractors to meet scores of requirements performed in dozens of activities over a 1 to 5 year period. Issues, priorities, budgets, personnel and conditions will change. So how can executing a statement of work written 12-18 months before work even began, meet a mission requirement?

 

Greg Giddens says the answer is performance management. Not in the HR sense but as a broad framework for conversation about how contract acquisition, program management and change management work together - or don't - to meet the intent of a statement of work. To meet the business objective or, in government terms, the mission requirement of the contract.

 

Greg and his business partner at Potomac Ridge Consulting, Dave Grant, should know. After careers in project and program management, change management and procurement in multiple Federal government cabinet departments, they know what works and what doesn't to get government and contracting officials on the same page. Greg joins me for this episode, and here are some of my favorite aah-ha! moments:

 

7:36 - Federal contracting is conceived as a partnership with the private sector

10:50 - Federal contracts, marriage contracts, and the meaning of relationship

11:45 - Using performance management from Step One - the contract kickoff

21:29 - When buying a microwave isn't what you think, or how changing the conversation changed a contracting officer's understanding of the problem

29:17 - Performance management creates transparency

40:05 - Performance management lines up means and ends to the desired outcome

47:43 - How changing the conversation creates a same page from multiple "own pages"

54:00 - But what if it doesn't work? What do we do if we can't get on the same page?

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:06 Welcome to, I see what you mean a podcast about how people get on the same page or don't, or perhaps shouldn't today. My guest is Greg Giddens. Greg has a federal government consulting colleague and a partner at Potomac rich consulting. Greg's had a long career of federal government service, Greg, welcome to the show. Speaker 2 00:00:23 Thanks, Louis. Great to be Speaker 1 00:00:24 Here. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. I'm looking forward to our conversation. Why don't you give us a short bio about yourself? So listeners know who you are Speaker 2 00:00:32 Sure. Right. And low gain. It really is great to, uh, to be with you and chat about this topic. This morning, I had about 36 years in federal service across four different cabinet agencies, department of defense, uh, transportation, Homeland security. And I spent the last seven or so years at the department of veterans affairs. And I started off as a electrical engineer. I actually started off as a co-op as a student training and then, uh, became an electrical engineer and, uh, moved into acquisition and program management and then into change management, organizational management to remit, uh, because a large part, when you look at really major acquisition programs, they're just as much about change management as there is about technology or anything. Very true. And so moving through those four different agencies and got a lot of great experience work with some great new years. Speaker 2 00:01:20 And that's one of the things that I still remain impressed with is the leadership and, and really the federal workforce. Uh, it sometimes gets a bad rap because you hear, you know, somebody has done something wrong, but it's still all large numbers by the law of big numbers, get big group together. Somebody is going to do something that's not appropriate. Uh, and you'll hear about that and that'll make the news, but the 90 plus percent, 98, 90 9% that are working hard trying to do the right thing. You know, that doesn't make the news, but it's just a, such a great opportunity. And I just applaud those that are still in federal service, supporting the mission. Speaker 1 00:01:54 I agree with what you're saying, Greg. I had a short government service while I was in graduate school about, about, um, eight years at EPA. And when I left, I was fortunate to consult. I went on my own. I was fortunate to consult back to EPA and other agencies, but people asked me if I missed working at EPA. And my answer was always the same. I didn't always miss the bureaucracy that we had to deal with, but I missed the people. Yeah, Speaker 2 00:02:21 Yes. But it is. I think that's the comradery of really working hard on a noble mission and doing the business. Speaker 1 00:02:27 I agree. And with your background, both in subject matters that you worked in trainers as an engineer program management acquisition change management, and then for different departments, you had a, you had a wide range of experience. Speaker 2 00:02:44 I did. I was very, I was very fortunate to get some opportunities to work in some, some different environments, uh, on two different mission sets all noble, uh, but also see a lot of the similarities across the agencies and really across how do you get things done in the government and in the bureaucracy? And you, you mentioned, you know, you didn't miss the Grokker mercy, you know, that's the plus and a minus to some degree, it's, child's play in a bureaucracy to stop something from Anthony, right. It's easy for nothing to happen, but you gotta be thoughtful and, uh, kind of work at it to make things happen and bureaucracy, Speaker 1 00:03:19 Oh, that's an excellent point. I want to come back to that. I want to say one thing just on this point, we're talking about, I was lucky at EPA for about a year or so. I was in a pesticide program. And then after that, I was fortunate to get a position in the administrator's office. And I was lucky enough to work with a division that worked with state and local governments. And that enabled me to, so I worked with conference of mayors league of cities like national conference, state legislatures. And I was able to go anywhere across the agency, anywhere in the program offices, from, from the assistant administrators down to a branch that was working on a drinking water regulation or out to a region talking to the regional administrators or deputy regional administrators, or anywhere out there to get information about a site issue or a policy issue to bring it back to the administrator's office for working with these government associations. Greg, I had, I knew more about that organization than people who spent a career in it because I was fortunate. My job made me enabled me. I was when I needed to, I had, I could go anywhere and talk to anybody. That was a real privilege. Sure. Speaker 2 00:04:30 Yeah. It really is to be able to get that insight across the enterprise on how it does business, because a lot of times, you know, you'll stay in one, provide your function or area it's easy to kind of soda straw and look down at that and just really become the expert on that and not understand the larger organization. So yeah, that was a I'm sure that was a great opportunity. Speaker 1 00:04:50 I loved it. And like you said, I really got, and I was in graduate school at the time. My master's degree was in conflict resolution. So I was able to see the org, right. I was able to see the organization operate in different places in different ways, on different issues. And I was able to think about my studies and what I was observing. It was a great laboratory and it was, uh, I was honored to be able to contribute in a small ways that, uh, environmental specialist contributes, but it was a lot of fun too. As you know, with elected officials like the mayors or city council members working with the professional association is like the drinking water and wastewater officials or the solid waste officials. We know there's complexity and issues. You come to appreciate the complexity of issues and the perspectives people have on something. But what's nice is you also see common ground, you see possibilities, you see where differences aren't. So what they appear or whether they are, they can be narrowed, right. It was a real privileged position. Be in to see all of the perspectives on one thing. Speaker 2 00:06:01 Yes. And to see those people and being part of that process for them to come together, recognize what they have in common and how can they start to get on the same page. Right. Speaker 1 00:06:12 And, you know, regardless of politics and politics is part of our lives, those were also folks who were part of that mission. They were trying to protect the environment. You could protect the environment for lots of reasons, for moral, ethical reasons, philosophical, you could say, Hey, you know what ship, uh, recreational recreational use of the great lakes is a multi-billion dollar industry. Speaker 2 00:06:37 Don't get recreation, boating, Speaker 1 00:06:39 Don't trash, the water, you know, don't destroy the resource and don't destroy the economic benefit we get from it. So everybody had their own motivations, but it was nice to work with them, as you said, because there, the mission was, that's just protect the environment. Well, let's talk about something that's related to that group then. Great. Let's tie it to what we've talked about in, as we prepped you were, you talked about performance management as a framework for getting people on the same page and what you and I are just talking about that we were fortunate enough to do in our year long. My short federal career has to do with achieving a mission. Right. And that's performance. So tell us, I know you didn't mean you don't mean people hear performance management and they think HR, they think supervision, they think goals, objectives, and they've semi-annual evaluation. And I know you don't mean that. Talk about what performance man performance management is in the framework as you used it and how you used it to get people on the same page Speaker 2 00:07:36 And Lou your ride. When I think about performance management, although I could see how some people would go to the HR aspect, I really think about acquisition and program management and performance management linked to that. You know, if you think about what our federal government does, and I think it's probably true at the state level, but my experience is at the federal level, if you're thinking about what our federal government does, either for its citizens to its citizens on behalf of its citizens. I think anything that does have significance is enabled by private industry. So it becomes important then for you, uh, as you go through this process at the federal level, go through the procurement acquisition and program management to really in the end, understand what performance management means and what performance you're trying to get. And I was saying many times a program gets started and they can't get on the same page between the federal office and the private industry partner, because they really don't have a line about what performance means. And what's really the objectives and the goals that they're trying to solve. Speaker 1 00:08:39 Can I pause you there for a second and just clarify, clarify something, you made an interesting connection, which I know is, I know what you mean. It's a valid connection, but just elaborate on it a minute and then we'll go back to what you were saying. You made the connection between government and the private sector. Give a couple examples of that. So listeners go, okay. I see what he's talking about. Speaker 2 00:08:57 Uh, sure. If you think about even world events and what we're doing to supply and help support the Ukraine, uh, those, uh, items that are being sent over those weren't made by the federal government, by private industry on behalf of the federal government. If you think about, you know, I spent my last seven years at the VA, if you think about VHA and all the medical centers and clinics that has well in those, there's, there's a hundred thousands of different items. There's blood pressure cuffs, local blood pressure costs come from industry and they're being used, right? I mean, so it's, it's enabling throughout that whole process as the photographs deliver services, Speaker 1 00:09:37 That makes a lot of sense. So the federal government has programs that establishes with intended beneficiaries, typically a citizen. It could be other entities, but let's just say a citizen. And often through acquisition requires those goods and services from the private sector to create the benefit that that is delivered to citizens. Right. Okay. So Speaker 2 00:09:58 Absolutely it's creating that. It's enabling that delivery. It's making it more effective. It's making it more efficient. It's improving the experience of citizens as they engage with. Speaker 1 00:10:09 So talk about this. Let's pick, I want to go back to where you were when I interrupted you. Thank you for the explanation, the relationship between government and a private sector entity in that system you've described is contractual. That's what the acquisition procurement is. So there's there's terms and conditions of a contract and government writes a contract. You know, I was on the, I was on the, I was on the industry side of that equation for a lot of years while you were still in government. So I was the one who was proposing to the government, we'd win an award. What we wrote in the proposal were sort of terms and conditions of the contract. We had to meet those. Tell me how performance management comes into that. Speaker 2 00:10:50 The way performance management comes in is it starts to take that contract and make it more of a partnership because moving now I'm blessed, I'm married to a wonderful woman. She's been patient supportive and just a great partner for me. And you've talked about the contract is a document, or, you know, we have a marriage documents, something that we filed, that's a legal document, but I'll tell you this afternoon, I won't go to her and say, how do you think our contractual relationship, right? There's going right. That's not really the focus of how we relate to each other. Right? Right. It's about a partnership. It's about a relationship. And through the process of the federal procurement activity, you do have a, a legal contract document that says terms and conditions. But once that gets awarded, this really got to turn into a relationship and a partnership because now your team together to help get a mission done. Speaker 2 00:11:45 And one of the first things about performance management and that should be happening right away is that the kickoff meeting go back to the touch points. So what is the objective? What's the problem we're trying to solve? What does success look like in some of the times I've seen this really be effectively done is you get together and you write the end story, right? You fast forward and say, okay, we have a three-year window, a three-year contract or a five-year yep. At the end of this, what are we going to be? The press release that we put out? What do we want to see if somebody were to come back and say, you know, give kind of a eulogy or give kind of here's here's what's happened? What do we want that to say? How do we really know what success looks like? And then we work for that. Speaker 2 00:12:26 And in many times in the photo environment that's becomes important because that may shift a little bit throughout the life program, right? You have different political activities coming in. Leadership changes, budgets, change, priorities, change, and practice change happens. So we need to make sure you can go back to that. And the first thing, really that initial step in performance management, really that kickoff meeting, what does success look like? What do we want to make sure that we get accomplished and then understand what's got to happen to enable that. But because in Ian, you want the government leaders and the private industry part and leaders, both waking up at four o'clock in the morning, worrying about the same thing. Really want them on Speaker 1 00:13:10 That's. Right? Exactly. You makes a number of good points there, which I was jotting down. What does success look like? Especially in it area purchases can be complex. I mean, you're buying hardware or software, but you're trying to solve things with it that are, that are challenging, right? It might not be easy to articulate. It's probably the government knows what success ought to look like and they could, and they, and they could articulate that. But sometimes when they talk to the private sector and you've seen this happen because the private sector has delivered similar products or services before in a lot of places, right. They might have some other things that they could describe as success. Other results, other outcomes, maybe government officials are aware of. Maybe not, maybe it's clear, maybe a little hazy. Sometimes ironically, it might be a net kickoff. I say ironic because it's post award, it might be in then kick off meeting where if it's held the way you described where the first really good conversation could happen about what a success look like. Speaker 2 00:14:16 No, I agree with you. I think that's, that's a point where you're past all now the contractual procurement activity, which is necessary to do, but now you beyond that, so sit down and roll your sleeves up. And I love to do those in a room with a whiteboard and say, okay, what, what, what really, what's the problem we're trying to solve? What do we want to be different? Because we're engaged in this activity and how that is two people discussing it. Uh, not two kind of opposing forces. One, how cheap can I get this and how much product, but by the way, the government gets it, industry has to make a profit, right? I mean, that's not a, that's not a bad thing, uh, right this morning. I, um, in fact, when I, while we're chatting, I'm enjoying a cup of coffee, but that cup of coffee, I had to buy that coffee and had to. So people meaning the federal government, they get that industry has an aid money. They want it to be reasonable and, uh, they want to get the mission, want to get the mission done. And that post award, a lot of times we read the first time, you can have that meaningful discussion about the program and the requirements and what it means to the organization, what it means to the citizen, what it means to the mission of that organization. That might sound really an unencumbered environment. Speaker 1 00:15:31 True. That might sound odd too. It won't sound odd to people who understand government contracting. If you've been in the government or in a contract, in a country, on a contracting, in a consulting company, it might sound odd to listeners who have no experience with government contracting to think, wait upon award is the first time you really having this conversation. Other conversations can happen pre award. The government's obligated to have those conversations in a there's some constraints on how the government can have those conversations. It could have them in a very open forum where you have any interested party at a meeting, and we could have these conversations. And some of the better, some of the better precipitation pre solicitation of work does that where a government can say, here's a draft statement of work, or here's our objectives. Talk to us industry about what you know about this. Sometimes out of that can emerge some new ideas with some clarity that finds its way into a statement of work with work, maybe more clear objectives or more clear measures of success, not all procurements, go through a process where there's that kind of precipitation, precipitation conversation, right? Some do some don't, Speaker 2 00:16:41 I'm a huge fan of those. I think industry engaged and I can really improve the probability of success, whether that's having a kind of a more larger industry day where the government's talking to a lot of industry with one at a time, right? Have some select one-on-one discussions, send out draft statements of objectives, statements of work, get feedback from industry. You know, what have you seen industry as a leading practice in this area? What are the leavers of performance and calls, you know, in this industry? I think those can be very important to help shape and define and hone the requirements so that you increase the ability to have through a document, a shared understanding. But I still believe even if you're doing really great at that shared document of understanding, there's nothing like being in the same room together. Speaker 1 00:17:33 There's nothing like it. And another thing that happens, another thing that happens is procurements can take some time and certain conditions could change over that time. I might have proposed something and 18 months later, it'd be at the kickoff or 12 months later. That's not heard of, especially if Speaker 2 00:17:51 Feasible for a large program of any complexity, you know, from the time somebody really has a gleam in their eye of here's a problem that we got to solve, or here's a need we have to go meet. It is not at all unusual. And it may be 12, 15, 18, 20 months later before that contract is signed. That's a long time, right? And the environment hasn't gone stagnant, but environmental factors have changed, uh, priorities, both meaning you mean a lot of change going on. So you really need to kind of go back and touch base, say, okay, w where are we now? And what's really, you know, some of the things that were most important about now may not be, Speaker 1 00:18:27 Was important, right? And the PR and the, and the, the best time to do that as at the beginning, that's the kickoff of the, of the contracted work, which is the meeting you're talking about. But to be fair to government, I know a lot of industry conversations just with inside a company where they launched an effort, an activity, a task, a project, and objectives or outcomes weren't as clear as they should have been. This is kind of a human, human nature thing. So it's not a fault or a flow of government is very much human nature or very much organizations in general. Speaker 2 00:18:57 We often think it's an organizational malaise and it happens, I think, large organizations, whether they're public or private, or tend to start to move out and not be as clear about their, Speaker 1 00:19:09 I have. It's very common even in, um, I mark mark, you know, Mark Foreman. Yes. Mark Foreman. And I had a conversation last week and the episode will be, we'll publish soon about, okay, ours, um, objectives and key results. And he's picking that up from, from venture capital investors who are changing the way they're asking for measures to invest. And he w and there was a time when a lot of them, even, even in the private sector, even when you're investing to make money, maybe, um, investments were made a little bit more on aspirations than real clear outcomes. And so the pushes none, no, no. Let's get clear on the outcomes, because if we're at point a and the outcomes at point B, we need to think about the path. And I liked the word you used the levers. What do we, what do we pull? What are the mechanisms that are going to get us from here to there? Speaker 1 00:20:03 That's not always clear in, in, in any, in endeavors, whether they're public sector, private sector. I think it's very important for the contract between the government and in an industry partner to be looked at as a means to an end, right? Yes. It's a contract. Yes. We have to abide by it or change it. If, if we, you know, it needs to be changed if officially properly, but we can't forget. It's a means to an end. It is the means to the end of solving a problem that government has. Yes. Correct. That's where the difference, that's what the conversation should change. So pick it up here. Speaker 2 00:20:36 Exactly. That's that's perspective that everybody needs to have, you know, and I've talked to some, and I worked there, the technical side, the program management side, the procurement side. And it's odd how in doing that, you hear how the organization, the other organization you've been involved in has talked about. Right. But they don't get it. They don't understand where they, you know, and all they care about is in Messiah. Oh, I just wish we could just kinda kind of move people, uh, for a month or two. And I don't walk them out shoes because that tape procurement people, they want the mission to be successful. Uh, just as much as the program people and program, people don't want to do anything. That's breaking the law and the regulations of the land. They don't right. Everybody's right. And the rules, and you want to play by the rules there's but we sometimes can't quite come together to really understand that. Speaker 2 00:21:29 And I think part of it is really the clarity about what is the gains we're trying to achieve. And if you're not clear about that, then you tend to focus more on the means that you do on the end. And I think a great way to help keep that in perspective is really be clear about what success looks like and what really we're trying to do. I remember early in my career, I was working at Warner Robins air force base in an engineering role. And we were having a heck of a time getting some what you've got and a technical weight guide. That's a, it's a radar term. It's, it's what propagates the waves through, on a radar system. Uh, and so there were a lot of microwave and waveguide parts and, uh, our procurement person just was not really leaning in with us. And so, uh, I got her and her team to come down to where all the systems were and could see how we were testing Speaker 2 00:22:25 It. And, um, I'm tenure. And I, I wish I'd done it sooner. Her eyes got big as saucers, and she's not pronounced seeing all this stuff about my weight. I'm thinking like microwave I have in my kitchen, I can forgotten why this was so important. And what was Susan? I get, wow, man. She, she went and she understood pride, the ends that we were trying to do and what the mission was and how, what she was doing impacted that. And I'll always try it and not always been successful, but always tried to help make sure that all the supporting functions could see themselves in the role that they have in completing it, the living conditions, we didn't have any trouble with those parts. I'm telling you, after that visit, she was alive. She was, Speaker 1 00:23:08 Oh, she was on it. I call the podcast. I see what you mean, because it's about that aha moment when you go, oh, I see what N that epiphany, there's an S there's a perspective shift that comes with it, where, like you described, you seem to me in that moment, she understood the problem, the way you saw it. And she probably thought to herself, well, I can fix this, or I can, I can solve some piece of this. I can, now I know what to do to help. And so she kind of freed up to move that Speaker 2 00:23:38 Moving forward. Right. It was almost like the light switch. Speaker 1 00:23:42 Yeah. Yeah. Well, so I want to keep bringing it back to performance. A contractor will give the government some kind of project schedule, right. With activities in it, with resources on it, with dates and all those tasks are intended to, they're all like little means to an end, right? Every class within a contracts extended to accomplish something. And when you roll it up, it should accomplish some technical, or I think, I think business objective, I want to always be thinking about what's the business objective government's trying to achieve here. And how does, how do the things that I do or do the things I do get them there. So they give you a project plan, all those kinds of conversations, I think, ought to be, come with it, because then you're starting to talk about performance. Like, what do we do to get an outcome? Speaker 2 00:24:29 So, so you're at the, uh, you're at the kickoff meeting. Now you kind of align this. There is still, maybe can think about it more as a transactional part of performance management, where there are tasks, there's activities, there's things that need to get done. Right. You know, and that's really planning is important. And I don't know your plan doesn't always turn out exactly. Right. In fact, most cases, it won't, but you'll learn a lot by the planning and you'll understand the interdependencies and your understand the priorities and which task are really on the critical path in which are recalls Lula. I've found that if you, if you're really trying to do anything of significance, right. Anything of difficulty, it's not going to go well all the time. Right. I remember when I had, uh, was managing portfolios of large programs and had program leaders come in and do reviews of me, the times I was most nervous is when I would have a program lead over of a large complex program, come in a couple of times in a row and tell me everything was great. Speaker 2 00:25:28 I would really, that just made me nervous because just my experience has just never been that everything is always green for the time. And every now and then you'll get lucky and things will line up and be green and to review. But for that happened back to back. And so I would use to say, Hey, let's we need to do a deep dive. That's, let's take some time next week and spend like half a day or spend, because there's something going on. Right. It's just things don't always go well, and you need to understand what needs to happen. So that if things start to get off the tracks, you can recognize it early and then take appropriate action early on to then start nudging things, to get them back on track. And you may find that some of those tasks that aren't on the critical path, maybe you're going to minimize. Speaker 2 00:26:13 So it was, and you're not gonna put as much resource on those, those resources around, right. But you won't even have the insight to do that. If you don't start with a plan that supports what you're trying to achieve, and then you can make adjustments as you go forward. But it is that, you know, when some organization called it program control and they just call different things, it's really that the transaction aspect of really now managing and have an integrated master schedule, you've got an integrated master plans right now. You've got to work this through. And most of the times I've found there's ownership on that schedule and then plan for both the federal government and private industry. Right. And I've tried to own on my side and make sure I'm not to quit. If the contractor, my industry partner gets laid on something or gets behind or something happens, right. Speaker 2 00:26:58 If they stumble our reaction on the federal side needs to be to stop and then down, send a hand down, he'll pick them up, dust them off and let's get back going because it may be us the next week, right. We may be late in doing the review or delivering something or getting right. Let's get back to that sense of partnership. And those both managing the performance so that we get to the end state that we all agreed. This is what success looks like. And this is one of how we're going to measure that success as we moved whole. Speaker 1 00:27:27 So a good product, or let's say a good, yeah, good output from the kickoff meeting, somebody should write down what the definition of success looked like. If one of the next things, sometimes a contractor could come to the kickoff meeting with a provisional project plan that could be significantly updated at that point. Then that project plan, which let's just say, captures those transactions, those tasks and activities should have in it, not just the points in time, right? It's temporal. So we know there's milestones. We know where we're where the, where we're delivered. When we deliver something, should also have points in it when they can sit down and talk about results or progress toward results. And so that project plan could be a great device or tool as a performance management device or performance management tool. Speaker 2 00:28:17 So duty, it helps you stay on the same page that you started on. It's really been a degree of transparency, right, right. Between the federal government and their industry partner. And it helps you as you move forward to understand where are the right points to do an assessment, we need to, we need to do a checkpoint and it helps you kind of structure how those happened. Right? Cause you don't want the leader on either side, whether it's the federal side or private industry, you don't want the top leadership meeting with the same regularity on the issues and items that you are people on the front line, right? You want the people in the front lines, meaning that with a lot of regularity so that they're working the issues. And really you want the leadership working the issues that pop up to them. Right. When I started working some in the VA and VHA, and even in our private lives around healthcare doctors don't give shots, but we remember, I mean, we're even taking our kids in to the pediatrician. Speaker 2 00:29:14 You know, it wasn't, they don't give shots because somebody else can. Right. And that's part of what we have to recognize and performance management, that there's several roles that people need to make sure that you have appropriate decision authority, delegated down to address those issues. So they don't just start backing up. And then all of a sudden there's an avalanche of things that have to be dealt with. And because that's in nobody's best interest to government industry or the mission, right? So it's putting that ride structure governance. Decision-making on really how things move forward. And a lot of times you'll have this collation causes where the government and industry work together and say, okay, we're going to give the team three days to resolve issues. And if they can't resolve in three days, they need to elevate it. Or five days really clearly so that everyone, I really feel that they're working to the same set of ground rules so that they can move. Speaker 1 00:30:05 So let me something comes to mind that we were talking, uh, and another truism about organizations is people try to stay out of trouble. People protect themselves from, from getting in trouble because I don't mean legal. I just, things like we talk about things, go wrong with projects. So many things have to go, right? And no one person is usually in charge of all the things that have to go, right. And it makes, it makes it hard. It makes it hard to take too many risks. Risk seems like too strong, a word it's a risk averse environment because so much can go wrong. You want to be extra careful. I know. I could imagine that the conversations that you and I are having, I can, I've heard, I've been a part of, I've heard people have at a contract level or task or contract level, but you spent later parts of your career, way up the org chart, where you were whole overhaul operations, thousands of people spread across the country, maybe spread across the world right now you could espouse the principles and the values then that we're talking about now. And they could hear you. How did you translate that into how did you help them translate that into action so that they didn't, they weren't just so cautious that they heard what you said, but they were, they didn't really enact it because it seemed risky. Speaker 2 00:31:27 Right? So one thing that I would do is share stories about times when I was working programs and things didn't go well and how my leadership responded most of the times positively, but not always. So, you know, sharing with them, some stories that, Hey, I get it things aren't going to always go well. And your tendency may be to beat your head against the wall to try to solve it. But at some point, you know, let me help with things I can help with. And, and, and really starting to take things off the table about it. If you make a reasonable decision, that goes a long way. I'm not Speaker 1 00:32:06 One of you, Speaker 2 00:32:07 But I'll stand in front of you and I'll catch the spheres that anybody wants to throw away. And we just get clear that, Hey, if you do anything illegal malicious, that's a whole, a whole different story, right. And I'll be at the front of the line to come after you. But if it's, if it's, you're making a reason decision and it turns out wrong, we can fix that. Exactly. And in fact, there's not many decisions that's made you can't go back and retweet. And I would tell them, in fact, probably the worst decision you can make is no decision, right? Yeah. Because then you really don't have any additional information. If you make a wrong decision and you realize, okay, for these reasons, you now have more knowledge on how to make that next decision. So in taking some cases, and this becomes a little uncomfortable for people, when things go go wrong and they wind up, you know, working through it and it comes out, turning it into a success story, right. So that people can see, okay, they're really serious about this. They're really looking and trying to understand this is a complex activity and there are going to be some bumps along the road, but we got to keep our eye on the prize and make sure we keep the mission in mind. Speaker 1 00:33:20 Stories are important because they're personal stories of the bosses. And if, and if bosses telling those stories, it gives people some reason to believe that you'd put your money where your mouth is. That's, um, that's some psychological, that's some safety, that's some comfort. Okay. Because I really would like to, sometimes it's real simple, Greg, I really would like to have a different conversation with a contractor, but I, my boss has told me that my, my immediate supervisor told me to be careful, again, nothing illegal, immoral, nothing against the outside the far, just as that great caution, I'd like to have a different conversation. I hear the seat, the chief acquisition officer saying it's okay to do that. It helps with people take some, some small steps. I think a lot of what we're talking about is changing the conversation that we have with each other. Speaker 1 00:34:09 Yes. P P M government, your PMs from the program office can have a better conversation with the procurement folks and vice versa. They together can have a better conversation with the contractor, correct? Like you said, the private sector side there to deliver a product or service as a means to the end of solving some problem. Right. There's nothing. No, one's going to tell you that you can't, if you want to keep it to just strictly to the terms and conditions of the statement of work, but you can miss things. If you, if you're that tight and narrow it down, then ratchet it down that hard. If you loosen up a little bit and say, look, we're trying to solve a problem for a medical center, a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacy, or a border guard. Right. We're trying to solve a problem for somebody, right. Because if we clear that if we solve that problem for them, they're the ones delivering a government benefit to, to a citizen or to, so let's talk about how that, I mean, I think what you're saying, performance management is let's talk about how that's going. Speaker 2 00:35:11 Right. You always want to go back to that test on almost think about it as having a mission moment. Right. Right. How do you, how do you help make sure that all parties and I've found since I've left the federal government and doing some consulting with companies, you know, the federal government is not the only one that doesn't communicate that well and turn the heater. Uh I've I've seen private industry suffer some of those saying yes, sir. Yes, sir. Parallels as well. Yes, sir. But if you can keep everybody kind of reminding back, as you said, we're, we're doing this so that a VHA clinician can better provide care for better or that somebody working in claimed in VBA can more quickly go to the client. So the veteran can give what's deserved for them from a beneficial beneficiary perspective, or it supporting this law enforcement person that has to go out on our behalf to keep our stage and our streets safe. Speaker 2 00:36:04 Right. Kind of keep it, you know, not as you said, the contract is not an end, it's a means to an Eden. So how do we really kind of keep focused on that end? And that really tie everything we do, making sure we accomplish that. And I'm not saying you throw out the contract, that it doesn't apply because it's a legal document and it's got, but there are still, and depending on how you want to read the far, you've got a lot of flexibility or you have no flexibility around the people that are really successful read the far and say, the far talks about what's in the best interest of the government and the things it's trying to get done. So if you take the contract, you need to make adjustments. There are certainly ways that you can make adjustments to that, but always keep that in mind as being a relative mean to an end, not in here. Speaker 1 00:36:50 Uh, the, uh, tell me your experiences in, from the contracting side, especially as a senior acquisition official of the government's ability to, or desire to be clear on business objectives, the truth of the matter is there's a state, there's a solicitation. And then if there's a section C, right, and it spells out the, the technical requirements, and there's so much focus on that. And I'm not saying that shouldn't be, but there's so much focus on that. And then the evaluation criteria that I would write to right when they were good, they were telling me how my proposal would be evaluated against how well I would accomplish the technical requirements. And sometimes the management requirement, they often stopped short Gregg of language that felt or sounded like, and therefore we're going to accomplish these business objectives. One time I read a solicitation one time that was crystal clear on business objectives. Speaker 1 00:37:51 And it was, so it was a beauty thing of beauty, right? We only was in section C and subsections of it. But every, every time it had a group of requirements, that was my subsection in section C at the opened up that section by saying, here's what we're trying to accomplish. I'm like, wow, that's amazing. Because I was able to write a proposal that said, and I got, and then I got with my technical guys, right? So we're not just going to give them back the three steps to this or the four parts of that. That's bullshit. We're going to tell them how we'll do those things to accomplish that business objective. They said they had, and then Greg, as we rolled those up to the whole section C it sort of cascaded it, it rolled up to accomplishing the broader business objective of the, of the, of the statement of work. That was a rare instance screening. Speaker 2 00:38:45 It is rare. And it's, especially when it happens, right. When the government can really clarify what the objectives are in, in not just, you know, kind of a statement of work to say, contractor, I want to hire you to do this work that we've already figured out is what all I need to be done so that I can meet my objective. Right. But that's not easy. The government doesn't have that right. In the statement of work. And there's times that the vendor will go through and do everything exactly according to save them to work. But the government doesn't actually get the mission success that they're after that. It's, I think it's part of the government's efforts to do good requirements definition. And that that's, that sometimes gets pressed and gets hurried. Uh, and it's one of the things where I think that sometimes people never have the time to do it right, but they'll have time to do it over. And I think that, that early time thinking about requirements and thinking about requirements, not solutions, think about requirements and what they're really trying to accomplish and the objectives, and being able to lay that out, pays dividends just like you said, in industry can take that and go, all right, I know what they're trying to achieve. And they said, do it with a big desktops. Laptops may be a better way to write it was the industry to get those innovative ideas, right. That can really support the mission. Speaker 1 00:40:05 Okay. So we've talked. So we talked about performance management as a framework for the way I'm thinking of it, Greg, as we're sort of lining up means and ends of different kinds technical activities to accomplish requirements, but we keep, we keep in mind. That's like, I always think of the near-site. If you're, if you fire a rifle, you can look just at the near site. I wouldn't recommend it, but you can look at, you can look at the far side on there, then the barrel you ought to been looking at a target. So what we're talking about performance management being is the way we line up means and ends to accomplish an objective. And it's important to keep in mind, we are trying to accomplish public policy objectives, not just a technical requirement, right? That's a means to the end of something larger. Are we getting somebody in the country, the federal official state or local government official tribal, what they need to do, the job that they are trying to do, because they actually, where the rubber meets the road and they're delivering the benefit to somebody. And so performance management is a framework for having really Greg. I keep thinking in my mind, it's a framework for having those conversations. Speaker 2 00:41:12 Yes, it is. It's a framework and hopefully it can become a common framework, right? So that you're bringing in all the sides together to have that discussion and how that perspective, and then have a way forward. So then you can go and actually accomplish that and manage it through the effort. So, so you're right. It's, it's really kind of laying that out and looking through both sides as you keep your eye on the target, both the near and the far, but focusing on the target. Speaker 1 00:41:41 So we had, we talked about ways that statements of work could be written, that facilitate business conversations. We talked about the kickoff meeting, we talked about a project plan. We implied there would be checkpoints in the conversation between the parties about progress. Things are always in progress. So we got to know how they're going, but we also want to be asking ourselves, are we getting closer to the target? We could be doing a lot of activity and be, you know, wandering off in a different direction. Are we getting closer to the target? And if not, or then we've got to slow down a minute and get together and say, let's talk about this before we keep that. So there's those checkpoints. Would you have done them as a PM on some regular basis or as a contracting officer, what would be, what's your view of how those checkpoints would be, we'd be done? Speaker 2 00:42:30 I w I really looked at doing that quarterly on most cases. Uh, I did have some projects that were in my mind and I was clearly told, were critical and it had a short run round, you know? So if you've got something that you got to get done in 12 months, you can't look at it every three more Speaker 1 00:42:48 Times. Right, right, Speaker 2 00:42:49 Right, right. You got to do something more than that. Right. Right. So you gotta really kind of dig in, do it monthly. So part of it depends on how long you have to get to the end state, but you don't want to do it so often that you don't see any opportunity to influence or see change happening. Right. Then people will just start to yawn whenever they think about it. It's not an effective use of the time. So it is kind of that finding that right balance. And I'll find out some of the, some of the companies that can be most successful that use that touch point and even link it in to the C part. Right. Cause at the end of this process, that will be, there'll be a government official that at the end of this, who's going to rate the company based with the contract performance reporting system. Speaker 2 00:43:35 And that's going to be a scorecard for that company on how they've done. And that could be typically used in future source selection decisions out of this company, do what was there. And so I've seen companies use that as a way to, through the process, kind of do their own self-assessment and say, here's where I think I am on meeting your objectives. Here's where I think I am on meeting the items on the way to that, and kind of drive that framework of discussion to make sure that they're managing performance throughout using see pars and C part is done, just become kind of an end of class test or not. But if you fail, you don't have any chance to recover. Right? So I could, in one of our doors in the school teacher, a third grade teacher, they don't wait to the end of third grade and the test, the students to see if you're ready to go to the fourth grade, right? Speaker 2 00:44:23 That's not that wouldn't be very productive, right? They do assessments throughout to understand where they are. And I think the companies that really are successful in delivering do their assessments throughout internally, and then start to share that with the government and a framework that a government can receive an understanding about where things are. And if the industry has a different view of something that gives them an opportunity to say, wow, you're, you're thinking this is on track. We're hearing there's issues bubbling up from this. We need to get right again. It's another way to say, ah, I see what you mean. Here's the right. You know, you had this for you. I had this one that's come together and kind of reconcile that. Speaker 1 00:45:02 I think that's a brilliant idea. All these things look risky at first. When you think about them, you go, no, that's smart. Because if they do that, if they do a self assessment and share it with the government, what's going well, what's not because it's always going to be, what's going well, what's not, what's the plan for fixing some things. Speaker 2 00:45:22 No, Speaker 1 00:45:22 And it's not really risky because what you're trying to do is we're changing the conversation. Speaker 2 00:45:29 Exactly. You're changing the conversation and you will find some places you may differ, but you want to know about that during the period of performance, not wait till the end. Yes. Speaker 1 00:45:39 If you share some information and happened to see things, similarly, you're just fortunate. I think knowing that you see things differently is really where the value is in the conversation, Speaker 2 00:45:50 Correct. That's where you pull some information out and you can really work together and really build that relationship, trust and respect. Speaker 1 00:45:59 That's a good point. It is not just about project management type activities. Meeting a technical requirement is a relationship of trust and respect. Speaker 2 00:46:08 And I think the vast majority of companies that engage in supporting and working with the federal government, and I think it's close to a hundred percent, but not every most things, aren't a hundred percent, but the vast, vast majority, they have an appreciation for the mission. And they've worked to understand the mission and they want the organization to be successful. Yes, it's again, they do. They've got shareholders as they're public or they got employees, but they still, they, they got an interest in, in the mission. So they want it to be successful. And they like to know that they're, you know, they're thinking things are going great and they're not, they want to know that. So they can start to rectify that. I think there's more risk in not having the recession and the reason having that Speaker 1 00:46:53 By far, because you're not going to get away from it. And like you said, what's going to happen is you're not going to have the discussion until the end. And then it won't matter. Right. So I always think it's, it's it's I always think of it this way. Any two people let alone a larger team sees certain things in a situation. We just see, we see different things in a situation, especially if you've got, if you're, if you're the engineer on a project where you're responsible for the budget or some research, you're, you have a different job or role, you see different things in the situation, we would size them up differently. It's just, we should, we should size them up the way something makes sense to us. We would think of what we, what we would have a preference for what we ought to do as a means to some end, each individual on a team could go through a thought process like that. Speaker 1 00:47:43 Whether it would be around the team, there'd be some commonalities and there'll be some differences if you literally have that conversation. So you can surface all that. First of all, people could go to realize, wow, we're on the same page about quite a lot. Yeah. That's just good to know, because sometimes we don't, we see past that, we've got our heads down. We're busy. Like you said, sometimes we're focused on the problems. We forget some of the good things. Right. Second, second thing is when you, when you give yourself an opportunity to say, geez, Greg, I, I didn't see it that way. Tell me more about what you're seeing in that situation. Or you say to me, tell me more about what I'm seeing in that situation. To me, we have, we're trying to build the same page. We're on our different pages where we have to work from, right. Speaker 1 00:48:33 We're trying to create a same page to get on by some shared knowledge and shared understanding of what it means. When teams do that project team on the government side project team, on the contractor side, the two together, I think they're setting themselves up for greater success because they're on the same page with what they're seeing, what they think it means, what they'll do about it, right? Because there's going to be some plan of action. And then what the objective or the outcome of that is. And then Greg, if we sit down and check with each other in two weeks, four weeks, how did it go? We're continuing the conversation that keeps feeding new, like you said, before, feeding new information back into the conversation. Speaker 2 00:49:15 Right? Exactly. And that becomes incredibly powerful, right? And that's the virtuous cycle that really successful programs get into it. It also gives the industry. You mentioned Lou about, you know, we tend to focus on the product, not the good things, having these discussions and industry doing. And I'm a self-assessment and it's having an honest look, right? If your industry, and you've got an issue here, point that out, right. Cause, cause if you don't, the government knows about it. And then they're going to wonder, so do you know you've got an issue, you just not going to tell me, or do you really don't know what's going on? Speaker 2 00:49:52 Which is worse. I'm not sure they're both, they're both bad, but it also gives the industry an opportunity to say, Hey, over the last six months we met all our deliveries and you may remember our delivery to the east coast. We did that in spite of the hurricane that came through. And we did that by doing X, Y, and Z. Cause many times that's lost on the government, right? They'll see that you delivered. And it won't really connect in them. You had impacts and mitigations and things you've had to do over and above. Sure. Which becomes really important. And for industry to have the government recognize what they're doing over and above to deliver more than just kind of the pure step that's on the contract. So it really allows you to open up and have the discussion, not about just about some of the issues and get on the same page with those, but get on the same page on some of the successes and things in industry was really do it behind the scenes. So the government may not know about to really impact and improve their business. Speaker 1 00:50:42 Good point. Yeah. That's a good point. I have a definition of getting on the same page that I use. It's a very, I try to make it a very working definition and it's just simply agreeing enough to take the next step together. And I, and I, I think that leaves some things out that probably should be included, but I was trying to boil it down, Greg, to what would be good. I didn't want getting on the same page to be too global because it's, we're not always on this. It doesn't mean unanimity. It doesn't mean everything's perfect. It does. It's that's, that's, that's, that's totally foolish. So what would it mean in a real operational way? You and I could be having a discussion about something that's not going well, fair enough. We could come out with a plan of what we're going to do. Speaker 1 00:51:25 If we ever agreeing enough to take the next step together, we went and did it. And it came back to talk about how, what the result was. There's something very valuable about that conversation to me in a way it keeps it, it puts us in, keeps us on the same page with something I can still be frustrated with you. You could still be frustrated with the company, but we might w we might be able to stay on that on the same page of recognizing something, jointly planning, what to do, what ought to be done, drying it, checking it right. If we keep going through a conversation like that, I think we could probably roll through whole tasks and activities under a contract. Speaker 2 00:52:06 Yeah. W I liked the way you phrased that about coming to Grievant enough to take the next steps together, because it will get you out of that cycle of frustration. Right? If you do have an issue, when you start to get frustrated with each other and get five down and you're not taking any action, all you're doing is being frustrated with each other that that'll faster and build and bill, what at the same time, you're really not moving the program forward. I really liked that perspective of coming together, working through it and saying, okay, we may not know what the next hundred things are that we need to do. What's the next two or three things to do. All right. Let's map those out. Let's get together next week. Or the week after make sure we were on track with those and then see what's kind of the next steps. Speaker 2 00:52:47 And then as you do that, I think your vision gets a little better about what to planning, what to do for the longer term. And you're taking action. And I think, I think humans by our nature, we're kind of problem solvers. And so I think that gives a release for some of that frustration and you put it toward, okay, I'm going to take these actions and take these actions to see a little bit of success so that a more success or a more positive movement. And then you kind of build things back. So, I mean, I think same page relating that to being in agreement enough, to take some next steps. Speaker 1 00:53:18 Well, and as you were saying that I also circled on the paper, whereas taken some notes, something you said before, it ought to also build trust. Yes. Speaker 2 00:53:27 That starts to build trust. Right? Let's cover. Well, we don't always have to, we don't always have to agree first, come together. We may not always agree when you start to part, but we shouldn't have some things we can agree on it and what's the next steps are. And I think you captured that. Well, Speaker 1 00:53:41 One of the questions I'd like to ask is what happens if we can't get on the same page, cause getting on the same page as an always the outcome that's accomplished or maybe sometimes shouldn't be. But so what's, what's your just a general reaction to the question. What happens if we can't get on the same page in this business? We're talking about performance management. Speaker 2 00:54:00 I think if you, if you come together and you both sides earnestly and openly tried to come together and work through whatever this issue is and you really can't get on the same page. I think the first question is do, is there an escalation path that we both can go to right. At some kind of, sometimes that can be some arbitration. Sometimes it can be going to the next level of leadership. Maybe now this issue goes to the secretary right on our side. And maybe it goes to the CEO or to the board or the company side to see if they can come, come together. And if in the end, even through that, you have to find a way to, in, to shake hands and part. Yeah. And I think it's important to recognize that you can have disagreements that in the end may not get resolved, but you can still shake hands and part, right. Speaker 2 00:54:51 It still does not have to be feel with animosity toward each other. If that's the case, there's probably been some underlying issues happening, uh, all the way through now, but good people can in the end really not find a way forward. And there's remedies for that through the contract there's claims and there's things. And I know sometimes from the federal side, you know, where like, I don't know why they seem good to submit a claim, but that that's part of the process. If we get to really a stalemate because you can't just leave that still made open because it's not going to get well by itself. It's just going to continue to get more infected and it'll spill over into other areas. But it's, to me, if you, if you can't, you got to look for an escalation, is there an additional layer of escalation? And if not, then you have to figure out how you can shake hands. And Speaker 1 00:55:39 I like what you say there. Uh, I agree with that as a possible outcome. And I think it's important to do it. I think it's important to do it the way you described, because remember we're talking about a mission. We're talking about performance as a means to the end of accomplishing a mission. We're talking about relationships that are part of that. Yes. You put people on things, you put equipment on things you put there's processes that you meet technical requirements. I don't know Greg that's to me, that's like flour and the sugar and the eggs. Those are the ingredients you try to accomplish something that's better accomplished together. When it can't be, for whatever reason, it's better to end it amicably for everybody because chances are you're gonna, you're going to work with other federal agencies, other programs you might work, you might have proposed something again, a bid something again to the one where you had this departure. Speaker 1 00:56:32 Some of the gun on the, on the government side could run across same contracting company as a sub on a sub or a prime on something else or leave government and want to go to work in the industry. It's just better to try to protect the relationship. If the, if the relationship couldn't get to what was hoped for, I think it's always best to try to protect the relationship on the way out. Absolutely preserve it. Well, you know, Greg, thanks for your time today. This has been a great conversation and I enjoyed it and, and learn a lot like I always do when you and I talk wow Speaker 2 00:57:05 With me as well. I really enjoyed it. And I do always walk away with some new ideas. Speaker 1 00:57:11 Thank you, sir. Appreciate it. Alright, Louis pleasure. Have a good day. Bye-bye you too, right? And that's how we see it. My friends, I want to thank Greg for recording today's episode. You can find it at, I see what you mean dot dot com. Plus all the usual places, send questions and suggestions through the app. Subscribe and give me a five star rating unless you can't. In which case, let me know why and join me next week. When we take another look at how to get on the same page and to stay there, unless we shouldn't.

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