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Use the “A” Team for Integrated Acquisition Planning

Big ADoes this sound familiar? Mission and business owners define their requirements, “throw them over the fence”, and then the contracting and contractor community conduct activities to obtain and deliver the contracted solutions. But what about rapid changes in technology, short development time frames, reduced budgets, or greater complexity? These risks in execution lead to schedule delays, cost overruns, performance problems, and even mission degradation.

What’s needed to prevent these risks? A paradigm that may seem recent to some, yet retro or vintage to others. That’s because it’s both.

I describe this paradigm fully in an article in the October 2014 PSC Service Contractor magazine. Here is a quick look at the paradigm, which revolves around three main areas and provides “point of view checks and balances” for ensuring your organization is both doing the right things, AND doing things right.

  • The decades-old proven concepts of “big A” Acquisition Life Cycle Management and Integrated Product Team (IPT) in formulating and implementing strategies and plans to drive results. Specifically, the importance of having an organization that leverages proven best practices from big A Acquisition life cycle management, including the proper use of an Integrated Product/Process Team (IPT). It should involve cross-trained specialists from multiple disciplines, such as program management, system engineering, test and evaluation, logistics, IT, budget and finance, legal, etc. as well as from multiple organizations (e.g., Executive agency, oversight agency, industry). Having this type of matrixed, multi-disciplinary team can:
    • Solve staffing challenges by ensuring you have the appropriate cadre of people to provide coverage for the required areas across an investment’s life cycle
    • Plan a “cradle to grave” budget that considers elements such as operating and maintenance costs as well as disposal costs, when defining and designing a system from inception
    • Think fast to deliver useful capability in increasingly shorter cycles
  • The relatively more recent lean and agile movements and its application to the innovation and operations challenges facing the acquisition workforce community. Folks should be well-versed in applying proven principles and practices that are reshaping and reinterpreting the nature of work (e.g., what it is, how we do it, etc). An often perceived notion is that what is learned in one field does not or could not apply in another field. A key factor of innovation is synthesis of two seemingly disparate things, or leveraging validated learning from one area to another area. One of the most important advantages of applying lean thinking is that quality and customer satisfaction problems can be identified and addressed much sooner.
  • Incorporating lessons learned from Team Dynamics. Since acquisition management is often referred to as a “team sport” and its success often hinges on the quality of the team, this transforming acquisition workforce should be aware of new discoveries from the evolving field of team dynamics and how to integrate them into the acquisition community. An IPT designed intelligently can lead to effective team dynamics that drives productivity, spurs creativity and innovation, and speeds execution. With increased focus and few distractions, people with shared goals and complementary interpersonal or intangible skills can collaborate, often in real time and with remarkable effectiveness.

So, as your organizations and clients face today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, consider an “A” team that thinks big, acts fast, and embraces collaboration.