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This One Change Will Take Your Government Contractor Support (and Results) to the Next Level

By Diem Vo

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As a federal executive, how do you figure out if you're getting what you paid for from your contractors? Before you slide into a catatonic state full of hazy memories of undergraduate micro-economics stay with me here for a second.

In our personal lives, we strive to maximize value…some people like my grandmother make haggling a blood-sport…but I digress. In enterprise speak, this same concept can be framed as measures of effectiveness or monitoring and evaluation (MOE/M&E). All too often, efforts to measure programs for oversight are ex post facto. You know, that 3 A.M. data call that incurs serious staff overtime and you weren’t even elected!

What if, in all of our contracted work, we incorporated MOE/M&E at the outset? Not only is this requirement a real time metrics gathering tool, but it can also be used to iteratively improve deliverables and accelerate achievement of objectives. This is some sweet bottom line-affecting thinking, no?

In manufacturing, marginal units of time have a cost. In government programming, this is also true. Time spent waiting for other departments to move paper through the bureaucratic mill eats away at your resources for the fiscal year. If your department is on the hook to report to Congressional or other functional oversight, you have even more pressure to report your effectiveness.

You have to show your value while competing for resources every budget cycle. To accomplish this, you have to get efficient with time, funds and processes -- one path is to incorporate lean and Six Sigma methodologies at the outset. A good place to ensure that this is factored into the price realism of a contract is to simply dictate it in the statement of work for bids.

Here's some suggested language:

X.X Continuous Process Improvement (CPI): Contractor shall apply industrial CPI expertise with lean process or Six Sigma expertise to the (your enterprise here) to ensure that operational products, compliance, resource allocation and data modeling requirements are delivered with interactively improved cycle times and near real time performance metrics to inform (your department here) management’s decision trees. Deliverables: Monthly Status Reports, In Progress Review, Weekly Activity Reports, Transition Plan Documents and  Quality Control Plan. (You’ll have to annotate which contract line items these correspond to.)

  • Contractor shall assist the (your department here) in aligning functional objectives with organizational processes, reducing measurable risk related to overall security, counterintelligence, protective services, installations and insider threat functions and operations, as well improving execution cycle time in core functions and enhancing the quality of related (what your department does) products.
  • Contractor shall demonstrate strong communication skills with the capability to provide briefings and presentations. In addition, the contractor must have subject matter knowledge of the (whatever key performance objectives you have). 
  • Contractor shall define, measure, analyze, improve and control (what your department does) tasks and associated contributory processes central to (your department’s) mission. Each improvement project shall include a scoping charter.
    • Contractor shall achieve projects to enhance (what it is that you do) production through five phases for each type of product:
      • Improvement Project Kick-Off
        • Formulate Strategic Communication Plan
        • Map Governing Doctrine and Leadership Intentions
      • Execute Visualize Phase
        • Current State Value Stream Mapping
        • Measurement Planning
        • Process Analysis
        • Time-Value and Value-Add Charting
      • Execute Prioritize Phase
        • Root Cause Analysis
        • Failure Mode and Effects Analysis
        • Quantify Pay-off of Solutions
        • Benefit & Effort Solutions Charting and Selection
        • Future State Value Stream Mapping
        • Pilot Solutions
      • Execute Realize Phase
        • Implementation Planning
        • Control Charts
        • Writing/Updating Standard Operating Procedures
        • Transitioning Project Ownership
        • Finalize Project Documentation
      • Improvement Project Closeout Meeting

If you direct prospective bidders to incorporate an iterative process improvement paradigm into the bid, you’ve saved yourself considerable time later trying to troubleshoot production issues. You may even stand to learn a lot about the culture of your workplace. Excellence becomes habitual as your staff is empowered to solve emerging issues -- and habitual excellence breeds a culture of innovation and learning.

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