I’d planned to write about waivers last week, but Hurricane Michael took precedence, so I’d planned to write about waivers this week, but the storm aftermath is still taking precedence as we can’t even begin family farm cleanup until next week…maybe. Meanwhile, an interesting post popped up in my Facebook memories, and I thought it might be fun to see if my crystal ball was right
In mid-October 2017, I had a hard conversation with some Contracting folks who disagreed with me about Rapid Acquisition. We had a lot of frustrations with each other, and I shared my side of that conversation with a tiny circle of friends on Facebook, only last week making the original post public.
In my conversation and subsequent post to friends, I shared 3 predictions that I’d forgotten all about. Just a year ago in the world of Innovation and Disruption was quite different from now, and I’ll take that gratefully as progress. I think we’ve definitely seen #1 and #2 come to pass and some organizations outside the Air Force have told me that #3 is already happening for them. I think what surprises me most is how frustrated I was with trying to convince colleagues to get on board with Rapid Acquisition.
13 October 2017
(I’ve wanted to have this conversation with too many people lately. They want to stay asleep. I so want them to wake up. Many are ones I discovered through media, but some I’ve tried to talk to one-on-one. I’m curious to see who I offend, bc that will give me an idea of who thinks this way that I don’t know about.)
I’m right and you know it.
You can pretend all you want that you didn’t hear me. You can bury your head in the sand and hope it all goes away or at least stays status quo. You can stick to how you’ve always done things. But you know I’m right, and all your fears about the future funnel your discomfiture onto me because I’m not just the messenger or the prophet, but I’m also a catalyst every chance I get. Because I was born to be a change agent and I will always be true to myself on that matter, in every sector of my life.
I’m right and I know it. I know it with more conviction than I’ve ever known anything. It is imperative that Acquisition be reformed (yes, again, and how ’bout for real and for long-term?), and that “Rapid,” “Tech Transfer,” and “Dual Use” are guiding principles of a truly reformed system. I don’t have to lay Tarot cards or stare into a crystal ball to know the future. I’ve read patterns and cycles for 30 years and I can see what’s coming again, and it will be reflective of August 1989 but exponentially larger, as well as the time frame up until around 1997. We’re gearing up for a decade of streamlining among Contracting folks, very painful for some. The interesting thing about getting older is getting to see the longer-term patterns, if you’ve a mind to look.
And how can you NOT see? Haven’t you read the news this week? Have you seen all the senior leaders calling for this reform over the last few days? Yes, again, but it’s edgier now, more sinister, more…urgent. Have you seen anything at all of the news this week? Do you really think [insert foreign power here] is going to expend resources measuring yellow tabs in files to make sure the paperwork is perfect? Spend months extra putting the same content in different chart formats? Wait for low-level games and drama? “Get to it when I get to it”? “If it’s that important, somebody will do it”?
And I cannot help that I begin to look at you with some mixture of despair and disgust for your willing blindness, and I hate that I do because I’ve thought so much more of you than that. You disappoint me. I hate that you just seem to want to be left alone, go about your job and put in the days and hurry toward retirement so you can binge watch your favorite shows and BBQ with your neighbors and take the RV for a spin and not worry about what you leave behind. I want you to understand what your legacy is, or could be. Because you seem so caught in the web of the past that I don’t hear you talking about your legacy or your future. I want you to want for better. I wonder how you see your legacy, or if you’re interested at all.
Me, I love that senior leaders are suddenly all calling for the kind of reform I’m passionate about. It gives me hope when I’m talking to people who tell me that their job is “just a job.” I want to shake them and say, no, you’re supposed to be an archangel, a first line of defense, a protector. Or maybe you’re supposed to be a nurturer, a developer, a coach, a teacher, Professor X to all these superheroes we’re making out of our Millennials. But I’m an idealist and I admit it. I’m told I expect too much of people, of their character–really, though, I expect anything more than apathy or stagnation. I rail against anyone who tries to make that the norm.
I wish you could see how many people I don’t work with come to me, not as part of my job jar, but because I think it’s important enough to spend my lunch hours and evening hours of my personal time to talk to and coach and teach outside-the-box things I’ve been doing my entire career because outside-the-box isn’t a tired expression of a place but an ever pervasive, invasive, can’t be satisfied mindset that leaps across projects and teams and personal life desires. It gives me hope that there is this growing network of professionals trying to find solutions and willing to work together and share experiences. It gives me hope that my fractals are out there, being catalysts, using what I’ve taught them. I’m tickled pink to hear an occasional phrase I crafted from a senior leader, like the understanding of “fractals” and rapid tools as my mentoring of others has trickled UP. These are kindred souls. My tribe. My fist-to-the-chest, OMG-you-get-it people.
But you’re probably wondering where I see the future going. I’ve give you 3 predictions, none of which are part of my current job, but are so obvious to me:
1. Between now and summer 2018, all Services will weigh in on acquisition reform in ways that will reflect each other. Some may be a bit more innovative; some will copy the first out the gate, some will hang back a teensy bit to see if the risk is too much. But by the summer of 2018, they’ll all have a plan. Maybe not entirely thought through, but they’ll have plans. Contracting peeps at the middle levels and maybe up to the high levels will disagree in their hearts and worry about the pressure of faster timelines they’ll be held responsible for, even if the requirements packages are useable when Contracting is asked how soon it’ll be done. (like that never happens, right?) By FY19, there’ll be an all-out push for Rapid, and a decrease in regs, or at least a major attempt to begin decreasing regs/policies.
2. Pockets of innovation will become more formalized and recognized, even encouraged. These will be small groups within an organization or special units for the purpose of Rapid or Tech Transfer. Many will try to mimic S O C O M– and should. This will be a formal and informal network. The formal will be mandated at higher levels. The informal will be those fractals out there determined to change the world themselves. Much of how I set up my own Rapid Acquisition Cell in 2012 and how it was run from 2012 to 2014 will be a close model for these new pockets of innovations. (POI???? Fire spinners, anyone?) It actually pains me deeply now when people enumerate these small units and my RAC isn’t included bc it’s no longer our mission to be rapid.
3. Contracting will lose its power and be placed under the Program Manager’s authority. I’ve seen this before, back in the early 90’s, because Contracting was deemed a bottleneck. We are primed for this as real authority now rests with our leadership, not with the CO’s or buyers, so it will be easy to lose all authority, esp if senior Contracting folks are replaced with PMs’ authority. That breaking of the bottleneck in late 1989 was followed by a period of wild innovation (when I was in the Lab for 8 years and 95% of my suggestions stuck, which was glorious) and of streamlining which was later called Acq Reform and Acq Reform was later referred to as reform and not necessarily streamlining, and then the bureaucratization of streamlining until all the benefits disappeared by around 2007. I have been watching the same slow crescendo over the last few years that I saw in the very late 80’s in my intern days, and I tell you, there is a tidal wave coming slowly, getting bigger, getting faster, and that wave will be the program offices deciding Contracting is broken and can’t go fast and so they’ll try to force it by pulling it in under Program Management. For many in Contracting, this will be severely painful, and those near retirement will likely leave rather than fight it. Contracting will be so lacking in manning that it will become reluctantly acceptable to include telework from far away and A&AS buyers to get the job done. We’ll start to see that in late FY18 and it will become common by FY20 in an effort to recruit and retain. Organizations will flatten bc the multiple layers add time to lead-times.
So you don’t have to be happy with my happiness over Rapid. You can roll your eyes at it and at me all you want, but there is change coming. BIG change. You either be part of it and help shape that change and surf it or you can let it wash you away.
c 2018 Lorna Tedder
- Rapid Acquisition Consultant
- Recently retired Contracting Officer, unlimited AFMC warrant 1991-2018
- Nationally recognized Innovation Thought Leader in Government acquisition
- Rapid acquisition teacher, both FAR and non-FAR based contracting
- Master brain-stormer and advisor to program offices across the DoD
- Expert in developing junior and mid-level personnel to become innovators in Government acquisition
- 3 decades of first-hand experience and success with Other Transactions, Oral Proposals, 10 USC 2373, Broad Agency Announcements, unique pricing arrangements, Price Based Acquisition, Award Without Discussion, streamlined source selections, multiple award IDIQs, UCAs, waivers, omnibus tool creation, Quick Reaction Capability teams, and strategic sourcing
- Do you need help? Would you like me to spend a couple of days teaching your Government team how to use innovative contracting methods? Message me on LinkedIn or my contact page.