Success Story

Federal Government

The opportunity

Here’s the scenario: The department has a long standing, complex problem – acquisitions and procurement. Everyone is concerned and wants it addressed (it will take time, resources, and a change in culture). A strong leadership team is now in place in the acquisitions office, working hard and making progress. They are listening carefully to their employees to improve engagement and the work environment, and have developed an improvement plan. Meanwhile, as always, times and needs are changing. People want improvement now, and they want it to last. And OMB is urging that agencies now use more shared services—contracting out certain functions rather than doing them in-house—which threatens to divert needed resources from the acquisitions office but in the short run might meet certain needs more quickly.

Our team receives a request: top management wants an evaluation of and report on progress. In this case, the urgency is due to the number of complaints (still) wafting upward.

What is the opportunity? Recognizing the time and effort it takes to achieve change, our task is to hold a mirror up for the acquisitions office lead and his senior colleagues so they can see how to move faster and more effectively toward solutions and so they can identify and address some of the barriers they face.

THE ZELOS APPROACH
Get a clear picture of the problems from the acquisition office’s customers.

Interviewing current customers and clients provided a clear picture of their concerns and needs and their perceptions about the services provided by the acquisition office. We analyzed and categorized that information and shared it with the acquisitions office lead.

Identify an “unimpeachable” framework for the acquisition office to use as a standard.

GAO’s Framework for Assessing the Acquisition Function at Federal Agencies provided a model that was both respected by and familiar to the acquisition office team. Showing the gaps between the standards in the model and how the acquisition office’s customers and clients viewed performance was one way to hold up a mirror using externally-set criteria.

Focus on the importance of communication—listening as well as “speaking to”—customers and clients.

The acquisition office’s plans were significantly dependent upon the success of an initiative to “professionalize” the jobs of contracting officer’s representatives (CORs), but customers in several program offices strongly disagreed with that approach and suggested its adoption might prompt them to seek services from sources outside the department. We helped agency and acquisition office leadership understand the work that was needed to build agreement around this major initiative.

Identify, learn from, and adopt successful practices of other agencies.

At other agencies, we found effective practices for prioritizing and monitoring goals, while HUD’s acquisitions office, understandably, was trying to do everything at once — without adequate measurable goals or metrics for tracking progress.

Highlight that the use of shared services for selected acquisition and procurement needs was not being adequately factored into the department’s proposed solutions.

We helped the acquisition office and senior agency leaders realize the need to develop decision criteria and metrics to determine which contract types, sizes, or categories may be most efficiently and effectively accomplished by the department’s acquisition office or, alternatively, by shared services providers.

Results

The Office of the Chief Procurement Officer concurs with all recommendations

In the Office’s response to the evaluation report, the Chief Procurement Officer stated that he appreciated, and concurred with, the recommendations for moving forward. Read the full report at https://www.hudoig.gov/reports-publications/report/comprehensive-strategy-needed-address-hud-acquisition-challenges