Recently, we attended a National Contract Management Association (NCMA) meeting on the subject of "Best Practice Initiatives: A Call to Arms." The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) published a best practices guide for contract management in 1994 (limited in scope) and it has not updated or added to the guide since then. Last month, Lesley Field and Joanie Newhart from OFPP said they love the idea of best practices based on practical experience. The myth busting documents were designed as best practices on communication but OFPP wants to do more guides.
The "Call to Arms" meeting was just that: A clarion call for assembling a team to prepare various best practices guides most likely organized by subject matter. Examples included, evaluation factors, debriefings, best value source selection, protests, termination procedures, changes and monitoring performance, to name a few.
Best practice guides, well vetted by seasoned practitioners, are long overdue. This needs to be a collaborative effort between government and industry perhaps best sponsored by NCMA. OFPP welcomes such an effort and suggests that the project be narrowed to a few key subjects or even organizing the effort by contract types. OFPP wants very specific guidance with samples and templates with on line resources.
Complaints abound, whether justified or not, about the lack of experience at the working level of contract formation and management. The most experienced contract managers have left the workforce and are not always asked to teach the newcomers. But learning is best instilled by doing. And best practices should be the collection of the best practical methods of doing things published and vetted by the most seasoned professionals.
So this is a call to arms to the seniors. Get involved. Let's start passing on our collective knowledge of how contract management is best practiced. Perhaps this also is an open letter to Elliott Branch, a senior level government procurement expert, who also happens to be President of NCMA. Let's get organized at the grass roots. NCMA chapter by NCMA chapter, let's put the seasoned professionals to work putting together best practice guides for OFPP to promote.
In the end, of course, the problem always will be making sure the word gets to the right people. We've heard a lot of comment about how the myth busting memos have not changed practices in the field. That's another problem. Let's first write the manual, then work the issue of its acceptance. Frankly, in our opinion, it's all about leadership. The right leadership will make sure the practices are followed in the field.