Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Elliott Branch, President of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA), and one of our best senior acquisition executives, stimulates our thinking by asking some really important questions:
What is a best practice?  How do you know one when you see it?  Who decides whether it is a best practice?  How do you kill it when it ceases to be one?
Excellent questions.  Are they in the eye of the beholder?  By what authority do they become  anointed?  Who suggests them and who promulgates them and how? With what follow up?  How do they get "killed" or erased and how is their effectiveness tracked?

We believe that the job starts with Elliott as the President of NCMA.  NCMA is made up of both industry and government professionals and is composed of chapters across the nation and around the world. Elliott should collect best practice suggestions on a topic of his choosing from NCMA chapters and members.  He should then select a blue ribbon small panel to review and edit them, and send them to Lesley Field and Joanie Newhart at the Office of Procurement Policy (OFPP).  OFPP should then do its vetting and issue them as a guide or in memos (such as myth busters) to senior acquisition executives who should in turn disseminate them to the field and follow up to make sure they are put into practice.

This is not rocket science.  The model is there.  OFPP's myth buster memos provide the guide on how to do this.  And OFPP is now following up with a survey to see how the memos are working and what needs to be done to make them work better (or presumably, kill one or two).

Our experience is in dispute avoidance.  We've seen many bad practices emerge in the course of litigation.  So we suggest open debriefings to avoid protests and scrubbing solicitations carefully to avoid claims, for example.  Our experience is based on over forty years in the litigation trenches.  We know a best practice when we see one based on this experience.  Other senior procurement professionals have seen much more and have really good advice to pass on to the younger generation. Elliott needs to tap that experience.

One final thought for now.  If the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) says something, its the law.  For that matter, the lower tribunals (Court of Federal Claims and Boards of Contract Appeals) also tell us the law provided they are not reversed by the CAFC.  It's the law.  If they say the government is supposed to cooperate with, communicate with and enable a contractor to perform, that is a best practice.  One starting point is taking language from the pens of the judges.

In a sense, Elliot's questions are rhetorical.  He is doing what he does so well, stimulating our thought.  A best practice is what our best, most experienced practitioners say it is.  They know it because they've seen it first hand.  They decide. And they pass their wisdom on to the less experienced.  And since they are practitioners, they know when to kill something that is not working.

NCMA needs to collaborate with OFPP.  The myth buster memos are the model to be followed.  Let's work together on this.  We know OFPP applauds this effort.  If you doubt that, just call or write Lesley or Joanie.


1 comment:

  1. I just noticed Frank Kendall has said: "I'm working with the service acquisition executives on ways to creatively transfer some of that expertise [referring to retiring professionals] to the new generation and give people the kind of experience they need so they can grow in their jobs." What better way than through passing on "best practices"?