Infuse a little holiday spirit into the contracting dispute
In debating procurement reform, don’t lose sight of the service goal
- By Bill Scheessele
- Dec 09, 2009
The Obama administration’s pledge to overhaul the government's procurement of much-needed services and products has caused considerable controversy in the government contracting community. New policy adjustments, pending insourcing targets, guidelines for handling award protests, strict compliance directives to small-business rules, and increased scrutiny and audits all are having an effect on the industry.
On one side, there are logical arguments being made in favor of trimming the federal budget, adjusting protest procedures, exercising stricter oversight, and leveling the playing field in small business contracting.
On the other side, there are reasonable assertions against altering the status quo, making short-sighted decisions, implementing burdensome oversight, conducting loose budget analyses, and possibly delivering substandard services through arbitrary requirements to reduce pricing beyond market rates.
There doesn’t seem to be a resolution to the debate unless you recall a lesson from the 1947 film "Miracle on 34th Street."
The film is a parable, and the lesson concerns purpose. From our experience, your ultimate purpose in business development is to help customers meet their needs and find solutions that solve their problems. In the movie, Kris Kringle even took his purpose to a higher level by suggesting solutions not provided by his own organization. Is this just a Pollyanna example of fictional fantasy? On the contrary, it’s good business.
This is an example of a position that engenders trust and solidifies a partnership relationship. If a client needs a solution to a problem that your company doesn’t offer or if you discover that an opportunity being pursued is a force fit and not a good match for your firm’s capabilities, doesn’t it make more sense to suggest an alternative partner if you know one that can help your customer?
So what do Kris Kringle, "Miracle on 34th Street," and your purpose in business development have to do with the current debate? It’s all about purpose with a capital "P" — a collective purpose.
As contractors, our purpose is to help our government customers meet their challenges, solve their problems and aid them in their jobs of administering government — that is, protecting, serving and defending our country. We the people are government’s ultimate customer. If we keep that higher purpose in mind, being self-serving takes on a whole new meaning in this context.
Let’s not forget that our elected officials are often called public servants. That description makes their purpose for existence equally meaningful as administrators and contractors. Public servants answer the call to serve the country and its people in the best way possible. That calling includes negating hasty reactions to politically oriented outcries for change and replacing them with thoughtful decisions to fulfill a higher purpose: make change work in the public’s best interest.
When you consider purpose in this context, the debate might uncover politically expedient missteps on one hand and fierce opposition to any change to the status quo on the other. But if you find the collective purpose for public servants, government administrators and private contractors in this industry, thoughtful debate can lead to breakthroughs and compromise, which could lead to decisions that are in everyone’s best interest.
There is no better time of year to recall this lesson from "Miracle on 34th Street." Let’s reflect on our individual and collective purpose in whatever our position might be in government contracting. We might find that we are not really at odds with one another. Rather, our shared purpose is what joins us and, in the long run, benefits us all.
Bill Scheessele (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chairman and chief executive officer at MBDi, a business development professional services firm.