Twenty-five years ago, there was a very popular book, “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.”
Now I don’t remember much about my kindergarten class, other than the big shoe we would pass around to practice tying laces. But my oldest son started kindergarten this year, and he’s coming home with a backpack full of new stuff.
James is learning to read, and his teacher introduces the kids to new sight words. The first week, the word was "I." The second week, it was "Like." The list is growing each week, and it’s exciting to see him learn to read.
Other early lessons are the different jobs each child has each day, and how, before they move to the next activity, they have to clean up from the previous one. It’s about keeping order, but also about respect for the classroom and your fellow students.
Good lessons to take you through life.
But these are the things I expected from kindergarten. What I didn't expect are the great management and culture lessons coming from Mrs. McDermott, James’ principal.
Her weekly newsletter and other emails to parents so often echo the management lessons I hear from executives I talk to in the government market.
James’s school, Pinecrest, is a small private school in Northern Virginia, and one of Mrs. McDermott’s themes is the idea of the school as a community of students, parents, teachers, administrators and neighbors.
She revisits this theme to varying degrees in nearly all her correspondence and communications with us. She's also unfailingly enthusiastic, signing off on her notes with Onward!
What I like about her style is that it makes me feel like I’m more than just a customer paying her to educate my child; I’m part of this larger whole, a part of a community.
She backs this up through actions, from knowing parents’ and children’s names, to soliciting and giving feedback, to creating opportunities for parents and students to get more involved.
I’m sure this is a goal of every school, but I know from firsthand experience that many fall short.
The other thing that I’ve been impressed by is that the outreach and community building only starts with Mrs. McDermott; you can feel it from every teacher and staffer you interact with.
The leader of any organization, whether a small elementary school or a multi-billion dollar government contractor, needs to understand that lesson – what you value, what you reward, what you emphasize, flow through the entire organization. The leader sets the example.
I’ve heard lots of executives talk about that as being critical to the kind of company culture they are building, and how their success is predicated on employees and customers understanding the company's goals and mission.
And I see that same message every day when I drop my son off for kindergarten.
Posted on Nov 22, 2013 at 1:18 PM0 comments
Today’s market conditions seem to leave companies with two strategic choices: hunker down, or be bold and transform yourself.
I can’t think of a single company that has ever told me that they were hunkering down and going into survival mode.
But actions speak louder than words; the companies that hunker down stop making acquisitions, they focus on cost cutting, and they avoid almost any kind of risk. They languish and generally shrink.
Smart companies, however, look at these troubled times as an opportunity to transform themselves as well as their customers.
That was pretty much the gist of a panel discussion at Deltek’s FedFocus video webinar on Wednesday. The software and market research company pulled in a few of the brighter minds in the market to talk about current conditions and strategies for success.
Offering their insights were Mike Fox, managing director and federal sales lead for Accenture, Alan Balutis, senior director and distinguished fellow for Cisco Consulting Services, and Dan Chenok, executive director, Center for the Business of Government.
Deltek’s vice president of federal information solutions, Kevin Plexico, also gave an overview of budget and technology trends.
This link will get you to an archive of the webinar.
One message that was clear is that, far from running from the current market conditions, smart companies and smart customers really need to embrace this time as an opportunity for transformation. Not changing how you do business is not an option.
“You have to realize that what made you successful previously isn’t what is going to make you successful going forward,” Balutis said.
Transformation of how companies and governments operate really only happens when there are inescapable financial pressures, Chenok said.
Signs of transformation are appearing across the government, particularly with agencies embracing shared services such as financial management, he said.
Companies need to understand what is happening with their customers and what skills they need to drive to deliver new capabilities, Chenok said.
Technologies such as cloud computing, data analytics and mobile might be all the rage, but “you need to link them to performance and show that it isn’t just about technology, but how technology delivers results,” he said.
In a way, there is a perfect storm going on, Fox said. “There are lot of negatives in the market, but the technologies are here at just the right time to bring solutions and new ways for the government to deliver services,” he said.
Now is the time for companies to invest in cloud computing, mobile and big data and not cut back, he said.
“The first reaction in hard times is to cut, cut, cut, but now is really a time to invest,” Fox said.
The key, though, is customer intimacy and understanding what the customer needs, and then bringing solutions that address those needs. That’s the only way to stand out in an era where lowest cost is a priority for many agencies.
Some strategies they described:
- Working with customers to either expand work under current contracts or extend current contracts.
- Paying attention to alternative contracting methods such as agency initiatives that get posted on challenge.gov.
- Tracking initiatives such as franchise funds that remove some agency opportunities from traditional budget cycles.
“Budget cuts force agencies to look for new and different ways to deliver their mission,” Balutis said. “I hope this time will be an opportunity to move from old ways to new ways.”
Fox emphasized the need for companies to differentiate themselves from competitors. The last thing anyone wants to be seen as is being a “vanilla contractor.”
“You have to avoid being a commodity,” he said. “How are you different in how you serve your customers and what you deliver?”
Answering that question can be through a technology, an expertise or some new way of delivering on the mission, Fox said.
The bottom line for success in today's market is moving forward, not clinging to the past.
Posted on Nov 21, 2013 at 1:13 PM0 comments
That’s not a typo. The Navy really did add another 914 companies to the Seaport-e contract.
By my calculation, that brings the total to 2,535 providing services across 22 functional areas.
I have to admit: I know next to nothing about Seaport-e, other than that it seems every company in the market holds the contract.
According to Deltek’s market research data, an amazing $44.2 billion in task orders have gone through the contract since it was first awarded in 2000.
Like the General Services Administration schedules program, Seaport-e has a rolling admissions process, so it seems that every year, another batch of companies are added. The contracts have a five-year base and two five-year options. It has become a must-have kind of vehicle if you want to do business with the Navy.
Again, looking at Deltek’s data, the top contractor is John Hopkins University, with 6,897 task orders worth $4.4 billion. That’s just over 10 percent. Eleven companies have pulled in more than $1 billion in task orders. No. 2 is SAIC with $3.1 billion in task orders, or 7.1 percent.
Interestingly, once you get past the first 18 companies, no contractor has more than 1 percent of the total business, but with such a high volume of work, a less than 1 percent share can still equal hundreds of millions of dollars in task orders. With 0.92 percent of the task orders, Wyle still captured $405 million in work.
But at the bottom of the list, there are scores of companies with task orders in the single digits. I stopped counting at 200.
As I said, I know very little about the contract, but the volume of work, the number of companies and the relatively quiet nature of the contract make me think it must be a success.
I occasionally hear of bid protests of individual task orders, but that’s about it.
So, I wonder, is Seaport-e a success story? Let me know what you think.
As for the winners in this latest round, here’s the link to the defense site listing them: http://www.defense.gov/contracts/contract.aspx?contractid=5168
Posted on Nov 20, 2013 at 9:11 AM0 comments