Buy Lines: 'Most effective organizations' deliver solutions

Bob Dickson

In recent testimony on Capitol Hill, Comptroller General David Walker stressed that, for agencies to compete successfully in public-private competitions, they "should consider how competitive sourcing relates to human capital, improved financial performance, expanded reliance on electronic government and budget and performance integration."

One key to success is for agencies to develop a most effective organization -- or MEO -- as set forth in Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76.

An agency must submit an MEO plan in its proposal when it competes with industry for government work under an A-76 public-private competition. An MEO essentially represents the agency's most efficient and cost-effective organization. An agency's operating costs under an MEO often are significantly less than its current costs.

Agencies have the option of preparing an MEO for smaller scale, streamlined competitions, but are required to have one for standard competitions involving more than 65 people.

The MEO proposal includes a certified agency cost estimate, a quality control plan, a phase-in plan and copies of existing, awarded MEO subcontracts. The proposal also includes an organizational chart; descriptions for projected positions; a description of the organization that will execute the quality control plan, necessary supplies, facilities, material etc.

The MEO may be comprised of only government personnel or a mix of government personnel and contractors. Such contractors may be existing or new, as long as they do not require the outsourcing or conversion of work performed by government employees.

The new A-76 approach is simultaneously structured and flexible. It requires an emphasis on quality assurance and performance management, while providing agencies latitude in developing solutions. Clearly, the circular envisions a comprehensive approach to accountability and measurement of results. Agency officials will be held accountable for their A-76 actions through performance standards used on their annual performance evaluations.

Within this new context, agency leaders are challenged to insure that for every aspect of the process, professionals are in place to manage it. Leaders must provide talented managers to serve as proposal officials, human resource advisors, source-selection officials, performance work statement team members and, of course, contract staff. Given this level of agency commitment, management support, funding, facilities and other key elements of successful programs also are required.

The A-76 process and the development of MEOs will continue to be under great scrutiny. To avoid conflicts of interest or perceptions of conflicts, there are firewalls among key functional areas. For instance, personnel whose jobs may be affected or those with knowledge of the proposal are not permitted to serve on or advise the Source Selection Advisory Board. Also members of the team developing the performance work statement are similarly precluded from participating in the process of developing the solution.

Simple in concept, an MEO is a goal most of us would agree to, whether in a public or private setting. Yet achieving or even approaching that goal in a federal context involves a lot of hard work. More often than not, this goal involves change management, cultural issues and getting more people involved in the process.

So what can agencies do to effectively develop MEOs? They can start by focusing on the results needed for their mission. Just as their industry counterparts need to demonstrate how their solutions solve a problem, agencies must develop proposals that are outcome oriented. One could argue that no one can do this better than government staff.

If they are to compete successfully in this new environment, agencies must propose meaningful performance measures that are linked to agency mission success.

Bob Dickson is vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc., Chantilly, Va. His e-mail address is bdickson@acqsolinc.com.

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