How Leaders Can Bridge the Gap Between Where They Are Now and Where They Want to Be

LeadershipHabit1_SocialNetworkAll leaders and managers are motivated to improve their skillset for many reasons; however, they are generally motivated by the opportunity to accomplish challenging goals and objects (Achievement), influence and control others (Power), and being able to work with others (Affiliation). 

Successful leaders and managers are never satisfied with the status quo, especially when it comes to their own skills and abilities. As a result, they take personal responsibility and strive to continually improve their technical, leadership, and business skills.  Research has shown that those who critically assess their current skills and set goals to acquire new ones acquire them faster and implement the skills more efficiently and effectively.

What is the secret to more effectively closing the skill gap? Identifying what skill needs to change, determining why the change is needed, and using a simple – but effective – thought-behavior model to help facilitate the skill acquisition. It is a continuous cycle of setting goals, modifying behavior to accomplish those goals, and measuring the results.

Goals are about change, and more often about behavior change. Change is simply moving from one state (the “As-Is” condition) to a desired state (the “To-Be” condition.) To help with the change, there are several things you can do.

  • Critically asses your current skills – This may be obvious or it may require a great deal of introspection. You can’t fix what you can’t see.
  • Determine your desired skill – Clearly being able to identify this will make it easier to set a goal and take action
  • Assess the gap – Determining the gap between where you are and where you want to be will help you understand how much difficulty, time, or work there might be in closing that gap. 
  • Identify the reason for the change – What is your primary reason or motive for making the change? Is it for a promotion, personal or professional satisfaction, or job security? This is likely to take a great deal of reflection.
  • Commitment to make the change – Does making the change really matter to you? It depends on the reason for the change and the consequences of changing or not changing. The more the need for change is internally driven, the more likely you are to follow through with your goal.
  • Set a change goal – Be specific as to what you want to change. Determine how you will know if the goal is achieved. Set a goal that is attainable, but also challenging – any goal that is too hard or too easy you’re less likely to pursue. Set a timeline for accomplishment to help provide some degree of urgency.
  • Set realistic plan of action – This plan should consider not only specific steps to accomplish the goal, but also the following:
    • Barriers to closing the gap – These barriers may be internal (your own personal short comings) or external (something out of your control that could impact your success)
    • Sources of help to overcome barriers – Actively identify and seek assistance and advice from available resources to help you succeed.

Leaders and managers desire to be successful in whatever they do, and understand that they have gaps with respect to their knowledge, skills, and abilities.  Setting logical goals to close those gaps may be challenging, may be externally driven and forced upon you, and or may be self-initiated. Regardless of the reason, your motives for closing the gap will make you the think about your professional and personal interests, which will result in you taking action to accomplish your goal.

Taking a rational approach to setting goals to close the skill gap does not guarantee success, but not doing it will almost always guarantee failure.

Adapted from Lowell Dye’s presentation and paper “Goal Setting and Achievement Thinking” at the PMI Global Congress – North America, 2010.

Keep Up the Work with Federal Telework

This month’s GSA Inspector General Report on telework does hit GSA on a previously well-served program.  But, while GSA may not be able to report on exactly how many teleworkers it has, we should not discount what is still a viable and helpful program.  Keep in mind, the Telework Enhancement Act was only enacted in 2010, so this is still a new program.  We as a Federal workforce should view this as a learning experience, make necessary changes, and move forward.  Telework is still a beneficial program for agencies and their employees.

Read more about telework and the role of HR with our previous blog post, “Not Just Phoning It In: HR’s Role in Supporting Agency Telework” here.

Federal Grants Update 2015 – Implementing the Uniform Guidance

CapitolSince the Uniform Guidance went into effect in December, several people have asked me how things are going with implementation.  My answer is always, “it depends.”

To someone outside of the grants community, the flurry of releases surrounding the Uniform Guidance going into effect may make it seem like everything is good to go.  After all, we’ve known that this change was coming for a long time.

If only things were that easy.

I joined Management Concepts just in time to participate in a session of our Federal Grants Update 2014 course.  Following the class I was first struck by how much I learned and reviewed in terms of the “what” in the Uniform Guidance.  Then our conversation turned to the challenges associated with the “how’s” of implementation. 

With this in mind, Management Concepts team of grants experts has shifted the focus of Federal Grants Update 2015 to help members of the grants community tackle these implementation challenges.  Participants in the course will complete exercises to identify the steps needed for compliance, such as reviewing solicitations and updating policies. 

We recognize that the impact of Uniform Guidance does indeed depend on the size and complexity of an organization’s financial assistance portfolio.  The information presented in Federal Grants Update 2015 will help these changes be more manageable.

In addition, we continue to keep our grants curriculum up-to-date with the Uniform Guidance and other grant reforms, including adding a course dedicated to developing and monitoring Indirect Cost Rates Under 2 CFR 200

Keep an eye out for additional blogs in the coming weeks. We will be highlighting some of the topics highlighted in our previous blogs, Top Ten Important Items to Know about the Uniform Guidance and Supercircular New Year’s Resolutions!

Career Resolutions for You and Your Staff

2015Each January, we all make resolutions with varying degrees of sincerity and dedication. As we get further and further from New Year celebrations, life has a way of creeping in. Achieving lifestyle changes is not solely about exercise or dieting; it should also be about improving your professional competence and positioning yourself and/or your staff for future success. This year, why not try a different resolution?

Are you an individual trying to manage your career?

Resolve to focus on your career. 

  • Ask for the stretch assignment.
  • Explore mentorship opportunities.
  • Challenge yourself to hone current skills or learn new ones.
  • Go for that promotion.
  • Ask for training and professional development. 
  • Be ambitious!

Get out of whatever rut you may find yourself and commit to creating and fostering a personal path to career success and an environment of learning and advancement.

Perhaps you are more seasoned, and at a more advanced place in your career development. Why not investigate a certificate program; successful completion can demonstrate your knowledge and dedication.  Another possibility is getting a leadership coach or mentor.  If you’re lucky, your organization may have a formal mentorship program, but you can do it informally too.  Ask for over-the-shoulder coaching, stretch assignments, or simply discussing your career aspirations with a trusted co-workers can also make a huge difference.

Are you a supervisor? 

Maybe your resolution is to bolster the skillset of your direct reports.  I’m sure someone took an interest in your development—pay it forward.

As the President’s FY15 Budget noted, steps are in place to “restore cuts to Federal employee training to help train, retain, and recruit a skilled and effective Federal workforce, targeting investments in employee training to common, but high-impact areas such as customer service or information technology.” This statement announces a hopeful and positive change, a return to the time-proven practice of investing in people.  Feds are again able to focus on seeking the learning and development that keeps them – and their staffs – efficient, productive, up-to-date, and effective.

Ensuring that personnel get career development will enhance productivity and morale.  Smart investments in quality learning solutions will help deter the loss of high-performing Federal employees to the private sector. Identify the stepping stones that will take you – and your staff – to the next level. Recognize and reward your dedicated employees and groom them for future success in positions of greater responsibility.

Don’t wait for your staff to ask for training. Identify the development opportunities that will lead them to successful performance. As a professional development and performance improvement company, clearly we value formal training. It is important to remember, however, that remaining professionally competitive doesn’t necessarily entail only classroom training. Career development is a broad mix of mentorship, coaching, challenging work assignments, support, industry association, and professional certifications that together enhance the skillsets of Federal employees.

Abraham Lincoln once said “I will prepare and someday my chance will come.” Don’t leave your career or the development of your staff to chance.  Positive developments result from intentional steps toward a goal.  

I love to hear stories about a team finishing a challenging project or a student getting promoted.  We succeed when you succeed because we are dedicated to unleashing the potential of people, teams, and organizations.  Now, what is your resolution?

Tom Dungan, CEO

Strategic sourcing — Where Are We Today?

1367955070751It was two years ago that strategic sourcing became a “thing” again in Federal acquisition. In a watershed moment for Federal strategic sourcing, GAO’s report from October 2012 said that across the board, Federal agencies were only leveraging a fraction of their buying power—leaving as much as $50 billion per year in potential cost savings on the table. The biggest spenders in government—DoD, DHS, Energy, VA—were only managing about five percent of their portfolio through strategic sourcing efforts. Following that report, in December 2012, OMB established “a broad strategic sourcing initiative to ensure that all agencies manage their acquisitions effectively and that, wherever possible, agencies join together to negotiate the best deal for the taxpayer.”

That memo required agencies to designate senior-level strategic sourcing accountable officials, and established an interagency Strategic Sourcing Leadership Council that would expand on existing opportunities to achieve cost savings and “lead the government’s efforts to increase the use of governmentwide management and sourcing of goods and services.” The memo also tasked GSA with establishing new governmentwide strategic sourcing initiatives, out of which grew the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative, the governmentwide effort to bring agencies together to “develop innovative sourcing strategies for a set of commonly acquired goods and services.”

It should be noted that current efforts are being assumed largely under a supply view, not a demand view. To wit, prices can be driven down through strategically sourcing services, supplies, etc. These savings pale in comparison, however, to the savings that can be achieved when demand is more accurately assessed. For example, an agency can achieve savings through strategically sourcing, say, smart phones for its workforce. But those savings pale in comparison if the agency properly assessed its actual need for those smart phones and found that only about half its work force needed them. The remaining phones can then be bought under strategic sourcing principles.

Getting started has been slow-going for Federal agencies, as is to be expected with any large-scale cultural shift in government. And prioritizing strategic sourcing as a buying approach is just that: a “cultural change,” complete with all the baggage that comes with it. There has been progress, setbacks, success stories, protests, cost savings, and concerns. As the Federal acquisition framework aims to institutionalize strategic sourcing principles and practices, it will do so in fits and bursts, large bumps and small victories.

GAO reported to Congress in the summer of 2013 that DoD had begun ramping up additional resources to support new strategic sourcing efforts, and that the VA was moving toward measuring the dollars it was spending on contracts that were strategically sourced, as well as looking for new initiatives. Indeed, many agencies have already moved to set up centralized strategic sourcing launch pads to inform and assist sub-agencies, programs, and individuals. DoD, government’s biggest spender for example, has set up its own page to coordinate components, “foster a culture of strategic decision-making,” increase enterprise-wide awareness, as well as train organizations and individuals how to effectively execute strategic sourcing initiatives. For its part, GSA already has in place robust strategic sourcing mechanisms for such categories as delivery services, maintenance, office supplies, and information services.

But the gains are not without their detractors. Congress took notice last summer of the growing number of bid protests from small businesses against the Federal strategic sourcing initiative and have ordered GAO to report on strategic sourcing’s effect on small business. The concern is that consolidating larger contracts with a number of prime contract holders—many of which are small business—into a few blanket purchase agreements can make it hard for small businesses to compete. While moves like these can save government contracting dollars, critics argue, they don’t always result in the best result for the economy—which relies on jobs and small business involvement. Agencies need to address this by working with stakeholders early on to ensure small business participation.

Then there’s the issue of quality: A recent column by Roger Waldron in Federal Times questions the effect of one of the FSSI’s newest tools—the Prices Paid Portal—which aims to collect and distribute transactional data across government. The result, he fears, is resulting in a new “Low Price Regardless” model. The problem with this, he points out, is that price is just one data point. “Price alone is incomplete data. In order to effectively understand pricing, one must have access to and understand the underlying terms and conditions, contract commitments, market and economic forces that drive pricing,” he writes.  The long-term consequences of this approach are dwindling innovation and commercial presence in the Federal market, less opportunity for small business, and an overall reduction in best value products and services for Federal agencies. He also says that adopting this particular FSSI process may even run counter to the FAR, but no more spoilers here: seriously, if you haven’t already, go read his column.

Finally, and perhaps most fundamentally, is the aforementioned culture change needed for Federal organizations—and their managers—to successfully embrace and adopt strategic sourcing. In many sectors, there is simply a lack of stakeholder buy-in. It’s not the process holding up wider adoption of strategically sourcing commonly-acquired goods and services. It’s a cultural resistance to the fundamental idea. Those with the money simply don’t want to cede control of what they’re buying. The planning process needs to be flushed out with everyone involved; stakeholder buy-in must be sought and delivered before the first line-item is defined. There must be an established trust that the system will deliver what’s promised. If this is starting to sound like a strategic sourcing teambuilding retreat, you can imagine what the first activity will be.