Move From Defense to Offense
Move From Defense to Offense
When I look back on my 26 years of public service as a procurement professional, I realize that I was always defending professional public procurement and wondering why government officials “just didn’t get it.”
It was a common joke among my colleagues that we had to train the new administration, new department directors, new appointed officials, etc., all over again every four years or so. When we finally got them to understand government procurement, they left! In light of the current attempts to privatize public procurement, things don’t seem to have changed much. Why?
In competitive sports, the defending team seldom makes points; and if they do, it’s because the other team made a mistake. It takes a good offense to score and win. I think the same principle applies to public procurement.
That may seem like an oversimplified analogy, but let’s apply it to the realities of government procurement today.
• Defense must adapt itself to react to the other team’s strategy and game plan. The best it can do is stop the other team from making a goal. Is your government procurement reactive only and often perceived as an obstacle to achieving the administration’s goals? Are you considered an essential member of your entity’s team, or the opponent? Do you only get recognized when the offense has made a big mess of things and you get the “Silver Shovel Award” for cleaning it up?
• Offense is proactive and develops strategies to score points and win the game. Is procurement a proactive strategic management tool in your entity, or an afterthought? Do you help develop the playbook, or are you just allowed on the field to make some of the plays in the game? Put another way, are you involved in all of your entity’s procurement, or just warming the bench on the big projects?
• The coach and staff must assess their team’s (and the opponent’s) strengths and weaknesses to determine how to win the game. Is procurement part of your entity’s coaching staff for every game? Is your professional knowledge of the marketplace, negotiation strategies, and total contract management part of the game plan?
My point is that defending professional public procurement isn’t enough to win. We must develop an effective offense to be recognized and effectively utilized in government. Public procurement professionals must become proactive “advocates” who won’t settle for anything less than being an essential and valued partner on a winning team. We must dedicate ourselves to that professional goal. It is time to promote our value, instead of merely defend our existence. Are you ready to win?
Editor’s Note: Beau Grant, CPPO, is a Master Instructor for the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP) and President of Beau-Geste Enterprises. Readers can reach Grant by e-mail at: Grantbge@aol.com.