By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

Who will take the pledge?

hand in pledge position

I was speaking with a group of contracting professionals earlier this week when one of them, describing a successful effort to turn around a problem contract, mentioned that he set himself a series of goals for improvement to encourage himself to strive higher.

His discussion took me back a long time ago to my work as administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Part of my philosophy then was that if you wanted change and improvement, you could not be content to just talk about it. You had to get started actually doing something. Shortly after I became administrator, I worked with agency procurement executives to sign public pledges. There were two: for the signatory's agency to double use of the purchase card in a year, and to make past performance a significant source selection factor for some specific named procurements that were coming up.

Some thought the word "pledge" was hokey, but looking back on it, the idea of getting started by acting, not studying, was just what was needed to jumpstart the procurement reform efforts of the Clinton administration.

Fast forward to now. I have been gingerly promoting, from my outsider perch in academia, an idea for a new version of "taking the pledge," more individually oriented. The idea is that each contracting professional in the office chooses a contract through which he or she will be buying something over the next year that is the same or similar to something bought in the past. They make themselves a personal pledge – like the goals regarding the contract this contracting professional at the meeting spoke about – to find at least one way to improve the process and (hopefully) the results of the buy the next time it is done. Each employee would make his or her own pledge, and maybe write it down. (Writing down a goal has been proven to improve the chances it will be achieved.)

In the sequestration environment, it is easy for people to see themselves as passive victims, unable to influence their fates. Taking the pledge would not just be good for procurement results in government, it would also be good for the psyches of federal employees.

What do you think? Are there some buying offices – or even entire agencies? – that want to try this?

Posted on Jun 21, 2013 at 9:50 AM


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