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Strategies for Surviving & Thriving as a Federal Acquisition Leader in the Age of COVID

April 30, 2020


Acquisitions is hard work but it is critically important to your organization’s mission, and that value proposition is never appreciated more than during significant disruptions to the global supply chain, like during a widespread pandemic. It’s times like these that truly show the importance and impact of acquisitions – we are the central function for getting people and products to the right place, for the right price, at the right quality at the right time. These are the instances where our leadership, intelligence and commitment really shines. This is where all the training and time spent aligning strategy to tactics, and understanding the intimate workings of the operations and the capabilities and characteristics of markets really pays off.

At WBD, we are acquisitions zealots. We believe in the impact, importance and excitement of the discipline and if you’re an acquisitions person, we’re committed to your success. In the interest of helping you shape and drive your acquisitions through this latest catastrophic blow to the supply chain,  here are a few strategies and tips to consider:

  • Get Everyone Together and Keep Them Together [Virtually at Least]. There are few things that are certain in life, one of those things is the predictable groan you’ll receive when you recommend doing a daily stand up. However, there are very few opportunities that work better to ensure people are bought into your vision and that everyone maintains a consistent understanding of the environment.
  • Use the Right Tools, But Nothing More. You have information flying at you from all directions at all times. You need to collect and analyze data then facilitate decision-making in a highly agile manner. If it takes too much time to update trackers or if your burn down chart is hard to understand, it will waste time, result in more confusion, and slow down the reactions to emerging challenges. Make sure anything you introduce into the environment helps your mission and doesn’t cause more problems than they solve.
  • Keep the End in Mind. Be clear and consistent about what you’re buying, when you need it, and what is a good price. There will be a lot of decisions, and it will be difficult to pin people down and even harder to maintain a consistent scope. Always keep in mind what you’re ultimately trying to achieve and who you’re serving. And don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good!
  • Stay Connected and Committed to Your Customer. If you’ve done your job to help maintain a modernized portfolio that’s aligned (and can flex and adapt based on environmental changes), you’ll be in good shape to react to changes in strategy, services, business models, and customer needs. Even if you haven’t, if you can proactively identify requirements based on stakeholder intimacy, you can work out contingencies when unexpected needs arise. In these uncertain times, you can outsource just about all operational tasks across the contract lifecycle, what you can’t delegate is your understanding of the mission and your customer’s needs. Lean on your team to creatively design solutions that leverage the capabilities and capacity of the market, don’t sacrifice your relationships and knowledge of the organization, it’s your most valuable asset.
  • Enable the Decision Makers. It’s hard to be the buck stopper – they have just as many challenging and contentious stakeholders as we do, and often their constituency has a nicer uniform! Whoever is ultimately making the final call, help them however you can. Know how they like to make decisions (e.g. data vs. intuition, with the team or alone) and what they care about. Complement their abilities by watching out for their blind spots and effectively cascading information to effected stakeholders. And, have the courage, organizational standing and data to effectively tell them when decisions are too slow, unclear or incorrect (in the right forum and tone, of course).
  • Document as Much as You Can. When this is all over, there will always be questions about key decisions – make sure you’re ready for them. Taking contemporaneous notes (or have someone else do it) also drives consensus among sometimes contentious stakeholders. And hey, it will also give you the data to take credit for all your good impact during your next performance assessment!

When an organization’s capability to flex and scale gets severely tested, all eyes shift to acquisitions. We are the critical path for getting people what they need to fulfill their missions. But that means you and your team have to step up. Your stakeholders are depending on you. They need your leadership and your creativity – and they need your special ability to bring to bear the strength of the market to your organization’s most critical, time sensitive, high visibility challenges. You got this.

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