When You Know the Least

Stephen Dash, VP Strategic Planning, LS Technologies

October 8, 2013

It will not surprise those who have been involved in managing major programs that the most difficult problems—and very often the most damaging mistakes—are challenges that present themselves at the beginning. It is early in a program lifecycle that management, stakeholders, and suppliers come to an initial understanding of a requirement and very importantly begin to set expectations. Whether the program is a relatively modest initiative or a large-scale undertaking where the variables of uncertainty multiply, most programs either succeed or underperform based on the early work in framing expectations and strategies.

This presentation will not explore the traditional application of requirements and risk management, operational research, baseline management, and other such practices that virtually all programs apply with mixed results. Rather, the discussion will focus on a different set of general problems with some bias to the challenges associated with large efforts that challenge entrenched stakeholder positions. It will posit that, though key stakeholder engagement is critical, the community will not “buy-in” based on understanding alone. Upon what do they base their decisions? What is needed to ensure a strong foundation of support? Indeed, who are the players who should make up the support? This question will lead the discussion to supplier interaction. When should the procurement cycle begin with suppliers, what can be learned from early industry/government transactions, and what does the government buyer “owe” the supplier community during this cycle? Importantly, how can industry “trust” that the government buyer is serious about innovation? How do these questions relate to enhancing program outcomes?

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