By ACC public affairsOctober 9, 2013
Mentor - Greg Moore, Branch D chief, Reachback Division
Future of Contracting
It's a privilege to have a job, it's a privilege to work for the Department of Defense, and it's a privilege to work in contracting. However, along with the privilege comes responsibility and we don't talk about the responsibility piece enough. We must make sure we are committed and not just contributing. Each DoD civilian takes an oath and they need to realize it is not just pro forma. It's a serious oath and they need to understand the core values that the Army stands for.
The need to keep skills current
Stay aware of what is going on in the community. I also encourage people to read publications. If you are well-rounded and aware of what happens in the private sector, you can pretty much get that business acumen. Additionally, I cannot stress enough the importance of talking with peers and hearing their perspectives, as well as those coming out of industry. It really helps paint a more complete picture.
Training the future generation
There's a natural order of progression that enables folks to know how to do their jobs. We tell these new people to do this do that, and sometimes we as managers don't really understand that's backwards. You learn something then you know it, then you can do. You learn, you know, you do. Unfortunately, in these days we stick these young folks in these massive programs and tell them to do without the learning and the knowing. That's backwards and it leads to people making mistakes.
Recommendation for new contracting profesionals
They need to learn the craft, listen, observe, ask questions and understand that contracting is an awesome responsibility. They need to have a good foundation. Laying a good foundation will help them build a strong contracting house that will help them withstand protests, terminations and other difficulties that could bring down a weaker house.
What future leaders need to understand
The key thing that I have found is that people don't work for me, they work with me. You hear a lot of people say this person works for me. If they work for you, all you get is what is in their job description, but if they work with you, you get their ideas, their passion, their energy and all of these things that are outside of their job description. Additionally, if you treat people with respect and you are interested in them not only as a worker, but as a real person it will carry over to the way they do their job.
Protégé - Jake Adrian, Branch A chief, Reachback Division
Working with a mentor
You have to become an expert on whatever you are buying and how it fits within its surroundings. If you are buying shuttle bus services you better understand the routes they will drive, the peak ridership hours and why they are when they are, why some buses are full and others aren't, etc. You must think of things as a system or holistically, not just in terms of your individual program. If you understand the why it is much easier to explain to others what seems like a small change is really like a rock being thrown in a pond.
Classroom training is important and should be taken seriously. However, there is no substitute for on-the-job training. Learning from your peers and those around you will stay with you a lot longer than a textbook question. The other thing I've learned is that you have something to learn every day and all of those around you have the ability - whether they know or not - to teach you something.
On challenges to date
The toughest challenge has been the development of the reach back contracting concept. When we started six years ago there were eight of us. We took over six of the most controversial programs in Kuwait. We had to keep them moving as well as change them for the better without a hiccup. People said reach back would fail. I can't tell you how many times I would hear, there is no way you can run a program/contract like this from 7,000 miles away. So, we faced obstacles at every corner. Yet, through hard work, determination, and reliance upon each other for support, we not only proved it would work but we made believers out of non-believers.
Biggest lesson learned
The most important thing I've learned is to treat your people fairly. Fundamentally, most everyone wants to come to work, do a good job, and earn their paycheck. Not everyone can be the brightest star, but that doesn't mean that those individuals don't have something to contribute. You have to find what people are good at and give them the tools to succeed. With few exceptions, a contracting officer is only as good as his or her contract specialist, a branch chief is only as good as his or her contracting officers, etc. If you treat people fairly, you don't have to ask them to give the extra effort - they'll be right there asking for more.