The Kansas City District Contracting Division hosted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fall Training sessions October 22 - 24 at the Richard Bolling Federal Building in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Members of the Mission and Installation Contracting Command from Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the Construction Division and the Planning, Programs and Project Management Division also participated.

The morning session featured a stimulating ice breaker designed to get people thinking "outside of the box", led by Mike Dixon and Gwendi Miller, chief of the Contracting Division. Groups sorted a collection of 20 small items and decided together how to categorize them into four groups. The differences in choices provided the desired broken ice and set the stage for discussions where limits were not limits but rather challenges for the group to overcome.

Steve Schooner and Dave Drabkin, former senior Acquisition civilians, led the Section 809 Panel discussion as a follow up to their panel discussion at the National Contract Management Association World Congress regarding finding solutions to acquisition challenges and making the Federal Acquisition Regulation - FAR - sing. They met their goal to help the workforce get out of the "this is the way we have always done it" mentality, reinvigorate critical thinking in the acquisition cycle and encourage appropriate risk informed decisions so that we become the business advisors our partners want to rely on rather than have to rely on.

"This session really reinforced the potential innovation the FAR allows. They also showed the importance of thinking through the procurement, and not just copying what we did the last time. I think they opened a lot of eyes to the freedom we have when we think and do our homework as contracting professionals," said Adam Hall, deputy chief of the Contracting Division.
Miller introduced Stuart Hazlett, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Procurement), who led a spirited session on how contracting professionals can help our Army win our nation's wars. Hazlett prominently featured readiness, modernization and reform as the key areas to concentrate on.

Hazlett was appointed as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Procurement) known as the DASA (P), on 2 October 2017. Hazlett provides executive leadership and supervision of all aspects of the Department of the Army's procurement mission, including: development and dissemination of policies and procedures, management of operations, programs and business systems, and oversight over the organization and its resources.

On readiness, he asked the group if they were ready to provide contracting support wherever and whenever the Army needed it. By modernization he mentioned his enthusiastic support for bots to do transactional work and software improvements to simplify the processes and allow more human time for problem solving. On reform, Hazlett stressed connecting to the people who actually do the work - the field - and delivering initiative to those people.

The training included several breakout sessions that gave the work force an opportunity to question why some confusing requirements existed or to discover that they really did not exist at all. Some unneeded created habits could be discarded with greater efficiency the result.

Dr. Judy Favor led a full day on team building - all about discovering what we can do as a team to be even better and be known as a destination culture, a place where people want to work. This day gave the team an opportunity to analyze our team / organization and to develop a strategy for being even more effective. She made critical thinking the central feature of the training. For more on her team building techniques, visit https://www.inthezonetraining.org

On day three, the team explored "Why has this training been valuable?" with Regional Chief of Contracting George Brown. He helped the group identify the key takeaways and how the Northwestern Division and USACE would benefit from the growth experiences. He concentrated on how the group would use what they had learned to revolutionize the way the division executes contracts.

Branch breakout sessions incorporated the ideas and best lessons from the session and the larger group gathered to reflect on what changes to implement, how to do that and what commitment each individual is making to the team and as a team. Each group presented their reflections.

The group enjoyed the different approach to the training.

"The training was enlightening, entertaining and a step in the right direction," said Sgt. 1st Class Tamika Williams, contract specialist for the Military Contracts Branch.

Leadership observed, participated, questioned and discussed throughout the training.

"This training helped us gather our forces, focus on innovation and on positive change," said Gwendi Miller.

For more on the Kansas City District Contracting Division, go to: https://www.nwk.usace.army.mil/Business-With-Us/Contracting/