I recall a conversation at DISA, several years ago, when they were in Arlington, VA. They are the IT department for active duty military and the White House. It was specifically brought to my attention there that DoD is the one that is supposed to be in charge of military-strength deception, not their software vendors, and not amongst each other– specifically, social engineering and the contrived, capricious, negative profiling that finds its way into personnel files, and the hands of those with the greatest interest in the success of the project– the enterprise software sales execs(1). It takes a tenured green-suiter to have the correct smirk on his face when rhetorically asking, “Is military intelligence an oxymoron?” as if to say, “It’s my responsibility to provide the peace here. Do you folks in the software industry really think we are so stupid as to not see this malicious mischief amongst competitors? I would get an Article 32 for a prank like that.”
Sounds like a situation where the feds should set up a “honey pot,” in a non-military critical area like IRS, with the market leader, the one that is “Setting the Standard“ for the federal contracting industry (they did). Bob Stevens, (then CEO, now Chairman) of Lockheed, could host a training video, instructing employees how to report suspected deceptions (he did); Lockheed has a 100-year history of engaging federal contracts, giving them probably the most extensive history of wrestling with such issues. As market leader, they are in the perfect position to “Do the Right Thing.” Lockheed has demonstrated the passion and commitment needed(2,3), and they are the 800-pound gorilla in the marketplace– they are in the perfect position to help make this happen.
IRS has perhaps the most paperless, data-intensive environment anywhere. They require employees and contractors to complete ethics training, and they are to report suspected deceptive issues (I did exactly that). (If there was ever an opportunity for an IT solution to add value, this is the place, and now is the time.)
After such training, by chance or by design, one should expect that there will be a test of the effectiveness of the training (there was). Those that took the training will usually do as they were instructed to do– quickly report the incident to management, an Ethics Officer, and in some cases to the customer (I did as they had trained me to do). You should proactively provide the required info without personal bias, in as positive a way as possible(4), because the attitude you express will come back to you (I did). Imagine that the incident will be on tomorrow’s front page (you are on a public contract, it might be) and imagine that all the calls you make, the click-stream you create, and the places you walk are being recorded and audited (they probably are, and the auditor is not going to see the innocent motive that you had).
Take the responsibility to “do the right thing.” Not just because it is moral, and helps the customer, but because it is pragmatic for you, as well (I did as they instructed in training, have been pleasantly persisting with them for over six years, and am still anticipating a solution from them. They are losing business at this account– it is not just about me, but them). You may need to make sure that the issue gets adjudicated, and that the results gets communicated to the right people (a blog post may help to get the word out; what other productive tactic or contact have I yet to use? I’ll try another snail-mail).
Pay close attention, and pace the positive intent of the organization. Have some humility, give the folks you work with the benefit of the doubt, and have a winning attitude. If you, personally have made any mistakes (and you have, however petty), own up to them quickly and emphatically. The customer is not expecting to find perfect people, only excellent ones. You are not expected to have all the answers (I don’t). Let folks know that you respect them as individuals, and want them to succeed.
Even the people at the White House are human beings, like you and me. If we expect people that are associated with our government (and that includes you and me) to be perfect, all our government offices would be empty. By working together, we can have a much better outcome for everyone involved.
I am human, yet surely, there are some things I can do to help bring this together. I am soliciting your suggestions. Like the “Your Problem (is not your problem)” post, I’ll imagine what others might do. I am sure that some dialog, respect and humility will be involved. I can control myself a lot easier than I can control others. Can’t we all just get along?
Do you think, for a moment, that our highest federal officials ever get criticized? You watch the six o’clock news, of course they do!! Sometimes, it seems to be a never ending, 24-hour-per-day barrage of criticism. As marketing guru Seth Godin says, “You will be judged (or you will be ignored).”Let’s engage this, and make something good out of it.
Notes and More Info:
- A strong software sales executive can be a huge ally for the federal customer with a large project they both want to succeed. Deceptive practices only exist because they provides a certain function. The same for straw man attacks– personal attacks like ridicule and contempt, or blaming someone’s corporation, faith, or orientation for their particular work behavior. To remove a negative tactic, another, better functioning tactic would need to be provided(5). There is a legitimate root cause here which can be better addressed by using some common-sense contracting terms, better After Action Reports, better program management, and taking 20 minutes to have a coffee with me– you need better Value Engineering, and I have done this before. The undesirable practice is not going to stop on its own. It is the tactic, not the person, that needs to be changed. If this is truly what DISA and other feds want, then they are creating a market for a better functioning solution. This is not like the freelance work that I have been doing the past few years. It would require a concerted effort, like a consortium(6). Given the highly competitive nature of this market, judicial and legal resources would be required, otherwise, it is collusion(6). Given the legal expense, the few current market leaders, and agencies like DCAA and TIGTA would be making this happen. The sales execs, the folks that architect these contracts, will be getting together anyway– they don’t want any more pain than required.
- Lockheed has a strong, 100-year history of “Doing the Right Thing.” They are the market leader. Here are examples of their inspiring leadership style from YouTube–
Lockheed Martin – What We Believe
Who We Are
Our Service Defining Our Legacy
Bob Stevens: In His Own Words– Tribute Video
Bob Stevens Farewell Message to Lockheed Martin Employees
Doing the Right Things versus Doing Things Right (Jim Crocker)
- The Policy Innovations Organization promotes ethics, and Lockheed has a role–
Alice Eldridge, Vice President, Ethics & Business Conduct, Lockheed Martin Corporation (since this linked page, she has moved to BAE Systems)
Innovations in Fighting Corruption– Rapporteur’s Summary By Steve A. Rochlin, Alice Eldridge, Katy Choo, Brian Levy
Fighting Corruption: Perspectives from Lockheed Martin By Alice Eldridge September 19, 2007
- Which mistake would you rather report, “Is that fireworks across the street?” (and thirty seconds later it be discovered it was shots fired), or “We are under attack,” and it be some innocent kid with a perfectly legal air-soft gun?
- See blog post on Chickens. If you want to take away someone’s tactic, it works best to have another, more productive tactic to give them in exchange.
- An example is the West Virginia High Tech Consortium. Their efforts, coordinated with Senators Byrd and Rockefeller, and Congressman Mollohan, has brought a disproportionately large number of federal jobs and contracts to their State. Instead of individuals stealing bigger pieces of the pie from each other, by being civil with one another, and working together, they made a much larger pie.
- Blog post on Re-reading Sun Tzu
- Blog post on Doing the Right Thing
- Blog post on Straight Commission Sales
- Blog post on How to Resolve Conflict
- Blog post on Contract Clauses