30 March 2010

Reading Policy

It's sometimes amazing what you can find when you read a policy document. I happened to be thumbing through a copy of D0D 5000.02 (aka the Defense Department's policy on acquisitions), and I came across the following.

Evolutionary acquisition is the preferred DoD strategy for rapid acquisition of mature technology for the user. An evolutionary approach delivers capability in increments, recognizing, up front, the need for future capability improvements. The objective is to balance needs and available capability with resources and to put capability into the hands of the user quickly.

Evolutionary acquisition requires collaboration among the user, tester, and developer. In this process, a needed operational capability is met over time by developing several increments, each dependent on available mature technology.

Each increment is a militarily useful and supportable operational capability that can be developed, produced, deployed, and sustained.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Rapid acquisition of mature technology, putting capabilities in the user's hands quickly? Collaboration among users, testers and developers?

Nonsense - this could never work. The policy won't allow such a Fast, Inexpensive, Simple and Tiny approach. Why, just think of all the legislation you'll need to change, all the waivers you'll need to secure, all the... wait, what? That's already IN the policy? There's an approved, documented path for doing precisely this? And it even addresses the need to balance the requested capability with the available resources? So we could just do it? To quote the great American philosophers Bill & Ted, "No way? Way!"

Way indeed, my friends. Way indeed.


Gabe said...

Thumbing through?

So, essentially, the rest of the policy is just filler huh (seriously)? Who needs the rest of the policy when this gives you every thing you need to get stuff done. We should just tear this portion out and chunk the rest. Or label the remainder as "Suggestions for rule followers."

Dick Field said...

Ex-cel-lent, Gabe. Precisely my summary of 5000.

Paul said...

They're trying, I'll give them that. The latest 5000 is "written in blood" and seems to be triaging the worst hemmorhaging that's going on in the worst of the procurement programs. At the end of the day I do think that the successful outcome of any guidance, the 5000 series or a sketch on the back of a napkin, boils down to effective leadership.

I recently became involved in a major program currently approaching EMD and implementing the competitive prototyping approach in 5000.2. It's obvious that the PM, one of the most senior in the PEO, is using every ounce of influence, diplomacy, and leadership skill just to keep the program team moving in the same direction. At a recent decision milestone event, the contractor briefed a significant cost-driving SPS item; no member of the government team could discover where the requirement came from or why it was in place. Meanwhile everyone lost credibility with the end users murmuring and staring at the ceiling in the back of the room.

I suspect that one person in 10 can be coached or trained to effectively lead a small, experienced, FISTy team reasonably quickly. Maybe the real number is higher or lower, but one thing I'm sure about-- only the most seasoned, skilled, energetic, and influential leader can effectively lead ACAT I or II programs under the current DoD paradigm. Those leaders are perhaps one in a million. It would be nice if we had acquisition systems that could be successfully operated and comprehended by the typical human being.

The Dan Ward said...

@Paul - Good point! Talent is indeed rare, and the ability to lead a project particularly so.

One of the nice things about FIST is that it encourages & facilitates the development of this sort of talent, partly by allowing "soft landings" when projects fail (because they fail sooner & less expensively) and also by making it easier for an individual to experience a project from start to finish... So between optimal failures and increased opportunities to genuinely learn from experience (i.e. directly witness the impact of decisions we make), FIST helps create an environment that's friendly to learning & growth & talent.