Seeing Excellence: Learning from Great Procurement Teams


 Home Seeing Excellence Presentations/Pubs Tools/Resources A Little History


Seeing Excellence is a book about teams, the lifeblood of organizations.  Seeing Excellence is organized around 10 essential team disciplines, including lateral leadership.  The book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. A preview and author's bio are available here.

Expanded Art in a Procurement Manual story from Chapter 10 that has captured imaginations internationally. Are you this creative?

Seeing Excellence has been adopted by Procurement U as a companion text to NASPO's State and Local Government Procurement: A Practical Guide.  A crosswalk identifies Seeing Excellence stories, activities, and additional resources relevant to the Guide.

What's New?
  • A Learning Journey to Seeing Excellence, Chemeketa Community College, Oregon, November 30, 2017.  This was the last class in the Principles of Public Procurement Course, where Seeing Excellence was used as a companion text to NASPO's State and Local Government Procurement: A Practical Guide. This session explains the evolution of Seeing Excellence out of the Colorado Division of Finance and Procurement.  The journey includes hands-on practice of team disciplines, key stories from the book, and stories later discovered that showcase the richness of the procurement profession. 

  • The Precision, Accuracy, and Utility of Numerical Evaluations in Best-Value Procurements.  Part 1 published on LinkedIn Pulse, January 2018.  Chapter 6 of Seeing Excellence, Use Meaningful Measures of Merit, covers measurement as an essential team discipline.  Part 1 of the article dives deeper into the issue of errors and subjectivity in proposal evaluations.  Part 2 of the article discusses modeling of best-value tradeoff decisions with spreadsheets and the key to effective evaluations: collaboration.  "Spreadsheets don't decide, people do."

  • Kaizen and the Sound Transit IT Investment Playbook, Government Procurement, December/January 2018.  Kaizen, the Japanese culture of continuous improvement, was introduced to the West largely through research and writing about the Toyota Production System. Read how Sound Transit, Washington, used a Kaizen event to improve its IT procurement.

  • The Art of the Question keynote at the Wisconsin State Bureau of Procurement Conference and educational session at the Virginia Procurement Forum, November 13-16, 2017.

  • Hillsborough County Aviation Authority's Transformation to Excellence, Government Procurement, October/November 2017.  The story of Tampa International Airport's achievement of NIGP's Pareto Award, the highest organizational award in state and local government procurement.

  • The Two Faces of Negotiation, in the November issue of Contract Management magazine. This article illustrates how requests for proposals fit the classical model of negotiations.

Coming . . .

  • Wisconsin Association of Public Procurement/VALUE procurement cooperative 2018 Spring Conference, March 15, 2018.  Morning session on Seeing Excellence: Learning from Great Procurement Teams and afternoon session on Procurement Law Tales from the Dark Side.

  • I'm teaching NIGP's eight-week Legal Aspects of Public Procurement Online from April to May.  Here is a link to an article, Procurement Teaming in NIGP's Virtual Classroom, that explains why I like the course. 

(Past Presentations and Publications)


SCOPEVision and Seeing Excellence

SCOPEVision was a quality management system that grew out of the Colorado Division of Finance and Procurement.  Seeing Excellence was written using SCOPEVision scopes to identify stories showcasing exceptional teams.  SCOPE (Systematic Controls, Oversight, and Policy Evaluation) was first created in 2002 by the division as a way to improve policies related to statewide procurement, contracting, and financial controls.  The SCOPE process emphasized customer involvement and cross-functional problem solving.   SCOPE was aimed at streamlining policies to make sure the division was not sub-optimizing controls unnecessarily at the expense of system-wide performance.  SCOPEVision evolved into its current emphasis on execution and improving knowledge and awareness about problem-solving and quality in generaldeveloping team knowledge, skills, and abilities so organizations can sustain improvement efforts. 

A "scope" is defined as an "instrument for viewing."  SCOPE built on that image from 2002-2005, using the scopes as visual metaphors for the essential elements of any continuous improvement effort or change initiative in a business or organization.  SCOPEVision added three additional scopes in 2006: stethoscope, horoscope, and Cinemascope for disciplines needed to sustain the team’s efforts—risk and change management, learning, and lateral leadership.  The book, Seeing Excellence: Learning from Great Procurement Teams, used the scope metaphors to find stories that illustrate effective teams, their use of 10 team disciplines, and the five principles that their lateral leaders displayed

Seeing Excellence is arranged in a way that its chapters align with the SCOPEs that represent the essential steps in continuous improvement, project management, risk and change management, organizational learning, and lateral leadership.


  • Focus the Team's Purpose. Keep purpose gyroscopically in mind.  How will you know you succeeded? Continually clarify the team's purpose.  Purpose informs the essential elements of decision making.  Chapter 1 of Seeing Excellence identifies key questions regarding team purpose.


  • Find opportunities: Practice the Art of the Question.   Use questions effectively to identify the needs of your customers and stakeholders.  Frame problems as opportunities whenever you can. Chapter 2 of Seeing Excellence gives teams tools for defining opportunities.


  • Learn from the stars. Find and learn from best practices. Keep an eye on system performance and the unintended consequences.  Chapter 3 of Seeing Excellence has ideas on what to ask the "stars" when you begin a continuous improvement journey.
  •  Step to their side often: Help mold and promote the Team. Use facilitative leadership.  Find the right kaleidoscopic composition, pay attention to early stages of team formation, nudge toward development of team norms, and support the team during performance.  Chapter 4 of Seeing Excellence has a checklist to help you diagnose one of the most central team activities: meetings. 

  • Use just enough structure: Plan, communicate, and follow-up.  Identify the needs of stakeholders.  Plan by working backward.  Then think ahead during project execution.  Chapter 5 of Seeing Excellence has tools to help manage projects.

•  Use meaningful measures of merit.   Find and use meaningful measures that reduce uncertainty in decision-making using balanced financial, process, and outcome measures.  Get stakeholder buy-in to measures. Chapter 6 of Seeing Excellence describes one of the most useful Microsoft Excel tools to help a team measure preferences.
  • First ask, how?  Then why?  Then decide.  Uses analytical tools to map processes, find root causes at the heart of problems, experiment with pilots to test solutions, and effectively recommend or make decisions.  Use decision retrospects. Chapter 7 of Seeing Excellence includes examples of how process maps, Ishikawa diagrams, and decision-making tools are used.   

•  Manage risk and change. Chapter 8 of Seeing Excellence has tools like premortems to help assess the likelihood and impact of risk to a project.   It uses examples to apply one of the most well known models for change management, the cousin of risk management.  Resistance to change is often the most significant risk.

  • Keep learning and make it stick. HoroSCOPE is the visual metaphor for organizational learning.  Use team after-action reviews. Build structures for informal learning to create tacit knowledge.  Simplify, surprise, make it concrete and emotional, and use stories the Chip Heath and Dan Heath Made to Stick! model to promote networked learning and sustain improvement.  Answer the Why, What, How, Who, Where, and When’s of learning opportunities.  Reflect on experiences to learn. Chapter 9 of Seeing Excellence has a useful model for managing the team's and your own learning.


  • Lead laterally: Choose to Help.  We chose Cinemascope®, a 1950s widescreen  technology widely credited with bringing audiences back into theaters, as our visual metaphor.  It is SCOPEVision’s visual metaphor for leadership.  Well-respected directors lead from the side to bring the best out of their actors and production teams.  Help the team keep purpose in mind, use questions effectively to help the team learn, use just enough structure to help organize thinking and action, help promote collaboration and feedback by stepping to their side often, and help the team engage by committing your time and attention.   Chapter 10 of Seeing Excellence has useful descriptions of negotiations, the elements of persuasion, and tips on embracing conflict.

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