Seeing Excellence: Learning from Great Procurement Teams
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Find Opportunities to Improve

This isn’t the real Navy.  It’s OK to be seen!  The unspoken part of the submarine metaphor is that submarines can do lots of damage.  The fleet – in this case the customers – hopes that the submarine isn’t targeting them.  The best way to get in touch with the customers is to take the time to surface periodically, let them know you have surfaced, and encourage them to get in your field of vision and be heard. 

SCOPE, Systematic Controls, Oversight, and Policy Evaluation, was a continuous improvement system used in the Colorado Division of Finance and Procurement from 2002-2005.  SCOPE used scopes as visual metaphors instruments for viewing or placeholders for essential steps in continuous improvement.  SCOPE evolved into SCOPEVision as additional team disciplines were added: risk and change management; and team and individual learning.  Seeing Excellence: Learning from Great Procurement Teams was written from 2010-2013 to flesh out the team disciplines from over 30 stories of great procurement teams.

The first story published in Government Procurement magazine in October 2010 was about the Ohio copier consolidation project. Thomas Linley from the State of Ohio went Up PeriSCOPE in a big way.  In 2010, Thomas won the NASPO George Cronin Bronze Award for Procurement Excellence.  Both NASPO’s Cronin and NIGP’s Innovation in Public Procurement Awards annually recognize “best in class” organizations and initiatives demonstrating forward-thinking in the procurement profession.

A Story About Contribution, Change, and Local Print Consolidation
by Dr. Jack Pitzer and Richard Pennington 

Thomas Linley is a Procurement Manager in the Ohio Office of Procurement Services.  He developed an initiative that saved the State of Ohio more than $182,000 in the first year of a pilot project.

Thomas Linley joined the Ohio state purchasing office from industry in 2009. He started his procurement journey in 2003 after graduation from college and assignment to NCR’s procurement office as a strategic sourcing analyst.  Later, Thomas found an opportunity to return to Ohio for employment with the Ohio Office of Procurement Services. Soon after he was hired, Thomas  assumed responsibility for the state’s cost-per-copy office copier contract.

Thomas wanted to better understand the per-copy contract, so he visited his clients.   He discovered that many clients had numerous machines sitting in their office suites: a fax, a copier, a printer, for example.  In some cases, the equipment was located near similar equipment in other offices.  The variety of machines posed a user training challenge, and a few clients expressed frustration about having to have multiple maintenance contracts. According to Thomas, “the agency is your customer; we are their consultants. . . . The customers really helped identify the opportunity for improvement.”

Thomas illustrated an essential first step to continuous improvement, going Up Periscope!  In a sense, internal service providers such as procurement offices are like submarines. Every now and then, we need to surface to see what’s happening “out there.” Thomas did just that.  He visited the clients’ offices and witnessed first hand the way machines were used, analyzed the effect on client agencies, and saw an opportunity for improvement.

What he learned was reaffirmed by market research conducted in his office. Vendors promoted multifunction machine consolidation, but their plans were expensive. Thomas had no budget.  Through his figurative telescope, though, Thomas used market research to look at “best in class” practices, while utilizing the expertise of vendors.

Thomas next discussed the opportunity with management in the Office of Procurement Services and the Chief Procurement Officer.  They decided to test the consolidation on their own department and one political subdivision. Thomas managed the project, supplementing the office’s resources with interns. The pilot reduced 438 existing machines to 289 capable of processing the same annual volume, a 39% reduction in annual costs.

 The SCOPEVision learning framework uses the gyroscope as the visual metaphor for this part of the process: the stabilizing decision criteria used in any continuous improvement project.  In this case, procurement management decided that fact-based persuasion – not dictated compliance – was the best approach to promoting print consolidation. According to Thomas, “the involvement of my management in helping define and promote the consolidation goals was critical; it couldn’t have been done without them.” The project now has been embraced by almost all agencies.  Future consolidation will save an estimated $5.3 million annually statewide.  

Thomas’s project is an example of “internal consultancy,” a concept used by McCue and Pitzer in the NIGP text, Fundamentals of Leadership and Management in Public Procurement:the Strategic Role of the Procurement Professional (NIGP, 2005). By consulting with his agencies – Thomas’s customers, to use his words – he lowered their costs and increased their efficiencies. Further, his efforts illustrate the importance of vision and leadership, the “compass” and “rudder” of an organization, being provided by a procurement professional. (McCue and Pitzer NIGP, 2005, pp 42-44)

No, this wasn’t Lean Six Sigma, but Thomas’s project involved effective use of all the elements of performance and project management. Our congratulations to Thomas and the entire Ohio state procurement team! They’ve provided a great learning opportunity.


The Role of the PeriSCOPE in Change Management

Thomas Linley's story told by Dr. Pitzer and me is a classic example of change management.  Let stakeholders anticipate change.  The PeriSCOPE not only finds opportunities and solutions, it engages customers so they can anticipate possible change.  It is the first step in SCOPEVision.

Opportunity Summaries.  SCOPEVision has used opportunity summaries for years to begin to map out projects for teams. Going up-periSCOPE can be an informal process like Tommy Linley used. Or it can use a one-page “opportunity summary” that outlines the issues for the customers, identities a provisional approach to the problem, solicits their feedback, and motivates them to participate.  Seeing Excellence has a sample Opportunity Summary in chapter 2, Find Opportunities: Practice the Art of the Question.

Use of Surveys.  Survey development is a combination of art and science.  Customer satisfaction in particular is a good candidate for assessment using survey methods, and use of a survey can help spot areas that need improvement.   Consider using nontraditional means of surveying.  In internal controls environments, for example, customers may seldom by "happy."  Consider restating your objective in internal controls, that you strive to make stakeholders understand the reason for rules and decisions, and then ask them how you are doing. Chapter 7, Use Meaningful Measures of Merit, discusses survey design.

 One-on-Ones. There is no substitute for face-to-face conversations.  Go to the customers place of business, and ask them the key questions.  Things like, “what one thing can I do or stop doing to make you more successful?” The subsequent conversation will identify any existing gap between reality the vision of what should be.

PeriSCOPE is the visual metaphor for providing the basic connection to internal and external customers essential to a successful continuous improvement program. 



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