Although we are in the beginning stages of creating innovative procurement organizations throughout the federal government, we still need people throughout the organization to be innovative. The question then becomes, to what end?
To engage an organization in the task of creating and implementing new procurement methods to achieve the organization’s mission, we need to explicit state these goals.
Innovative organizations cannot simply state they are “innovative”; they must explicitly define their purposes and what innovation means.
Many times, these purposes are defined through the development of strategic management plans and operational goals, which are also defined through inspiring mission statements. The mission provides the organization the high-level general statement of what it is trying to do by suggesting the vision of the future, although this vision is essentially vague.
Further, juxtapose mission with operational goals, which provide explicit performance targets to be achieved in a certain time frame (e.g. the coming year, quarter, etc.). These operational goals provide a measure, although not a comprehensive measure, of how well the organization is doing in realizing its innovation mission.
Mission and goals together provide the reasoning for innovation, which is vital to create the foundation for change.
Many organizations may want a certain number of projects to be run through their innovation centers, lower procurement innovation lead times (PALT) by a certain amount for certain procurements, or by using a certain number of “plays” for procurement innovations.
Regardless of what they may be, the explicit goal will provide the foundation for measuring performance, coupled with the overarching mission, which provides a means of ensuring that the goals have been achieved by sacrificing the organization’s true purpose.
For organizations that may be looking to lower PALT, for example by 50 days for procurements that normally take 300, this goal would give the acquisition workforce a clear rationale for being innovative. Frontline contracting staff can then work with customers to develop contracts more quickly or by developing new ways to obtain needed policy reviews. Through these actions, they are helping to achieve the organization’s mission through the execution of the contract. They were not necessarily asked to be innovative. Rather, they were asked to make sure that contracts were executed to achieve the overall PALT goal. They more than likely worked more closely with their customers to understand how this collaboration with the program can influence the contracting organization’s ability to achieve those goals, in addition trying new ways to lower PALT that were either not considered in the past, or simply not performed. Innovation was not necessarily the purpose. Lowering PALT was the goal.
Through this example, and as the acquisition workforce begins to understand how their individual tasks influence an organization’s ability to achieve certain goals, they will begin to develop different ways to accomplish those tasks.
That is to say, they can begin to become innovative.
By itself, simply stating that an organization is “innovative” has no meaning. Innovation only has value when it is defined, and that definition is directly related to achieve important purposes of the organization. Similarly, innovative centers in organizations only have value when they focus their innovation actions on achieving their stated purposes.
Creating an innovative organization requires a clear understanding of mission and goals, such that individual innovation actions can be tested to determine the extent they are actually contributing to achieving the organization’s purpose.
Innovative organizations are not necessarily trying to be innovative for innovation’s sake. They are trying to achieve a specific purpose.
In Part III of this series, we explore how to structure the innovative organization for maximum success.