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News | April 1, 2024

Policy Listening Sessions drive positive organizational change

By Thomas Perry DCMA Public Affairs

Defense Contract Management Agency represents “a team of trusted professionals delivering value to our warfighters throughout the acquisition lifecycle.”

The team consists of civilians, former military, military spouses, past civilian contractors, and active and reserve military members. They share responsibility for the agency’s ultimate mission — unwavering warfighter support — and each member brings a unique skill set developed to deliver acquisition insight to key decision-makers.

When identified, their knowledge and expertise in Defense contracting drive positive organizational change. However, the challenge of gathering ideas from a 10,000-plus workforce — spread across the U.S. and around the globe — can be daunting.

When Karen Schultheis, DCMA’s Information Technology executive director and chief information officer, became the agency’s Organizational Infrastructure Board manager, she embraced the challenge and devised a plan forward: listen to the workforce. The board hosted 15 Policy Listening Sessions, and team members from across the agency recommended meaningful change that would ultimately benefit America’s warfighters.

“In order to help focus the efforts of our new board, I wanted to hear from the workforce,” said Schultheis. “Where are our gaps? What does the field need from us? Those were just a few of the questions to kick-start the sessions.”

The listening effort was fueled by a joint agency team formed with members from three directorates.

“This board comprises Finance and Business, Total Force and IT,” said Bonnie Walker, Senior Business Relationship manager and Listening Session co-facilitator. “Ms. Schultheis wanted to ensure board members had an opportunity to learn about best practices, recommendations, or drawbacks encountered by the contract management offices, regions, and headquarters regarding policy issuances. This is so the OI Board can holistically improve processes on delivering exceptional policy and guidance that strengthen our workforce efforts.”

Walker credited participants with the effort’s success.

“The members across DCMA came together to talk openly about issues and challenges, providing recommendations and thoughtful improvements for DCMA at large,” she said.

The listening sessions resulted in 87 individual recommendations, distilled to 40 unique recommendations. Many areas of improvement were identified, including transparency, training and accessibility. The OI team also identified areas of strength within the lifecycle system, including notifications, issuance feedback and resource pages for supporting documents.

Much of the feedback has already generated change. A search engine on the agency’s policy website was added, and DCMA deployed an icon to every employee’s desktop that is directly connected to Advana’s “Gamechanger” site, which searches all Department of Defense policy with the click of a mouse.
• The Gamechanger website provides a powerful search engine of all DOD policies and can be filtered to only DCMA policies.
• The desktop icon is already pre-filtered to search only DCMA policies.
• The filters can be adjusted to focus on specific agencies, policy types or all DOD policies.

A small team of volunteers is also charged with resource page improvements that will standardize the agency’s auditing process and ensure links are accurate and information is up to date to drive mission success.

“Transparency will be the most impactful. We learned that several individuals were not aware of the tools already built to support the field regarding policy changes, updates and feedback,” said Walker. “We are working on a few ‘Just Do It’s’ regarding communications, and the OI board will also be implementing a forum like the 1102 forum.”

The board’s plan to embrace continued communication and feedback from the agency’s global workforce of acquisition professionals ensures positive change will continue.

“The sessions identified recommendations for immediate implementation or quick wins, short-term implementation, and long-term implementation,” said Kirk Gates, a DCMA property supervisor and Listening Session co-facilitator. “We started implementing the quick wins and developed plans of action for the short- and long-term recommendations. The OI Board is excited about this feedback and is striving to make all participants’ feedback and suggestions heard and implemented where practical. The participants were the best and brightest selected to represent their command, and their ideas, theoretically, represent the agency. It was a great way to get a pulse reading on what the workforce wants to see changed.”

Walker agreed. She appreciated how much team members care about their mission and how much knowledge they bring to the acquisition process.

“Some of my key takeaways include how much each of our employees wants to make DCMA a success for our warfighters, their desire to be accurate and compliant, and ensure their staff or colleagues have critical information within easy reach,” she said.

Grace Andriliunas, a Special Programs Command contract specialist who compiled session comments and ideas into three categories: impacts, challenges, and recommendations, called the listening sessions a huge success.

“Just knowing someone is interested to listen and understand the struggles our folks have to perform their job has huge benefits for the agency,” she said. “Long-term advantage is many of the problems brought up also had a solution to fix some of these challenges. Win-win. I was very pleased with the number of ‘kudos.’ The things we as an agency are doing right, and folks wanted to share how they solve a problem locally. Sharing best practices was a nice surprise.”

For Gates, the listening sessions’ success resulted from participant enthusiasm, leadership support, and the board’s dedicated preparation, which included coordinating with the Business Capability Framework program manager and the chief information officer to get the tasking memo published for all commands and directorates. The board received the list of recommended participants and distributed invitations to ensure the sessions met the challenge of connecting to a global workforce within a virtual setting.

The OI Board plans to use team member feedback to drive agency change into the future. The dedicated work of all involved will directly benefit team members, warfighters, contractors and key decision-makers for years to come, and it all started with listening to acquisition experts who love what they do and care how it’s done.

“The short-term benefits would be the change in how we do business for communication, training and accessibility of the DCMA manual process,” said Gates. “The long-term benefit would be showcasing to the workforce that the folks at headquarters are taking a holistic view of the agency's concerns to adapt the process that fits their needs. We are embracing a people-centric culture, which starts with listening to the workforce and implementing their desired changes that align with boundaries of things the agency can control.”

This effort supports DCMA’s Strategic Plan 2022-2026, which is designed to guide the agency’s evolution, hold the organization accountable, drive performance forward, embrace change, and continue to provide warfighters with unwavering support.

“I consider these sessions a success because it directly links to Line of Effort 4 in our fiscal year 2024 annual performance plan, ‘Innovate the agency's approach to how and where we work to better adapt to the workplace of the future,’” said Gates. “Changing the approach, we currently take to policy issuance communication and training by adapting it to the workforce’s needs directly impacts initiative 4.3.1: Modernize our processes and related tools and training to empower our workforce to be equally effective and efficient in both the onsite and virtual environment.”