Identifying Enterprise Leverage Points in Defense Acquisition Program Performance
Author(s)Wirthlin, Major Robb
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*The views expressed in this talk are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force, the Department of Defense (DoD), or the U.S. Government. Acquisition Program performance has been subjected to scrutiny over the years due to accusations of poor budget execution and schedule adherence. Several studies indicate many acquisition programs suffer from at least 30% schedule slip and cost growth. This figure has remained virtually static (or trends worse) despite several decades of reform actions of varying scope and complexity. Reflecting upon the program growth, a Lean Enterprise perspective helps to reframe the problem of these acquisition program outcomes as one of being emergent behaviors of a larger Defense Acquisition Enterprise “System.” This talk will describe recent research results and ongoing efforts towards identifying leverage points in the so-called “Big-A” (versus “little-a”) of the Acquisition system. The research uses a grounded theory approach to model overall acquisition system behavior using abstractions of key processes and decisions of the US Air Force’s implementation of defense acquisition directives. The development of a model of the overall US Air Force Product Development process, including those portions of responsibility and authority that do not reside in the acquisition system, is an outcome of several research thrusts aimed at understanding enterprise system behaviors and identification and application of unique enterprise constructs. The talk will discuss the results of research identifying the actual state of practice within the US Air Force. Initially, acquisition personnel at all levels were interviewed regarding the way the system operates. The emergent themes were not especially surprising. They reveal resource constraints and requirements changes contribute to poor outcomes. The consequences of these issues manifest themselves through schedule and cost growth. However, they are not necessarily the root causes. The themes reflect a system that is constantly in a fire-fighting mode, trying to keep every project going despite little understanding of the system capacity required to proceed. These results underscored the need to look beyond the traditional boundaries of acquisition and helped define the objectives for the next round of interviews. This set of interviews included user representatives, individuals working within the requirements definition system and the financial system, and finally, contractors responsible for delivery of a program. Distilling all of this information, an enterprise model of system processes and decision points was created, leading to another set of interviews and research to validate the form, substance and scope of the model. This research approach not only suggests a methodology on how to examine large, complex enterprise systems, but has the potential to become a powerful tool suggesting possible enterprise leverage points that otherwise may be overlooked by more traditional, narrower approaches. It represents another addition to the growing toolkit of LAI Enterprise Products enabling a richer understanding and analyses of enterprise processes.
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