On Enhanced Communication of Review Results

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One of the areas we have had significant discussions within IPAO (and a source of concern and frustration) has dealt with whether the agency’s leadership is getting the full benefit of the SRB’s assessment and analysis, performed during the lifecycle reviews, to understand the full readiness picture of the programs and projects to characterize their technical, cost, schedule, and risk posture going forward.

We have devoted many hours to improving our processes and analytical capabilities and have worked very hard to document what we do, resulting in stable operational procedures and standardized templates for our TORs and programmatic products.  We continue to work hard to improve the understating of requirements and expectations for the data and analyses needed to support the reviews by conducting proactive and inclusive discussions during dedicated planning sessions, with the programs and projects that resulted in improved readiness of products supporting the SRB activities.

Realizing the work described above in planning and performing the analyses sets a good foundation for the discussions that help inform agency approval decisions, it is important that we turn our attention to address the critical communication of lifecycle results for agency decision.  As a result, communication of the analyses, results and recommendations for agency decision is being addressed by OoE/IPAO working with the project management community and the leadership to help ensure the full benefit of the analyses performed during the lifecycle reviews by the programs/projects, the SRBs, and the Mission Directorates and the Centers come forward in a manner that enhances the deliberations to better inform approval decisions that set agency commitments.

Two important components of these efforts are the leading questions for programmatic analyses and the enhanced availability of the independent programmatic assessment. The leading questions are directed to help frame the discussions such that the “story” is discussed progressively by building on its logical components. These components are the basis for the cost and schedule plan that provides the foundation for all further discussion (what is the credibility of the plan); followed by the risk assessed against that plan (what could go wrong and what would be the impact), followed by the results of the probabilistic analyses (what resources would it take to achieve a given confidence for success), followed by a recommendation on where to set the agency’s commitments. The enhanced availability of the independent programmatic assessment addresses improved access to reports documenting the analyses performed by IPAO as part of the lifecycle reviews. The objective is to make that information available to members of the program management councils in a timely fashion to help them prepare to participate in the deliberations.

As we continue to work these improvements, you as a member of the IPAO will have a key role implementing these upgrades for the lifecycle reviews you are supporting. Please take advantage of the DSR discussions or subsequent staff meetings discussions to ensure you have a full understanding of these efforts. As it is often the case, you continue to be on the tip of the spear as the agency improves and evolves its project management practices.

Thank you for all you do in helping ensure the agency’s success of its programs and projects.

Flexibility is the Name of the Game

Ortiz_ James226x170 As we assemble for the first Director Status Review (DSR) of 2013 a look at the agenda reveals that IPAO continues to operate in an environment of significant change. While we all know that change is a continuous part of our environment and that it presents challenges as well as great opportunities, it is important to recognize that a key to adapting to change and for taking full advantage of its potential opportunities is flexibility. As we will discuss at DSR, the fiscal situation of the federal government is driving changes that have a direct impact to the way we operate. One manifestation of these changes is the reduction in travel as the federal government is looking for cost savings. These travel reductions are taking affect across the agency and will have an extensive effect in the way we work. As we prioritize our travel to those activities requiring broad levels of interaction, we will need to be flexible in considering alternative ways of interaction within the SRB and with the program/project as we perform the diverse activities necessary to plan and perform our reviews (such as remote participation or a mixture of personnel attending some activities in person and remotely). We have made key investments in IT capabilities in the office (LifeSize, WebEx, Vidyo,..) and have developed proficiency in using these capabilities; let’s take full advantage of them to enable these changes. These flexibilities also extend to interactions amongst each other as we continue to implement our geographically distributed organization. This DSR is a great example of that. The IPAO LifeSize ViTS equipment is now deployed across several centers for us to use, and I strongly encourage you to use it, not only for large meetings such as the DSR or staff meetings, but also for smaller meetings or even for one-on-one meetings (please consider using it in your meetings with me).

Another area where flexibility is highly desirable is in the implementation of our processes. This flexibility comes by deliberately looking for the most appropriate application of our process to the program/project under review and by continuing to examine our process for streamlining. As OoE goes forward working the actions that resulted from the March face-to-face meeting, we will need to remain open to respond to any new support needs to better serve our customers. Another important area where flexibility is needed is in our management oversight. We have heard you clearly that we need to do a better job in adjusting the oversight to the level of competence of individual members of the staff and the complexity of the task at hand; so the IPAO management team is formulating an approach to more deliberately graduate our oversight while increasing the level of empowerment in the office.

As you can see from the above, as the organization continues to move forward in this changing environment; flexibility is the name of the game!

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

Thank you for your continued support and commitment to the Agency’s independent review function.
James N. Ortiz, PHD
IPAO Director