The FAS Systems Governance Committee (FSGC) has the goal of facilitating an enterprise-wide approach to acquisition solutions
The Committee has reviewed and provided recommendations on funding totaling over $450M as of September 2020
After Considering the FSGC’s recommendations, the FAS Commissioner approved $330M of the $450M requested thus far
Beyond reviewing funding requests, the FSGC drives a number of other high-impact initiatives, including the monitoring of investments to ensure that they achieve their expected benefits and deliver on their promised value. In addition, the governance body has stood up a subcommittee to explore a more iterative approach to funding multimillion-dollar investments.
Let’s be honest though, good governance is hard. The FSGC is not the first governance committee that the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) tried to establish; in fact, there have been several attempts prior to 2018. This justifiably led to initial skepticism around the FSGC. Yet, several years- and hundreds of millions of dollars in reviews- later the FSGC has not only shown promise, it has demonstrated tangible success. Moreover, the FSGC was able to seamlessly continue operations even when GSA pivoted to mandatory telework because of COVID-19.
What has led to the success of the FSGC? Are there best practices that could be gleaned from the FSGC to provide guidance to other groups looking to establish or enhance their governance efforts? After sitting down with the facilitators of the FSGC, we identified six guiding principles that helped lead to a resilient governance body that is capable of thriving in-person as well as in a remote environment.
Collect recommendations not decisions: The FSGC is an advisory body that conducts reviews and provides recommendations to the FAS Commissioner. However, the governance committee does not hold decision-making authority. Therefore, the body is not constricted in their reviews by the need to come to a “final decision.”
Capture votes in an open spreadsheet rather than an open forum: Meetings (including virtual meetings) are utilized to hold critical conversations and discuss open questions. However, when it comes to voting and providing recommendations, everything happens outside of the meeting. All stakeholders have access to a shared spreadsheet- a simple yet effective tool- that members are asked to complete with their recommendations, ensuring a transparent process. This method allows members the opportunity to reflect after meetings and collaborate as appropriate prior to submitting their recommendations. Keeping voting separate from the meeting, also helps ensure that members do not feel pressured or swayed by who is in attendance. This not only facilitates the voting process; it also helps streamline voting in a telework environment.
Maintain individual opinions rather than consensus or majority rule: The FSGC is intentionally structured to include members from disparate business lines, advisory bodies, and regional offices; so it is essential to give everyone a voice at the table. Therefore, all members are expected to express their individual recommendations. A summary of the recommendations and the detailed comments are shared with the FAS Commissioner for a final decision. This structure enables members to dissent, encouraging a break from the status quo and ensuring that individual opinions are heard.
Start with a narrow scope and broaden with experience: When the FSGC was first stood up, it began by only reviewing IT investments. After proving that the committee provides valuable insights, the scope was expanded to also include reviews of non-IT investments. Maintaining a narrower scope initially allowed the FSGC to demonstrate success early on, validating that the body had the right expertise in order to gain buy-in from diverse stakeholders.
Secure executive leadership support: The vocal support of the FAS Commissioner and other members of leadership has been critical to the FSGC’s success. The FAS Commissioner has highlighted the importance of good governance and has acknowledged the value of the FSGC’s recommendations. While it may seem obvious, the importance of executive support cannot be overlooked.
Maintain a dedicated facilitator: Beyond identifying the office responsible for driving the FSGC, a specific individual has been tasked with facilitating the committee. One individual has served as a central resource for stakeholders and has consistently facilitated meetings and high-stakes processes. This structure has enabled central oversight of the FSGC’s strategy, ensuring steadfast, dedicated leadership even during uncertain times. While it may not always be possible to maintain the same facilitator, it is important to ensure that there is always an individual- or a team of individuals- responsible for advancing the vision of the governance body.
Now more than ever, good governance is crucial. Organizations are facing unprecedented uncertainty with quickly evolving strategic priorities, annual budgets, and operating models. While all governance bodies face unique challenges, guiding principles should be clearly articulated at the outset and reassessed periodically to ensure desired outcomes are achieved. Organizations looking to stand up or mature their governance practices can discuss these six best practices as a starting point in determining the approach that works best for them.