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The Optimal Program Structure

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Journal Article

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Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Washington United States

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Not too long ago, I was asked during a Q and A session with one of the courses at DAU what I thought the optimal program structure was. The question itself suggests a misunderstanding of how programs should be structured, and more importantly, it may be an example of a type of behavior that Ive seen too much of in the past two years since I came back to government service. The answer to the question is either A There is none, or B There are an infinite number. There is no one best way to structure a program. Every program has its own best structure, and that structure is dependent on all the many variables that contribute to program success or failure. To paraphrase and invert Tolstoy, happy programs are each happy in their own way, and unhappy programs tend to be unhappy in the same ways. As I went around the country a year ago to discuss the Better Buying Power initiatives with the workforce, one thing I tried to emphasize repeatedly was that the BBP policies were not set in stone. All were subject to waiver. The first responsibility of the key leaders in the acquisition workforce is to think. One of the many reasons that our key leaders have to be true professionals who are fully prepared to do their jobs by virtue of education, training, and experience is that creative, informed thought is necessary to optimize the structure of a program. The behavior Im afraid Ive seen too much of is the tendency to default to a school solution standard program structure.

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