For the past 29 years, Lisa Doyle has been an acquisition professional in the federal and private sector. This experience has made her a self-proclaimed lifelong learner, a leader of the next generation of acquisition professionals, program and project managers, supply chain managers and logisticians. It’s also made her Chief Learning Officer magazine’s 2011 CLO of the Year.
Doyle spent the first 16 years of her career with the Department of Defense, where she began as a procurement intern and then progressed through the contracting career field, ultimately assuming the responsibilities as a contracting officer at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. From 2002 to 2008 she served as executive director of Acquisition Solutions Inc., where she directed the Acquisition Solutions Training Institute and built a training program designed to develop federal acquisition professionals capable of leading successful projects. This curriculum helped government agencies transform their acquisition practices and become change agents to improve acquisition results.
“The benefit of me being an acquisition professional was that I knew what they needed to be trained on and how to best train them,” Doyle said. “I was able to create the right type of curriculum, the right type of learning interventions, using the right models to train them with.”
Prior to her time in private industry, Doyle spent 22 years in federal acquisition, capped by her experiences at the Department of Commerce headquarters, where she served as deputy senior procurement executive, director of acquisition policy and programs, director of acquisition services, head of the contracts office and chief of acquisition policy. She also served as a senior acquisition official at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Her consistently demonstrated leadership and judgment in resolving complex personnel, organizational, teaming and training problems led her to become the chancellor of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Acquisition Academy, where she creates learning interventions to change behavior and improve performance.
With more than 300,000 employees, the VA is the second-largest agency in the federal government. Its annual contracting expenditure budget of approximately $15 billion puts it on par with a corporation ranked in the top 15 on the Fortune 500 list. But while Doyle’s programs impact an audience of 40,000 individuals, her vision is precise.
“Within the VA, we have an incredibly noble mission: to serve our veterans,” Doyle said. “We want to make certain we train our workforce to ensure we spend every dollar wisely, manage every program effectively, dedicate every resource and pay back the tremendous debt we owe our veterans. Being an acquisition professional myself, when asked to step into this role I knew it was important to have not just technical skills, but to be a great contracting professional, to have interpersonal skills, powerful speaking and listening skills and team-building skills. Much of what we do is in a team environment. We work in teams, negotiate in teams, and work with vendors and partners to execute the mission.”
The Veterans Affairs Acquisition Academy was established in 2008 and aims to grow, train and retain the acquisition workforce. Doyle was selected in July 2008 as the first chancellor of the academy with the challenge to quickly align a program to support the president’s transformational goals and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki’s ADVANCE initiative, a strategic goal to transform the agency by providing the tools, training and support necessary to advance careers and improve the services provided for the nation’s veterans by building the academy from the ground up. This included building a record of success in support of the VA acquisition mission; brand and create broad awareness of the academy’s successes; establish support for the academy with Congress and other federal agencies for the academy as a primary training service; and develop the capacity to support a government-wide customer base.
Doyle decided early that the curricula should be practical, relevant and easy for students to effectively translate into on-the-job application. She implemented an applied learning approach using a competency-based, experiential learning model to emphasize translating theory, fundamentals and concepts into practical application. This approach recognized that to accelerate the student’s learning curve, even the most important theory must be relevant, usable and customized to meet specific VA needs.
“Her advocacy is saying, ‘How do I really get a competent worker?’” said Richard Garrison, vice chancellor for the program management school at the academy. “It’s not about checking a box. It’s about making certain at the end of the day, students are competent and confident to enter the workforce.”
The 16-classroom, brick-and-mortar facility houses three professional schools: Acquisition Internship School, Contracting Professional School and Program Management School; with two additional schools — Facilities Management School and Supply Chain Management School — scheduled to open shortly.
Doyle serves on the interagency Council on Veterans Employment under President Obama’s Veteran Employment Initiative to help federal agencies increase employment of veterans in the federal government. She has led the curriculum development taskforce to create the Vets 2 Feds career development program to recruit and support the development of the nation’s student veterans in careers with the federal government. She also has created the Warrior 2 Workforce program for the Department of Veterans Affairs to hire wounded warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and develop them into professionally certified contract specialists.
“With Lisa, it’s not about being certain you’ve trained somebody properly or simply done some good,” Garrison said. “It’s about making certain you’ve made somebody competent and made a difference for our veterans.”
Ladan Nikravan is associate editor of Chief Learning Officer magazine. She can be reached at lnikravan@CLOMedia.com.