Disrupting Acquisition Blog

Going Fast in the FAR Labyrinth

by | Jul 9, 2019 | Contracting

The FAR Labyrinth

Whether you go fast with the FAR or slow, the path is the same.

Ever wonder how it is that some buying offices can go super fast and others seem to take forever—and both are using the same rules from the FAR?

Yeah, me, too.

Until recently.

Back in March, I attended the Offset Symposium in San Francisco, and my scientist daughter tagged along to visit family. After the conference we celebrated my birthday by seeing a little of the city, including a stop at Grace Cathedral. Many of our world travels together have consisted of visiting castles, ruins, stone circles, and medieval churches, so after we passed Grace Cathedral the first time, we agreed to stop in at the end of our day so I could drool over the stained glass windows and soak up the buzz of how many footfalls had beat their lifeforce into the ground before us. To our surprise, we found a large labyrinth inside the cathedral.

Labyrinths are among my favorite things, so we spent the next hour there, with me quietly walking the labyrinth, breathing in its beautiful pattern and following the path to the center and back out. As I walked, I realized that how we walk a labyrinth is the same as how we walk the path that the FAR provides.

You see, I’ve walked many labyrinths around the world—in my own backyard, in grassy fields and weed-strewn gardens, in deserted parks next to museums and churches, at festivals at campgrounds, and inside cathedrals. This one, however, made me stop and think about…the FAR.

I pointed at a sign near the labyrinth entrance and told my daughter, “That’s weird.   There’s live music while you walk the labyrinth tonight. I could walk it probably thirty times during a live concert.”

I truly didn’t understand the sign until I watched later as people walked the labyrinth, taking baby steps or stopping to meditate along the way. I had always walked labyrinths alone, occasionally finding a fellow traveler somewhere on the same path or seeing one waiting by the entrance to watch me or wait for me to finish. Sometimes I’d meet someone coming back from the center, someone who’d experienced what I had not yet, and they would pass me by silently with downcast eyes or sometimes smile and nod their acknowledgement of me.  

My process for the labyrinth was more instinctive than the slower walkers of the labyrinth. I would let go of all my distractions and let my mind wander to all sorts of creative spots while my feet stayed on the path to the center and then to the end, but always forward and then back, not stepping out of the guidelines but getting to the center—my goal, my fulfillment of a need—in my own way before deciding my next move.

It never occurred to me that other people walking a labyrinth would do it differently, especially those who take a step every few minutes—or longer. It certainly didn’t occur to me that they should do it differently. We are all reaching the center, just in different ways, but on the same path. Sure, they walk it at different speeds, but some have a slower process wherein each step is contemplated as distractions and problems are slowly released, then new blessings are received, and finally enlightenment is reached. Those steps are probably true for me, too, but in a less obvious way.

And that’s okay.

For a while, I looked at them in confusion: “How can they be going so slowly? Hurry up!” I’d always bounced right through the labyrinth to the beat of my own drum…or drums in the distance…or silence under the stars. It was satisfying to me in every way.

They looked at me in the same confusion: “How can you be going so fast?   Slow down!” They’d always worked through each stage of their process, taking their time, and it was satisfying to them in every way.

As with the FAR, the pattern of the labyrinth—the guidelines, the rules of the path—was always the same for all of us, regardless of our speed or how much time we spent on each part of our process to get to the center. As with the FAR, we had to stay within the outline of the path, but we could reach our goal just as effectively, even if with a different tempo.

There’s nothing wrong with the FAR any more than there is something wrong with a labyrinth. It’s the same path, and but how fast we go depends on the person and his ability to navigate it quickly.

“Mom?” my daughter interrupted as she watched me sprinting around the labyrinth yet again with a smile on my face. “It’s getting late and we need to get back to our hotel.”

Ah. A different requirement from the one of the previous hour.   I nodded, then stepped out of the labyrinth, outside the lines of the FAR as we sometimes need to do when using statutory authority to take a different path and fulfill a different need.

No matter the path, it’s always about movement.

2 Comments

  1. Nick Sanders

    Nice article. My thought is that the FAR — the labyrinth design — is not a artfully written as it could be. There are duplicative clauses that could be combined into one. There are sections that seem to be internally inconsistent. It would be as if the labyrinth guidelines were opaque in places.

    Reply
  2. Renee

    Thoughtful article—thank you. One alternative explanation is that if you know the FAR well, you know where you can speed and where you need to watch your steps more carefully…..you can go fast if you know the FAR….and the labyrinth….

    Reply

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