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Best Buy: Gary Lambert

As Assistant Secretary for Operational Services of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Gary Lambert is unlocking the power of procurement in response to the climate crisis.

Gary Lambert’s role as Assistant Secretary for Operational Services (OSD) of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is as diverse as it is interesting.

“We run a fleet operation with about 2,800 pieces of equipment across the entire government enterprise. We have oversight authority and responsibility for compliance of health and human services contracting. We also run a centralized printing operation that’s about a US$6 million-a-year business,” he explains to The CEO Magazine.

“On top of that, we manage the development of goods and services contracts that serve our buy-side customers, executive agencies under the Governor, as well as the 351 cities and towns that are in the Commonwealth,” he continues, adding that this, in itself, is a US$2 billion throughput business that generates a little over US$20 million a year in revenue.

The issue he faces, therefore, is how he can bring such disparate business units, and the 130 people that work in them, together and working towards the same goal – particularly when everyone is working in a hybrid environment.

“We’re looking at how we can approach the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through acquisitions.”

“What I see as the biggest challenge is how do we keep it from becoming a series of independent businesses without any connective tissue?” he explains.

His workaround is multifaceted, involving initiatives such as professional development and team building events, as well as ‘collaboration days’ one day a week, where people come into the office to do the work that requires in-person contact.

“It also gives everyone time to socialize, not necessarily about work,” he says.

Then there’s the Four Disciplines of Execution, a methodology the department has been following for over a decade now.

“It’s a way to create a common goal each year for the entire organization. We then trickle that down into individual goals in support of the overall agency goal,” he says.

“And it seems to be very effective, in terms of keeping the organization together, maintaining low turnover, and a sense of camaraderie and focus.”

Focusing on Results

Lambert explains that a results-focused culture is central to his leadership for many reasons.

“Externally, it can be leveraged to show that you are actually getting things done, while internally it can be used to reward performance with objective results that other people can understand and see,” he says.

He also places enormous importance on making sure his people understand their value in the organization and their contribution to the growth and success of not just their business unit, but the overall business – and even beyond.

“Collaborating with OSD and Gary Lambert has been immensely gratifying. Gary has proven to be one of the most innovative leaders in procurement, keeping OSD at the forefront and pushing mdf commerce to continue to be a leader in procurement services.” – Mark Eigenbauer, President, eprocurement, mdf commerce


‘Beyond’ can take many forms, from diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives to education, but right now what is at the forefront of the OSD’s work is the climate crisis. As testament to its importance, Maura Healey, the Governor of Massachusetts, became the first governor in the nation to appoint a Climate Chief.

“We’re looking at how we can approach the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through acquisitions,” Lambert explains.

It’s a big task, considering the agency works with 1,400 unique vendors, from tradespeople to tech companies such as mdf commerce, the developer of COMMBUYS, the Commonwealth’s e-procurement platform.

Global Impact

OSD has already implemented an electric vehicle purchasing policy, the first step in its ambition to have a fully electric fleet by 2030. But there’s plenty more work to do, from hyper-focused targets like procuring electric lawn equipment to engaging in broader conversations, such as ensuring the required infrastructure for electrification is also rolled out.

For Lambert, the last few years have revealed the impact procurement can have in the climate crisis.

“Today, we’re focusing our energy on finding out what our business partners are doing around climate,” he explains, adding that the organization is set to launch a question about their sustainability practices in its tender process.

This is Lambert’s second experience with OSD, having joined the Department of Procurement and General Services (DPGS) in 1991. In 1999, he left his role as COO of Procurement for an opportunity in the private sector, before returning in 2011 to take up his current role.

“If you take it down to its essence, that makes us part of a global community trying to actually make a difference.”

Having worked in both the private and public sector, he knows that there’s a stereotypical view of government.

“But there are a lot more similarities in what we have to do and the way that we have to address them than there are differences,” he explains.

“The more people realize those similarities, the stronger we can all become in delivering on the missions that we have.”

After all, when the OSD’s fleet of internal combustion engine vehicles swaps to fully-electric, that’s not just a win for the government. It’s also a win for the planet.

“If you take it down to its essence, that makes us part of a global community trying to actually make a difference.”

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