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The General Services Administration (GSA) on-ramp proposals to the existing One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services Small Business (OASIS SB) Pools 1, 3 and 4 and 8(a) sub-Pools are due on June 27, 2019. OASIS is a Multiple Award (MA), Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract classified as a Tier 3, Best-in-Class (BIC) contract providing solutions for complex professional services requirements. OASIS also helps agencies meet their government-wide spend under management (SUM) goals. SUM is the percentage of an organization’s spend that is actively managed according to category management principles.

Based on GSA Interact OASIS milestones provided in March 2019, and recent on the Interact site, the Unrestricted on-ramps are scheduled to be released in late Q3 of 2019. As we reach the end of Q3, it is more likely the on-ramp RFP will be released in early Q4, but regardless, it is time to get ready.

Here are five things you can do now to maximize chances of success.

#1 Play the Symphony Demo

GSA is using “a different, streamlined method of submission for proposals, Symphony.” In preparation, GSA advises offerors to update their SAM.gov information to ensure timely access to the system which bidders must also use to submit questions related to the solicitation. Unrestricted bidders have the benefit of access to the Symphony demonstration video. Offerors will need to designate a Proposal Manager who will submit questions and eventually upload proposal files to the new system. Also note the self-scoring scoresheet must be entered into the Symphony system rather than uploading the scoresheet itself.

#2 Read the Q&A

The OASIS SB on-ramp Q&As provided with Amendment 4 include more than a thousand questions and responses. Not all are applicable to the Unrestricted RFP, but many may apply or at least provide insight into how to prepare a compliant and high scoring response. If you are looking for a quick overview, GSA has posted a video on the most frequently asked questions.

#3 Experiment with Maximizing Your Score

The OASIS Unrestricted on-ramps will more than double the number of awards in each Pool. The highest technically rated offerors will receive those awards regardless of how their score compared to the original OASIS awardees. Unrestricted bidders will face much stiffer competition than SB bidders, especially with successful former OASIS small businesses moving up to the Unrestricted Pool.

Unrestricted bidders must assume that all bidders will have qualifying projects of large size covering all or most of the relevant characteristics such as multiple locations, core disciplines, and task orders. Further, most if not all Unrestricted bidders will score well on government systems, industry certifications and facility clearances.

Where bidders may be able to discriminate their offers is Past Performance. With CPARS scores trending toward Satisfactory, those bidders with Excellent CPARS or past performance ratings can achieve highest scores. The difference between five Satisfactory ratings and five Exceptional ratings is 450 points per project, or a total of 2250 points which could certainly represent the difference between a win and a loss. Therefore, experiment with different combinations of projects. Do your five Excellent projects also meet the size and other relevancy standards for scoring well? Review the bottom line for different projects and see how to maximize your score.

#4 Double Check those NAICS Codes!

Lohfeld Consulting is helping a number of small business bidders who assumed their primary and secondary project NAICS codes were correct, only to find out that the Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) reported a different NAICS or PSC codes for the desired Pool. It is possible that you can convince the Contracting Officer (CO) to change the code in FPDS or issue a contract amendment. Otherwise, you must wait until final RFP release at to ask the CO to complete and sign the NAICS or PSC Code Correction Letter stating they erroneously reported the NAICS or PSC code in FPDS.

Since many COs do not want to change a NAICS or PSC code, make sure you have a back-up project. Gather all of the required contractual proof for your desired and backup projects now so you are ready for all scenarios.

#5 Line Up Support Now

With just weeks left to prepare for on-ramps, examine the requirements in the original OASIS RFP, experimenting with different combinations of projects and focusing on gathering the detailed documentation required as proof. Compliance is critical to obtaining an on-ramp spot, and smart bidders line up review support early to avoid disappointment. Your company is not only competing for an on-ramp spot, but also for the most qualified compliance review support to maximize your investment in this opportunity.

How Lohfeld Consulting Can Help

We assess whether your score is high enough to secure a spot and make specific recommendations on how to obtain a higher score. Lohfeld Consulting’s review also identifies areas where offerors may misinterpret the RFP or provide weak or invalid evidence. Our experienced reviewers conduct the careful, comprehensive proposal reviews and provide the detailed feedback necessary to avoid compliance issues that might eliminate your offer from consideration. Our recommendations are based on 100% success on previous submissions.

By Lisa Pafe, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, CPP APMP Fellow and PMI PMP

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.
As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $135B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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I’ve noticed a trend with some companies to use section M of the government solicitation document as the basis for their proposal structure. While I understand the desire to make it easy for the evaluators to score your proposal, this could result in a non-compliant bid.

Organize your bid or proposal according to the customer’s instructions.

A compliant proposal meets the customer’s requirements and submittal instructions. U.S. federal bid requests issued under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 15 must comply with detailed instructions on how the bid request and bid response are to be structured. Requirements for the structure of the proposal are provided in section L. Evaluation factors for the award are provided in section M.

Evaluators often review proposals in two passes.  The first pass is a compliance review to section L.  This review may be performed by the CO and if the proposal is not rigorously compliant, it doesn’t make it to the second pass which is evaluation and scoring.  Some COs take a hard line on this arguing that if they can toss out a proposal for non-compliance, they lighten the workload for everyone downstream.  So to have a high scoring proposal, getting through the first pass is mandatory.

Organize the proposal according to section L. Once that is done, design the proposal structure so everything needed to score the proposal from Section M can easily be found.  Using the RFP language in headers, and including parenthetic references makes both compliance checking and evaluation easier.

Also watch out for “section L” requirements hidden in the Statement of Work (section C), or sections G. H, or I. As an example, the requirement for a transition plan (to be submitted as a draft with the proposal) may be in the SOW, and NOT listed in the minimal section L and M criteria. I remember some DARPA proposals that identified cover sheet and other required information that were “buried” in sections H and I. Instructions may also be hidden in section J attachments.

In the ideal world, sections L and M are in sync. Sometimes you will also find section L has a few rudimentary instructions like font size and you are forwarded to section M for more detailed instructions about organization. But the bottom line is: organize the proposal by section L.

Like good artwork, when the organization is done well, the proposal structure is beautiful and easy to evaluate for both compliance and scoring.

by Maryann Lesnick, Managing Director at Lohfeld Consulting Group, CP APMP, PMP, CSM, MOS.

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.

As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $135B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

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Lohfeld Consulting Group’s Strength-Based Winning training helps you vet, solution, articulate and deliver a compelling proposal that speaks directly to what the customer values. Our students learn how to develop a discriminating value proposition that government evaluators will award top scores. Recent updates to our training content now help you stand out in a crowded marketplace even more effectively.

New Federal government case study: Our standard class offering now includes five team activities based on one case study and solicitation. Students learn how to identify potential strengths and weaknesses, vet Strengths and mitigate weaknesses, solution to Strengths, articulate the solution in proposal writing, and conduct effective Strength-based color team reviews using Government scoresheets. We also offer the opportunity for tailoring content for on-site classes: give us a capture plan, RFP and corresponding proposal, and we will develop a tailored case study that reflects your typical business opportunities.

Strength-based task order bids: Our Strength-based methodology is based on FAR Part 15.3 which requires Government evaluators to score best value trade-off bids based on Strengths, weaknesses, deficiencies and risks. However, many companies primarily bid task order proposals. For Multiple Award Contracts (MACs), the procuring Contracting Officer may use FAR Part 16 which allows for a more streamlined approach and does not require that the Source Selection Evaluation Board (SSEB) document Strengths, weaknesses, deficiencies and risks. Our new training instructs students on how to apply our methodology effectively to task order bids which still require a discriminating value proposition.

Articulating Strengths with SUPS: SUPS is the acronym for our new approach to Strengths-based proposal writing. Many proposals fail due to ineffective handoff from capture and solutioning to writing. With our Strength Statement, Understanding, Process and Summary approach, writers have a one-voice, clear approach to presenting Strengths. The emphasis is on the customer: demonstrating your solution exceeds customer expectations for quality, timeliness, cost-effectiveness, compliance, mission success and/or risk mitigation. The emphasis is also on the how: in what specific ways your offering will accomplish contract performance objectives resulting in specific proven benefits the customer values.

Understanding the Benefits. Proposals often confuse features and benefits. To award to a higher priced offer in a best value trade-off, Government evaluators must document the benefits the customer will receive in order to justify higher cost. Therefore, every feature of your offering must benefit the customer. Our updated training gives students more practice vetting and articulating benefits as the outcome of your Strength features, such as reduced time, cost or errors and/or increased quality, mission success, compliance or customer satisfaction. Team activities also focus on proofs because research shows evaluators will not award a Strength without substantiating evidence.

Practice, Practice, Practice: Our training class is very interactive because the only way to gain skills in Strength-based winning is to practice. We allow ample opportunity in class to practice newly learned skills, and we offer tools so students can apply these skills as quickly as possible. Our trainers encourage questions, discussion and even friendly disagreement so we can all learn and excel!

Interested in learning more? Our next public class is at Deltek University on October 10. This class sells out quickly, so register today.
In addition, our trainers are available to deliver the off-the-shelf or tailored training at your offices. Click here and scroll to “Training Courses” for a listing of additional classes. Any class can also be taught on-site at your company location with up to 25 attendees. To discuss a private training class or our training series and receive a price quote, contact Beth Wingate at 703.638.2433 or BWingate@LohfeldConsulting.com.

By Lisa Pafe, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, CPP APMP Fellow and PMI PMP

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.
As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $135B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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As BD professionals, we care about ALL information assets of our organizations. More than any other group, we appreciate the potential value, from competitive differentiation to reusable content to proof points to innovations, awards, and recognitions. The list goes on. All of this intelligence represents potential content for proposals. Thus, it is essential that we take an active role in the establishment and maintenance of a content library. This session will explore strategies to define the library; engage organizational components in sharing/contributing to the library; ensuring data is relevant and current; and using the content library to produce winning proposals. A well-managed content library will save significant time and effort crafting future responses. An added benefit is that it also brings your organization together in pursuit of a common goal: winning new business.

Why this session is important:

Asset integration and content management challenges and limitations may arise from start-up or acquisition circumstances, or as political, territorial, stovepipe, and cultural side effects of corporate growth. Most companies would perform better BD and win more business with an increased corporate focus on developing, integrating, and managing their corporate knowledge.

Takeaways include:

Small or large, start-up or mature – all companies require effective integration and use of corporate knowledge assets to be successful. The potential value of information, from performance metrics to reusable content, lies in its ability to help companies win new business. True integration is achieved through enterprise collaboration and a corporate culture focused on winning.

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Maryann Lesnick, CP APMP is a principal consultant with Lohfeld Consulting Group, with 30+ years’ business development, writing, editing, capture, proposal, project, and quality management experience. For APMP-NCA: Membership chair (2016), chapter president (2014-15), vice president (2012-13), Logistics chair (2011), and Boot Camp chair (2010). She is a Practitioner Level APMP certification mentor, ACT-IAC Fellow, certified Microsoft Office specialist, certified scrum master, and she has a BS in Mathematics and a Master’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies.

Connect with Maryann on LinkedIn.

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Proposal professionals are some of the hardest working people in any company. Despite their hard work, they may face a losing streak from time to time. These losses can erode their confidence, adversely affect working relationships, and even trigger job-hopping.

Everyone faces losses at one time or another. For example, Steve Jobs is considered one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our generation, yet he prevailed despite numerous losses. When Apple and Lisa sales fell flat in 1985, he was ousted from his position as President. After leaving Apple, he founded NeXT, whose profits floundered. Ultimately, he purchased Pixar, returned to Apple, and the rest is history. In 2005, he gave an inspiring speech to Stanford University students about winning and losing.

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. […] Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.”

So, if you find rebounding from a string of losses, consider these five tips:

  1. Change Your Mindset – Re-invigorate your enthusiasm and boost your morale. It may be as simple as reading a motivational blog or inspirational book or attending an industry event.
  2. Apply Lessons Learned – Analyze what you are doing right and what can be improved. Use lessons to enhance your processes, implement new technology, and improve communications.
  3. Eliminate Information Gaps – At Lohfeld Consulting our motto is Best Informed Wins. It is hard to write a winning proposal without the right facts. So, re-evaluate how you gather, analyze, and communicate information so that your team is the best-informed team.
  4. Invest in Yourself – If you have a skill gap that is contributing to the losing streak, quickly fill it. Identify classes, webinars, or books that will fill the gaps and put them on your schedule.
  5. Fail Fast – Fail Fast is a philosophy used in Agile software development. Fail fast means cutting your losses quickly when you realize proposal is not going well. So, go back to the drawing board and re-think your strategy, acquire new resources or no bid.

In summary, everyone experiences a loss from time to time, but don’t let it get you down and keep striving to be your best.

By Brenda Crist, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, MPA, CPP APMP Fellow

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.

As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Proposal Management and Writing, Capture Planning and Strategy, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, Go-to-Market Strategy, and Training. We’ve successfully supported the top federal contractors – large, mid-sized and small – garnering over $140B of contract awards in the last three years for our clients. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at  www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

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General Services Administration (GSA) schedules are the largest and most widely used acquisition vehicles in Government. Experience shows many companies do not make the most of their schedules for many reasons. Therefore, this article offers five practical tips a schedule-holder can take to optimize their investment in 10 minutes per day or less.

  1. Review Requests for Quotes (RFQs) Daily to Identify Potential Bids – Quickly scan the headlines on the front page of eBUY (GSA’s web portal) to determine if an opportunity meets your bid/no bid criteria. Schedule holders will see an average of 15 new bids weekly on Schedule 70 alone and a greater number in the fourth quarter of the Government’s fiscal year.
  2. Use Requests for Information (RFI) and Sources Sought Notices (SSN) to Grow Your Pipeline – While approximately 50% of RFIs become Request for Quotes (RFQs), the odds are favorable an RFI or SSN will become an RFQ. Therefore, add RFIs and SSNs of interest your pipeline. Many RFIs can take a year to transform into RFQs, so there is still time to implement your win strategy.
  3. Identify What Products an Agency is Buying – Approximately 25% of bids on GSA Schedule 70 are for new products or license renewals; providing service-based schedule holders with insight into what hardware and software products an agency is using or plans to use.
  4. Use eBUY as an Analysis Tool. By tracking RFI, SSNs, and RFQ bids from a certain agency or market segment, you can detect trends in a customer’s method of acquisition, set -aside patterns, and requirements.
  5. Share Your Knowledge with the Business Development (BD) Team – Inform your BD team about what trends you see and how they can use GSA schedules to help drive business to your

By Brenda Crist, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, MPA, CPP APMP Fellow

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.

As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Proposal Management and Writing, Capture Planning and Strategy, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, Go-to-Market Strategy, and Training. We’ve successfully supported the top federal contractors – large, mid-sized and small – garnering over $140B of contract awards in the last three years for our clients. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at  www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

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After several months in a holding pattern due to U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) solicitation protest B-408685.18, on April 17, the General Services Administration (GSA) issued an update to the long awaited on-ramps to the existing One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services Small Business (OASIS SB) pools. GSA states that they anticipate releasing OASIS Small Business (SB) Pools 1, 3 and 4 and 8(a) sub-pools in late April 2019. Based on GSA Interact OASIS milestones provided in March 2019, the Unrestricted on-ramps are likely to follow a couple of months later.

The OASIS on-ramps began with Pool 1, the most used pool with the smallest size standard ($15 million). However, GSA did not make any awards due to the protest, and announced in the April 17 update that OASIS SB Pool 1 offerors that submitted an offer to the earlier solicitation in November 2018 must resubmit based on “substantive RFP changes and a different, streamlined method of submission for proposals, Symphony.” In preparation, GSA advised offerors to update their SAM.gov information to ensure timely access to the system, which bidders must also use to submit questions, related to the solicitation.

OASIS SB is a Multiple Award (MA), Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract, classified as a Tier 3, Best-in-Class (BIC) contract providing solutions for complex professional services requirements. OASIS also helps agencies meet their government-wide spend under management (SUM) goals. SUM is the percentages of an organization’s spend that is actively managed according to category management principles.

The Protest

Ekagra Partners, LLC, a small business, raised two primary challenges to the terms of the solicitation: (1) the RFP places unreasonable limits on the extent to which mentor-protégé joint venture (JV) offerors can rely on the experience of the large business mentor firm, and (2) the RFP improperly prohibits JVs from forming a contractor teaming arrangement (CTA) whereby the offeror relies on experience of subcontractors that are not one of the JV members. (Note that the mentor in a JV arrangement is large, while all CTA members must be small businesses, so if a JV forms a CTA, they could potentially use experience examples from both a large and small business partner).

GSA argued that allowing JVs to use additional experience from the mentor, beyond that allowed in the RFP, gave these offerors a “fundamentally unfair competitive advantage”, and to allow a mentor-protégé JV to also form a CTA would needlessly complicate matters. While GAO denied the protestor’s first argument, the GAO decision sustained the protest regarding the second argument, stating that the prohibition on CTAs is unduly restrictive of competition.

As a result, GSA is updating the on-ramp solicitations to reflect the GAO decision. This change is likely to result in a rush to finalize JV CTA arrangements and reexamine pool qualification and relevant experience examples. The original solicitation allows small businesses to submit proposals as CTAs where the small business is a prime, relying on the experience of both the prime and the subcontractors. GAO took issue with the original solicitation’s prohibition on JVs, including mentor-protégé JVs, using pool qualification and experience examples from subcontractors not members of the JV. How GSA will revise the original RFP to allow for fair competition for all types of JVs and CTAs remains to be seen.

Size of the On-Ramps

GSA previously announced plans to expand to a total of 500 SB contractors across Pools 1, 3 and 4, with Pool 4 alone expanded to 100 contractors. Currently, Pool 1 has 44 contractors, Pool 3 has 43, and Pool 4 has 40, so this is a significant expansion.

Future on-ramps for OASIS Unrestricted Pools 1 and 3 will expand awards to a total of 200 contractors in those Pools. Currently Pool 1 has 45 contractors, and Pool 3 has 42, so these on-ramps will more than double the number of awards. For all on-ramps, the highest technically rated offerors will receive those awards regardless of how their score compared to the original OASIS awardees.

How to Prepare

With just a couple of weeks left to prepare for SB and 8(a) on-ramps, examine the requirements in the 2018 Pool 1 SB On-Ramp RFP, keeping in mind the changes likely due to the protest. Begin vetting projects for the prime, JV partners and subcontractors, focusing on gathering the detailed documentation required as proof. To avoid elimination, focus on following all of the very detailed instructions. Compliance is critical to obtaining an on-ramp spot.

How Lohfeld Consulting Can Help

We assess whether your potential score is high enough to secure a spot and make specific recommendations on how to obtain a higher score. Lohfeld Consulting Group’s review of documentation and corresponding narrative also identifies areas where offerors may misinterpret the RFP or provide weak or invalid evidence. Our experienced reviewers conduct the careful, comprehensive proposal reviews and provide the detailed feedback necessary to avoid compliance issues that might eliminate your offer from consideration.

By Lisa Pafe, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, CPP APMP Fellow and PMI PMP

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.
As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $135B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Reprinted with permission from APMP-NCA eZine
We Want to Change

Most organizations and individuals agree that they could do better. As a capture and proposal expert, I work with dozens of businesses from small to large to assess their processes; make recommendations for improvement; and train employees on how to create solutions customers value, perform better capture, and write and review proposals more effectively to increase win rates.

My efforts generally result in agreement that the organization needs to change. Whether I deliver training, provide a capture readiness assessment, analyze proposal operations, review a proposal, or facilitate a solutioning session, my audience typically reacts by stating that they realize they must improve their processes (in fact, they already knew this!), they want to improve their processes, and they plan to implement change immediately.

Bad Processes or Bad Habits?

Yet, quite often, when I return to review work products later, these same professionals have fallen back into an ineffective state, whether that means facilitating an incomplete solutioning effort or capture plan, creating poor quality proposal writing, or conducting ineffective proposal reviews. They haven’t changed their processes or, even if the organization has tried to change processes, individuals haven’t changed their habits. How do we know whether we have bad processes or bad habits?

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary:
Process: a series of actions that produce something or that lead to a particular result.
Habit: a usual way of behaving: something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way.

We often follow processes – whether for acquiring new business, managing a capture or proposal or retaining customers – that are based on “proven processes.” The particular result we seek varies, but in general we seek a successful outcome in the form of a contract win.

Yet, even when results are empirically poor, why do we continue to do things the same way? For example, perhaps we are chasing new business, and we follow our best practice business development processes. The result is a downward trend in win rates. While we may hold a lessons learned session or attend a customer debrief to learn why, often we fail to isolate the root cause of the problem and change our processes and habits accordingly. In many cases, we do not even bother to find out why we failed; we just keep on keeping on!

When we consistently obtain poor results, the bad process is the same as a bad habit. Bad habits are really a combination of laziness and inability to accept change. We can blame the bad habit on the bad processes – “that’s the way we do it” – or we can isolate the root cause of the problem and determine what needs to change.

The Nudge

And that brings me to the topic of “the nudge”. In the book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Nobel Prize winner Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School Professor Cass R. Sunstein define a nudge as any aspect of the “choice architecture” that steers people’s behavior in a predictable way, without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives.

So, if you are not forbidden to use capture or proposal processes proven to be inefficient and/or ineffective, and you are not incentivized financially to change, then why would you elect to change? We all know changing bad processes or bad habits is very difficult. The authors offer ten nudges that can work under different circumstances. Let’s explore five of these.

Use of social norms: Empirically, one of the most effective nudges is to inform people that most of their peers are engaged in certain desired behavior. If you know that everyone is doing it, you may be more likely to join the change. So, if your organization reiterates that everyone, for example, is using a specific writing template to create more effective content and avoid time-consuming rewrites, you are more likely to try the new template as well.

Pre-commitment strategies: If we can get capture and proposal professionals to pre-commit to the desired action, they are more likely to change. Research shows the committing to a specific action at a precise future moment better motivates change and reduces procrastination. Perhaps we can ask professionals to sign a commitment, for example, to conduct lessons learned after each proposal submission, report results, and take corrective action. We would then need to remind them of their pre-commitment, which brings us to reminders, the next nudge.

Reminders: You attended a briefing on 12 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that drive effective capture. You walk away and forget about it. Typical reasons include inertia, procrastination, competing obligations, and forgetfulness. What if at key capture intervals, you receive emails, voicemails and texts reminding you to apply the 12 KPIs? If the timing of these reminders is right (for example, a week before each gate review), you are more likely to change. Reminders are a simple but effective change agent.

Informing people of the nature and consequences of their own past choices: Let’s say you have lost several critical bids. The reasons for the loss are clear, for example, failure to perform effective competitive analysis and Price to Win because you fell prey to incumbentitis. The theory here is that people often lack information. With the proper information, they will change. Organizations could do better collecting debrief and lessons learned data, analyzing the why behind the win or loss, and sharing this information with all capture and proposal professionals involved in the opportunity.

Eliciting implementation intentions: If we specifically ask professionals if they will adopt the new processes, they are more likely to do so. The tone of the question matters, and it must be specific. For example, we may ask, “As a respected proposal professional, will you implement our improved solutioning process?” Research shows that emphasizing identity helps elicit change. Organizations could implement this easily. After spending valuable overhead money to train employees on a new process, asking pointed questions and following up with targeted individuals can help drive the desired change.

Change is a Series of Nudges

We often think that change must be monumental. However, even if we change processes, bad habits may lead to change resistance which is most often passive rather than active. We may be more effective in driving change if we nudge our colleagues and employees towards desired behaviors rather than demanding rapid adoption.

By Lisa Pafe, Vice President, Lohfeld Consulting Group, CPP APMP Fellow and PMP
Lisa has 30 years’ capture, project and proposal experience. She served as President of the APMP-National Capital Area (NCA) Chapter, VP and Speaker Series Chair for two years each. She holds a BA from Yale University, MPP from Harvard University, and MIS from The George Washington University. She is a trainer and frequent guest writer for Washington Technology.

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.

As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $135B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

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Proposal professionals can expect to see an increase in “coding challenges” added to Request for Proposal (RFP) requirements. Government and industry are using coding challenges to either down-select Offerors as an entry or final review gate after they submit a proposal.

Coding challenges are tests sent to evaluate the offeror’s ability to build a minimal viable product (MVP) or web-based app to respond to a set of requirements. Government and industry set the ground rules for the challenge by defining the:

  • challenge questions and instructions
  • time allowed to complete the challenge
  • location of the challenge
  • size of the team able to compete
  • platform and software to be used

If Government and industry do not create their own challenge, they may use one on sites like CoderByte or HackerRank.

THREE CODING CHALLENGE EXAMPLES

  1. GSA Comet – The General Services Administration (GSA) CIO Modernization and Enterprise Transformation (COMET). COMET will require offerors respond to a three-step down select process. All Offerors will submit Volume 1: Past Experience. Offerors down-selected for Step 2, will submit Volume 2: Technical Approach. Offerors down-selected for Step 3, will participate in the Technical Challenge exercise. On the day of the challenge, the offeror will arrive with an Agile Development team prepared to create a working prototype within one business day.Draft Section 11 – Solicitation Instructions and Section 12 Evaluation and Selection Version 2 – Released March 18, 2019, GSA requests that the offeror “leverage Digital Service Playbook concepts to design, develop, and meet the requirements of the User Story. Following the deployment of the MVP, the offeror shall present a demonstration of their MVP and discuss the decisions made in producing the MVP. The presentation format of the MVP is at the Offeror’s discretion, including the extent to which an Offeror chooses to use slides or other presentation tools and techniques.
  1. Office of the Under Secretary for Defense Intelligence (OUSD(I)) and the Defense Security Service (DSS). On March 13, 2019 OUS(I) and DSS released a Request for Information (RFI) for a new system that will support the security clearance management life cycle. As a part of the process for selecting an offeror, OUSD(I) and DSS will issue a technical challenge. Offerors will have seven days to submit their code in accordance with instructions. Offerors will be invited to give a 90-minute presentation following the technical challenge. Offerors can present their product and describe company capabilities to the Selection Team, who will make an award to one or more offerors.
  2. HQ Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (HQ SACT). On January 7, 2019, HQ SACT issued an RFI announcement to invite industry/academia to the TIDE1 Hackathon 2019, the fourth such event run since 2016. Part of the TIDE1 Hackathon will include a Coding Challenge involving what military support activities should be prioritized to enable demining activities. The response should take economic and social priorities for the civilian population into consideration.

Proposal Professionals Can Play a Big Part in the Success of Coding Challenges

Proposal professionals can play a big part in improving the success of their team if they can help perform one or more of the activities listed below.

  • Support the selection of a coding team – Even a company’s best coders are often unprepared to take a coding challenge and can benefit from training and practice. An entire industry has grown up around preparing for coding challenges. Coders can attend boot camps to sharpen their skills or test the skills of current employees. In addition, web sites such as Coderbyte, CodeChef, CodeSignal, CodeWars, HackerRank, LeetCode, and TopCoder can provide practice coding challenges.
  • Instruct coders on the win strategy and strengths of the proposed solution – Often coders do not have time to solve all the problems in a coding challenge, so aggressively commenting about the solution methods and expected outcome can help evaluators understand their logic, methods, and expected outcomes in addition to tying them to the written proposal solution.
  • Organize coding challenge tests, reviews, and presentations – Proposal professionals can help schedule and coordinate practice coding challenges and reviews, and coach the coding team in presenting a compelling presentation about the product they produce.
  • Stay Informed on potential protest issues – On January 9, 2019, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Protest Docket released an opinion on a solicitation issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The solicitation provided a coding challenge as an attachment five days prior to the RFP closing date. The challenge required the offerors to build a conference room reservation system. One offeror’s proposal was rated as unacceptable because the login failed, thus causing the application to be untestable. However, the protester countered that they met the RFP requirements and the Government used unstated evaluation criteria to evaluate their login solution.

GAO found that It is an offeror’s responsibility to submit a well-written proposal, with adequately detailed information which clearly demonstrates compliance with the solicitation requirements and allows a meaningful review by the procuring agency. GAO indicated agencies are not required to infer information from an inadequately detailed proposal, or to supply, information that the protester elected not to provide. In this case, the proposal team could have helped the coding team ensure compliance and responsiveness to RFP instructions.

Summary

As coding challenges become an increasing part of the proposal landscape, proposal professionals can help increase their company’s success rate by identifying coding teams, instructing them on the proposal win strategy and compliance requirements, as well as support challenge tests and practice presentations.

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By Brenda Crist, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, MPA, CPP APMP Fellow

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.

As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $135B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

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Click here to listen to Mark’s interview

On March 4, 2019, Amtower Off Center, host Mark Amtower interviewed Bob Lohfeld, founder and CEO of Lohfeld Consulting Group on issues regarding the bid and capture process.

Topics include:

  • Issues facing set-aside companies as they graduate to full and open competition
  • Best informed wins
  • Measuring your capture process
  • Creating the best solution
  • Defining your strengths
Mark Amtower

Hosted by nationally-known speaker and consultant Mark Amtower, Amtower Off Center highlights the good, the bad, the ugly and the just plain silly of doing business in the government market. Every week experts join Mark for a lively discussion of current issues facing the government contractor community.

Bob Lohfeld

Bob Lohfeld, CF, APMP Fellow, serves as Chairman of Lohfeld Consulting Group.  He has more than 30 years’ experience winning contracts in the government market and is recognized consistently for leadership in business development, capture management, and winning proposals development.

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