This weekend offered me a perfect example to illustrate why ATTENTION TO DETAILS is on of my main themes. As a result of my failure to pay attention to details, I am writing this from my home office instead of on a warm and sunny beach in Florida. Here is what happened. My wife and I were scheduled to fly to Florida for a long weekend getaway. We had purchased our tickets many months earlier at a very reasonable price. We have two airports close to us, Washington Dulles and Reagan National. For logistics purposes and flight selection, we always use Washington Dulles. For some reason, which I can no longer remember but probably was price, we booked this trip out of Reagan National. I did my normal preparations: reviewed itinerary, printed boarding passes, and checked flight status before leaving home. Not once did I look at the airport – why should I since we always use Dulles as our point of departure? As you can probably guess, I went to the wrong airport. Of course, all alternative flights were overbooked, so we made the run to the other airport (30 miles away – normally 45 minutes according to the taxi drive). I always arrive at airports early (I grew up in an airline family) so we had almost 2 hours to get to the airport and on the flight. Nature (and traffic) had its way. It was raining and traffic was extraordinarily heavy. The good news is that the security line was short. We arrived at the gate a few minutes ahead of departure. Of course, they had secured the plane early and given away our seats. Despite all attempts (begging on my knees and threats of Cajun curses), we were unable to get anywhere near our destination that night.
The point of this story is that one must pay close attention to details when bidding into the Federal Government. I know many people only want to read the “relevant” sections. Technical staff want to read the technical sections, contracts the terms and conditions, etc. I highly recommend that EVERYONE READ THE ENTIRE DOCUMENT. Many times, constraints are hidden other sections and may not be highlighted by the person reading that section. For example, key person and place of performance are contained in the terms and conditions, as are operational procedures. In fact, to make it fun, hold a “Document Review Workshop” shortly after the release of a solicitation document from the Government (this included Questions and Answers and Modifications). Encourage everyone to contribute. You might consider a brown bag event or having food brought in. You will be surprised by what comes up. This is an excellent way to get the team engaged and to generate your questions for the client.
Even more important, pay attention to the delivery instructions. I attended a Department of Homeland Secruity industry day recently, where they told us five bidders has missed the submission deadline by less than five minutes. Unfortunately, these bids were rejected. I am sure the companies, who had spent a lot of money on the proposal, were shocked and disheartened. And do not forget about electronic submissions. The Government must receive your bid by the date and time designated. Many agencies have slow e-mail (or web sites) and restrictions on the size of documents that are accepted. Check with your client on restrictions prior to submitting and allow time to resubmit if your initial submission gets rejected. Always turn on delivery and read receipts, but do not assume you will get one. Check with the Contracting Officer BEFORE THE DEADLINE if you have not receive an electronic receipt or confirmation of receipt. Finally, speaking from experience, always CHECK THE TIMEZONE.
Do you have stories related to failure to pay attention to details? If so, please share them with us.
Agree with both of you on reviews frequently being poor for several reasons. One of several ways I have tried to improve reviews is to provide participants a 1 hour brief 1 week in advance of a review, especially a pink team review. The brief summarizes key information with a focus on evaluation items and provides review participants an opportunity to ask some initial questions so they can begin to get their minds around the important challenge they face. My sessions include a few slides tailored to generate a focus on requirements and evaluation criteria. As we all know, many review participants, especially senior folks, are so crunched with work that they have little time to prepare adequately for reviews by going through materials in advance of the actual review. This 1 hour session a week in advance helps prepare them and gives them a chance to ask some questions of the capture and proposal managers. I put it on their schedule when the proposal schedule is 1st developed – John
John… Great idea. I am going to try this on my next proposal effort. Thank you so much for recommending it.
Mark, great advice as always. And now that I have had a few minutes to check out your site I’m most impressed–congratulations!
I couldn’t agree with you more–it’s all in the details. I can’t tell you how many pink and red team reviews I have sat on and had to tell the proposal team that their response just didn’t address the RFP requirements or make a convincing argument for all the points per the evaluation criteria. It’s not about the bidder’s greatest ideas for what they “think” the agency needs–it’s about responding to what the agency asks for, and then some “wow” factors.
Deborah… I could not agree with you more. I am planning another blog on how to conduct reviews. I think one of the problems is that the proposal team becomes overwhelmed with all the data and does not fully understand want is required. This can be overcome by what I call “workshops”, but any team discussion works. The key is communications and sharing ideas. All too often, individuals break off for a few weeks and come back together at the end, only to find that all the pieces to not fit and a lot of effort is expended knitting the final product. I could go on for a long time, but will save that for later… Mark