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jayandstacey

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Everything posted by jayandstacey

  1. jayandstacey

    A Hiring Challenge.

    Believe it or not, I love the idea in concept. It achieves your stated goals. It creates that "earned it" mentality you mention in the post above, where an employee will be a little more bought in to the company for having invested in the challenge of getting the job. It is well established that writing samples (typically in a shorter format) are an accepted, proven hiring tool. The concept has merit. You provided parameters that seemed to invite an application into the real world... a specific salary, a specific type of hiring company, etc. In fairness, I just think (in the spirit of a thought experiment) that an application of this approach in the real world would have some challenges to consider, and might not make it past the HR folks. Having conducted somewhat similar hiring, and having tried creative approaches when doing so, and having consistent resistance to such, maybe my spirit is just sullied. You didn't ask that though...you asked us to put ourselves in the shoes of an applicant, and I rather like the exercise as an applicant in the abstract. If it were tailored to my particular expertise I believe I would do very well, thanks in part to the aforementioned nuns. Sorry for ripping into it.
  2. jayandstacey

    A Hiring Challenge.

    Will do - Always good advice when the gedanken experiment takes an ad hominem turn. Have a good weekend!
  3. jayandstacey

    A Hiring Challenge.

    (realizing that Vern doesn't want to hear this...) If I'm one of the final 3 applicants and give a 6 hour/3000 word essay prior to being hired, there is a 2 in 3 chance that I just gave away valued work product for free, to a probable competitor (assuming I have a 1 in 3 chance of being hired from the exercise). Being that the exercise is to write to a 101 level essay, the facts therein may not be very proprietary. But the assembly and organization of it, and any insights, might be valuable to a company. Hiring is a very litigious area. As the hiring company asking this of applicants, I'd consider getting some kind of waiver from the applicant, and in exchange, I'd commit that their work would be destroyed if they were not chosen for the job. I'd have a contingency plan in case one applicant says "sorry, my time is too valuable - I can provide one hour, or samples..." and in doing so, I'd have to review all these steps against my goal: to hire the best applicant. Am I losing more than I am gaining? Funny thing, I like writing essays and would relish the exercise in my areas of knowledge. But if I were the hiring company, I would find other ways to be creative, enticing and low risk yet thorough in my search.
  4. jayandstacey

    A Hiring Challenge

    Kind of reminds me of an episode of "The Office" where Dwight Schrute is training/evaluating Ryan, who wants to get into sales. Dwight takes the Ryan to his barn, straps Ryan into a chair and begins to grill him. At the end of the questioning, Dwight declares that to really sell, one must overcome fear. And as Dwight yells the word "fear" - Dwight's cousin jumps out of hiding, into Ryan's face in a threatening manner, wearing the word "fear" across his sweatshirt. Ryan gets up, shakes his head and walks out. I mean, yes, Dwight was right. His methods were just a bit unorthodox.
  5. jayandstacey

    A Hiring Challenge

    I believe that in the real world, a "a large, highly reputable, and very successful corporation" will have some inkling of who's out there - by knowing who they've come up against. Such a company would have the luxury of hiring based on observed, real world results; results they seen work well for other companies. I also believe that such folks are hired for other aspects of the job, things like the ability to negotiate with management, to make compelling presentations, etc. To wit, such an exercise might in fact scare off the best-of-breed applicants. Remember the company is also selling to the candidate, and at this level the company profile becomes more and more important. And there is NO company that doesn't have a reasonable competitor alternative for such a job requirement - applicants will walk away from scenarios they feel aren't a good fit, even if the company is successful overall. The best of breed applicant might look at this and say "really, you're going to lock me in a room for 6 of my valuable hours to write you a 101 essay that you're going to possess BEFORE you offer me a job? Nope!" Instead, I think the savvy hiring team gets (close to) the assessments you seek through a series of coordinated interviews combined with market knowledge. The first interviewer asks a few questions to lead down the path of the essay topic. The first interviewer shares notes and the second drills down a little further. Etc. Maybe writing samples are requested (note - yes, they may have had help with their writing sample...but won't the successful new hire have help in their new position?) Might still be the same 6 hours but is more flexible and less likely to scare off the candidate. It also allows the company to remove candidates after the first interview or two, without the need to evaluate an entire essay. Having said all this, I think that such an exercise might be useful for existing employees to consider how/where to expand roles. For instance, a director has a team of 5 managers and they are looking to grow their existing their long-term support services business. The director uses Mr. Edwards' approach with the 5 managers to see who's a best fit for the new role AND to scoop up good ideas from the rest. Now to answer your questions: Do you think the challenge is reasonable? Overall, no, not for experienced, external candidates. Would you accept the challenge or walk away? I'd be really concerned about the kind of work environment I was getting into. Unless unemployed at the time, I'd probably walk away from the concept. It smacks too much of a company looking to get free work from me, or that has weird job requirements that I'm not able to imagine yet, or that likes to surprise the employees. If I'm a senior level applicant, I'm not too interested in the possibility of workplace/HR experiments, particularly while doing government related work. If you would accept, how well do you think you would do? On that particular topic, not well - it is not my background. On others, fairly well.
  6. jayandstacey

    Probability Problem #2

    Got it, agree. I recall coming out of the FAR Bootcamp thinking "Who knew that Sister Boniface's sentence diagraming would be the most useful skill in this course?" (BTW, great course, had fun and learned a lot. Get a nun to teach it and you'd really have something! ) The result, as you lay it out in the top of the same posting, also makes business sense. The gotcha is to get away from the notion that a cost evaluation must result in a single, fixed number. There's a strong temptation to distill a complex offer into a single evaluation data point, and that isn't always the right approach.
  7. jayandstacey

    Probability Problem #2

    I think we are assuming that these are %s that the CO has independently calculated. To me, it points to the idea that more offeror info/discussions/research should be conducted to break the tie and determine the most likely cost. I could be wrong about this, but I feel like these are simple %s applied to complex scenarios. To look to the future and say “there is exactly a 50/50 chance” between two outcomes in such a scenario seems either virtually impossible OR an admission that very little is known about the scenario. Are there real world contracting scenarios where a proposed cost may be A or B, and the chance of A or B is known to be an even 50%? I sense the writers of the FAR clause didn’t think such things existed. (Edit- using my own drawbridge example from above, then let’s assume a third offeror “Smith” has a drawbridge that’s open 50% of the time, thus creating the scenario you ask about here...in that case, if I’m the CO, I think I realize that the FAR doesn’t cover everything, it can’t. And I think I make the call that says “the tie goes to the runner” and I allow the Smith offer to be evaluated at the lower cost (with a higher ‘ding’ in the risk evaluation). I document the file as such, and if any other offeror also has a true 50/50 cost, I treat them the same. Having said that; I’d at least try to see if in fact the drawbridge is open EXACTLY 50% of the time, given the aging infrastructure and all that...) (a little more editing: I believe one of basic tenants of the FAR is that the Government is choosing. Choosing awardees, requirements, evaluation factors, etc. It is the job of the CO to choose in many situations. Often there just isn’t room for a “tie”; the Government can’t buy the same tank from two different companies. It has to choose one. I believe this clause is an instance of that, suggesting that the CO reasonably determine the most likely cost and use that as the basis for evaluation. It doesn’t leave room for a 50/50 because...it’s in the business of choosing. It instructs the CO to find the most likely cost; 50/50 is not following the instruction. Have I gone off the rails? It’s late.)
  8. jayandstacey

    Probability Problem #2

    I’m confused by this: the FAR citation I provided does say “most likely”, doesn’t it? Am I quoting an older FAR version? I agree with everything else you’ve said, including the slippery slope argument. I almost posted a longer version of my earlier post, which would have continued on...I would have taken the risk of the higher cost basis and shifted this into my risk evaluation. This is not to say that the Hoffman cost isn’t reasonable, or that any more math has to be done. Just that the Hoffman offer has a higher chance for a higher cost...and thus gets a “ding” (however that was defined in the RFP) in the risk evaluation. But in the cost evaluation section, they are both evaluated at $100m. I think FAR 15.404-1(d)(2)(i) instructs this. I also happen to believe this is a reasonable approach. While I understand probabilities, they also present us here with impossible numbers (for evaluation purposes) that is better addressed in a separate risk evaluation. To illustrate: let’s say we are evaluating Edwards’ and Hoffman’s ability to drive from their respective houses to mine. Both can do so in 100 minutes and both normally would do so. But both have a drawbridge that opens occasionally for 20 minutes. Thing is, Hoffman’s drawbridge opens twice as often as Edwards’. As an exercise I could get to 104 and 108 minutes as their time to get to me. But of course neither of these times would EVER be the actual times. I think it is more appropriate to say “both are likely to get here in 100 minutes. Both have a risk of a 20 minute delay. Hoffman’s risk of delay happens to be twice Edwards’.” Doesn’t that accurately describe the cost situation? I didn’t mention this as Don didn’t mention anything about how risk is considered in the solicitation. Nor am I a contracting officer...so I don’t have working familiarity with this. But if I were, I’d be reluctant to introduce manufactured numbers like $104m when I could factor the increased risk elsewhere. You mentioned that you’ve not seen a protest addressing combined probabilities used in cost evaluations...but why even go there (assuming there’s room in the evaluation factors to plug in general risk factors?) If this is a dufus question I won’t expect an answer. As a side note, years ago I almost did protest on a fairly similar instance; a talk with the CO shifted the thinking.
  9. jayandstacey

    Probability Problem #2

    I'd use $100m for each. FAR 15.404-1(d) includes: (2) Cost realism analyses shall be performed on cost-reimbursement contracts to determine the probable cost of performance for each offeror. (i) The probable cost may differ from the proposed cost and should reflect the Government’s best estimate of the cost of any contract that is most likely to result from the offeror’s proposal. The probable cost shall be used for purposes of evaluation to determine the best value. In each offer, the probable cost is $100m, since $100m is the most likely outcome from either offer.
  10. Wasn't that essentially the root issue in the Kingdomware decision? That the VA stopped doing SDVOSB set-asides once the goals were met? Only one example, I know...and this was a bit of a corner case due to the uniqueness of the VA and SDVOSBs...but the practice seemed to be there.
  11. This one is particularly perplexing. The current system is pretty much like a run up to a cliff. You're advantaged to drive success, then the advantages are pulled away at a point where you may be too small to effectively compete against the big guys, and you're disadvantaged (or even not allowed to compete) with companies that have only 10 less employees than you do. So the path becomes, almost invariably, to grow the business to the line then cash out. Forget about the fact that at the line, you might be the type of business that can REALLY be an economic engine under a more level playing field, generating increasing growth in jobs and revenues. Nope - you sell out to one of the big guys, or simply close the doors at that point. The only thing keeping this from being a disaster for some companies seems to be the inconsistency of the application of small vs large. As a company becomes larger, it begins to tick off various NAICS codes it can't bid under as small, until it runs out. Likewise, contracts have various re-certification schedules, where the company might be able to maintain their small status for some time on some contracts. So the cliff isn't exactly sheer, but it is pretty steep. Which in some ways is worse. As I said above, I've considered what fixes I'd make. I've thought about patches to the current system, whole new systems, and ditching the system entirely. The latter seems to make the most sense, yet is least likely politically. Which leaves us with a vending machine that everyone seems to know how to shake to get free stuff.
  12. I once interviewed candidates for a job and asked each "what regulations would you change?" - FAR 19 was the consensus favorite. Even if you take the supposition that small business concerns should be favored as a way to drive the economy, I'm not sure the current regs actually help that...and maybe they do the opposite. Take the notion that many NAICS code thresholds are based on number of employees - the rules encourage companies to stay UNDER those thresholds; to limit the number of jobs they create. I knew of one company that did sweeping annual layoffs each fall (after busy season) just to ensure they stayed under the headcount caps. That's the behavior that results from the rules - is that in line with the underlying intent of the rules? It seems quite the opposite. I've not considered pure neutrality (i.e., no economic preferences) as proposed in the book description. I've thought of lots of tweaks and alternatives to FAR 19, but they all suffer from flaws. And maybe that's the best case for neutrality. Besides, build a better mousetrap and the government won't care what size you are. The book sounds interesting.
  13. Is this solicitation for commercial items? If so, under the right conditions, a SB subcontracting plan can be company-wide and not specific to the solicitation. The plan can also be expressed in terms of the percentage of dollars subcontracted vs. some other standard (like the contract value.) So, when using a company plan, a prime might pull in a $billion annually, subcontract only $200 annually, and have $100 of that $200 go to a small business. And that small business might mow the lawn one time at their HQ. In that case, the Company SB Commercial SubK Plan would show 50% attainment...and would be applied to multiple contracts throughout the year. If so, the salient points of the new technical requirement is that the dollars be tied to those companies performing on the contract, and that the percentage attainments are tied to the total contract value, not just the value that the prime decides to subcontract. It seems like a way of beefing up the commercial SB plan requirements by creating a new, higher bar; one that can be evaluated and preference given to a bidder willing to actually involve small subcontractors in the effort, vs. a Company SB Commercial SubK Plan which can only really be a "yes/no" evaluation. Does this fit the situation?
  14. jayandstacey

    NASA SEWP and BPAs

    Hmmm...I don't recall. It was about 15 years ago. I hear ya. Whenever I hear someone say "BPA" i have to stop and ask: Do you mean ANY agreement to to do blanket buys? Or a kind of subset to an IDIQ? Or a BPA as an FSS construct? I've heard it used as a synonym to "contract". I'm just an entity on an internet forum with no authority at all It is simply an adjustment I'd make to the rules, if I were able to adjust the rules.
  15. jayandstacey

    NASA SEWP and BPAs

    Well, it can't be as broad in scope as a BPA could be. It needs defined requirements, such as an agency's Approved Products List. It also must be bid; it can't just be negotiated. Years ago I set up a BPA for "2% off all GSA orders" against a particular GSA Schedule, as negotiated (not competitively awarded). That's not possible with an Agency Catalog. Additionally, FSS contracts (and thus BPAs) can be teamed between contractors, and can be utilized by state & local governments. While these benefits aren't specific to BPAs, they do make a BPA a very different tool from an Agency Catalog. To what end? Have you reached out to NASA? It's an Agency Catalog, not a /BPA. Going back to the earlier question - No one is awarding a BPA against a non-FSS IDIQ. However, I do believe there are times where doing so makes good sense. The IDIQs in this space are generally large (many awardees) and sliced one particular way; usually, by small business status, like with SEWP, but sometimes by technology scope. However, these slices don't always meet Government needs. If a buyer has particular, justified, cross-cutting needs (for instance, for vendors with a 24/7 help desk, or for vendors that are certified a certain way, or even just to get lower prices with some companies with some relevant past performance) - wouldn't it make sense to allow the Government to narrow the IDIQ field one time and use that for future fair opportunities and purchases? Not forever, and not for everything...but to a limited scope. My opinion is that certain types of IDIQs should have the same BPA capabilities (and restrictions) as FSS contracts. Or something very close. Or that BPAs should be reigned in a little bit. You're making accusations of confusion and lack of process - yet seeking to understand SEWP's Agency Catalog. You may be right...I don't have the Plan you reference. The claim just seems premature. Basically. But the process and options have changed and the slides are a year old. You'll want to work with NASA.
  16. jayandstacey

    NASA SEWP and BPAs

    I've not seen a one-contractor option for this, at least not recently, maybe because of the Motorola decision. It is not a BPA and doesn't have all the features of a BPA. It does temporarily create a smaller subset of qualified SEWP vendors for a defined and limited batch of in-scope products/services and to that end can help streamline procurements while driving to lower baseline prices.
  17. jayandstacey

    SDVOSB resellers and work percentage

    That is if an online subscription from a publisher, as resold, counts as a service. Maybe it does. The FAR is a bit weak on making the distinction. Edit - is it a FAR part 37 Acquisition?
  18. jayandstacey

    SDVOSB resellers and work percentage

    And following from this (as referenced in FAR 52.219-27(f)), FAR 19.102 (f) (4) and (5) address the particular situation at hand. Also, LearningCurve, doesn't the Kingdomware decision require the VA solicit from SDVOSBs? It isn't necessarily the "big publisher" trying to "force" anything or gain preference. It's how it has to be done. And the non-manufacturer rule applies.
  19. Does it even need to be human-based? This seems like an ideal task for the AI procurement bots.
  20. Call the new paradigm the "NEAR" - New Excellence in Acquisition Regulations Because, you know, its the opposite of the FAR.
  21. jayandstacey

    Evaluation Factors

    <sigh> This is sad to read. It's the stuff of $600 hammers.
  22. jayandstacey

    Evaluation Factors

    We're trained to be flashy. And non-binding.
  23. jayandstacey

    Evaluation Factors

    Is it? They could be equivalent, in the sense that the second company just didn't give as many details. But they MIGHT be doing the same thing, the descriptions aren't contradictory. One certainly provides more confidence; I get that. From the government's perspective, they ARE ultimately the same, in that neither provides a guarantee. Now, if the first one promised they WILL fill the position within 15 days, and that becomes a part of the contract...that's a different offer. Right? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for consideration of the company as a hedge against risk. I'm just cautioning that even a pig can be described with flowery, detailed language that instills confidence.
  24. jayandstacey

    Evaluation criteria very vague

    Agreed. The vagueness is a function of the fact that the government is not always an expert at these things/services....which partly explains why they are reaching outside the government to procure them. The vagueness is also a strength; it allows the government to maximize competition, stay current and to change gears when they want or need. Is the incumbent favored sometimes? Sure. But if that were ALWAYS true, there'd be no competition at all.
  25. jayandstacey

    Evaluation criteria very vague

    Hi Vern: Information Technology products and services. In my particular example; the product was an enterprise software agreement. Our proposal matched the Government's payment structure to when/if they had the budget, which allowed us to win. The Government was precise in the definition of the software, what was left for the contractors to solve was HOW to deliver the licenses so the Government could be successful. We solved it with a financed structure. The item was simple; the structure was a bit complex but necessary. More broadly (not to Vern per se): While a "better mousetrap" isn't always in play; I'd say it often is, even if not asked for. These can be small (like showing how commercial past performance might be more relevant) to large (proposing a much more efficient backhoe when the Government envisioned a team of laborers with shovels). Most every company Ive ever known was formed with some unique value proposition in mind, and RFPs are sometimes a battle of who's value proposition is either listed as more important in the RFP, or not listed but evaluated from the proposals. That's the rub for lotus - don't show up late to the party, then try to protest into the win. That's just not a sustainable business practice. Convince buyers ahead of time of the value prop your company brings, and be the thing they're looking for. My old company had a general policy that we wouldn't bother to bid on RFPs that were "news" to us upon their release. Because it meant we'd already probably lost that battle and our resources were better spent somewhere else.
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