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sbm1102

Key Personnel in Solicitations

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We typically ask for offerors to provide resumes of key personnel with their proposals.  But when it comes to designating what the key personnel positions are, should we dictate which positions are considered key personnel in the solicitation or should we leave it up to offerors to determine what the key personnel positions are?  I've seen it done both ways.

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 I assume that you are evaluating key personnel as a discriminator between proposals .  therefore, I would recommend that you evaluate similar positions for each proposal and you should have evaluation criteria and minimum qualifications for each key position.  You would need to name the key positions that you're looking to evaluate. 

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sbm1102:

What is the argument for requesting offerors to determine what the key positions are, if any? Sounds ripe for unintended consequences and unpredictable results. You say you've seen it both ways. Can you provide an example, reference, or link? I'd like to see how it is being implemented in practice.

If you don't have specific personnel qualification requirements (key personnel/positions) you could probably live without that particular factor/sub-factor.

Have you considered if, when, and why key personnel evaluations are necessary?

What is the objective of key personnel evaluation?

What offeror information is necessary to achieve or accomplish the objective?

Which of the two choices you provided best fulfills the above?

 

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Key personnel is an iffy evaluation factor, but it's deeply embedded in government source selection consciousness, so I accept it for what it is.

I agree with Joel, but I'd make one suggestion. Think in terms of key functions instead of key positions. By designating key personnel positions, essentially, position titles, you might be thinking that persons with certain position titles will fulfill certain organizational functions. But different companies might use different position titles or prefer to organize functions under different structures and might combine functions differently within various positions. You might not want to specify key personnel positions in ways that reflect false assumptions, lock the competitors into government-specified organizational structures, or seem to do so.

Some agencies want contractor organization to mirror government organization, so that every government position has a counterpart to talk to. That's fine if that's what you want, but then be clear that that is what you want. Own up to it and expressly require it. But if that is not what you care about or want, write the RFP to be clear that what you want to know is who will perform certain key functions, what their job title will be, and what their qualifications are for that job.

Another thing to consider doing is to include in the RFP a graphic showing the government's organizational/work breakdown structure (a graphic aka, "Responsibility Assignment Matrix" or RAM--Google it) for the requirement and instruct offerors to show their own and show who in the company will be the counterpart of whom in the government.

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I agree with Vern that, if you are going to evaluate personal, focus on the function rather than job title. 

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I understand that key personnel evaluations are "deeply embedded in government source selection consciousness," but wherever possible, I challenge the usefulness of a key personnel evaluation.  If the SOW/PWS specifies qualifications for key personnel, then you don't have to evaluate them -- the winning contractor must comply with those qualifications as a matter of contract administration.  And if you do evaluate key personnel, well, after award the contractor can change the people.  In my mind, for most acquisitions, a key personnel evaluation is of no real value -- indeed, I think they are more trouble than they are worth.

 

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I agree with i20874. I wrote the following in an essay published in The Nash & Cibinic Report in November 2004, "Key Personnel: Evaluation Factors and/or Promises?":

 
Quote

It appears that in most cases, agency evaluations of key personnel are based on reviews of the information in resumés and obtained from former employers and customers. In addition, some agencies occasionally assess the qualities of key personnel during interviews and oral presentations. The methods used are rudimentary and even crude from the standpoint of human resources specialists, and I have long wondered whether it is possible to make useful predictions of the likelihood of future success using such methods. In an article in the September 20, 2004, edition of THE NEW YORKER, entitled Personality Plus, Malcolm Gladwell looked into how corporations use personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Thematic Apperception Test and commercial assessment services in their hiring and promotion processes, and he tried to assess the effectiveness of such tests and services. Such techniques are much more sophisticated than anything typically used by source selection evaluation boards to evaluate key personnel, yet Gladwell concluded that such tests “will tell us little about the thing we're most interested in,” which is how people will actually behave on the job.

I think that there are legitimate grounds on which to question the utility of evaluating key personnel during source selection, especially when evaluating proposals for long-term, complex contracts. First, evaluations based on resumés focus on formal qualifications such as education, training, and documented experience. Setting aside concerns about widespread falsification of resumés, education and training are not the same as knowledge and ability, and descriptions of past employment and experience are notoriously written to persuade, rather than to inform. And interviews, which I think are essential if you are going to be serious about evaluating key personnel, are hit and miss at best when it comes to predicting performance, as anyone who has ever conducted employment interviews can confirm. Second, focus on such instrumental factors as key personnel seems to be inconsistent with performance-based contracting, which calls for a focus on results. Third, there is no guarantee that proposed key personnel will be assigned, devoted, or dedicated to the contract throughout its life, that they will play the roles described in the proposal job descriptions, or that they will be effective in those jobs. Finally, the contract is with the contractor, not its employees, and even if the contractor breaches a “Key Personnel” clause, a board or court might find that there are no damages if the contractor performed acceptably. And if the contractor did not perform acceptably, would its compliance with the “Key Personnel” clause be a defense? What if the contractor loses a key person and proposes a series of replacements that the Government rejects as unacceptable, but performs well despite the position vacancy-would the Government be entitled to a reduction in price or fee because the position was vacant for a long time?

... I understand why people want to do it, but given the insistent complaints from agencies about overwork and being shorthanded and about the time required to make contractor selections, why bother with a factor and a clause that do not contribute much to sound decisionmaking?

 

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If an agency still chooses to focus on Key Personnel Titles/Duties instead of Functions, and if an agency chooses to utilize the Statement of Objectives (SOO) method instead of a SOW, how can that agency evaluate Key Personnel under the Key Personnel Evaluation Factor?  In a SOO, the agency does not designate the KP roles/titles/duties, rather, the offeror is supposed to determine the composition of its Key Personnel. 

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Key personnel language in a PWS drives me crazy.  Some of the things the customer puts in would seem to be unenforceable.  It just so happens I got a new requirement in today that I am looking at.  Here are some excerpts for key personnel.

"Substitutions of proposed Key Personnel shall not be allowed for one-year after award, except under extreme circumstances."

"Replacement of Key Personnel can be accomplished under the following circumstances:

  • Death
  • Serious, prolonged illness, the onset of which post-dates the contractor’s submission of that Key Person’s resume to the government.
  • In the case of a Key person who was a Contractor employee when the Contractor submitted his or her resume to the government, the Key Person leaves the Contractor’s employment for reasons other than retirement and does not commence work for a subcontractor on this contract or for the contractor after a hiatus."

"Failure to replace a Key Person pursuant to this clause and without a break in performance of the labor category at issue is a basis for default termination, as are Key Personnel proposed not performing this contract (e.g., the Offeror is unable to hire one or more of the Key Personnel it proposed). Offerors are responsible for conducting due diligence to ensure that Key Personnel proposed will perform on this contract should the Offeror receive the award. Offerors may propose Key Personnel who they do not employ at the time the offer is submitted, but failure of such proposed Key Personnel to commence work on this contract will be deemed a prima facie showing of the Offeror’s lack of adequate due diligence and reflect poorly on business integrity and responsibility."

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jtolli,

The original posting is about key personnel evaluations before award -- your comment is about post-award contract administration.  But your point is well taken -- that is strident text.

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Recognizing that key personnel identified in a proposal may or may not always be available or might move on to other assignments, we developed a clause to use in USACE  Design-Build contracts.  It has also often been used in regular construction contracts awarded through sole source or competitive negotiations.   The clause is intended to establish a minimum standard for proposed substitutions. The USACE adopted the clause a couple of years ago with issuance of the USACE Acquisition Instructions. 

 

"Personnel, Subcontractors and Outside Associates or Consultants (MAY 2006)

In connection with this contract, any in-house personnel, subcontractors, and outside associates or consultants will be limited to individuals or firms that were specifically identified in the Contractor's accepted proposal. The Contractor shall obtain the Contracting Officer's written consent before making any substitution for these designated in-house personnel, subcontractors, associates, or consultants. If the Contractor proposes a substitution, it shall submit the same type of information that was submitted in the accepted proposal to the Contracting Officer for evaluation and approval. The level of qualifications and experience submitted in the accepted proposal or that required by the Solicitation, whichever is greater, is the minimum standard for any substitution.  End of Clause." 

 

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13 hours ago, govt2310 said:

If an agency still chooses to focus on Key Personnel Titles/Duties instead of Functions, and if an agency chooses to utilize the Statement of Objectives (SOO) method instead of a SOW, how can that agency evaluate Key Personnel under the Key Personnel Evaluation Factor?  In a SOO, the agency does not designate the KP roles/titles/duties, rather, the offeror is supposed to determine the composition of its Key Personnel. 

"...how can that agency evaluate Key Personnel under the Key Personnel Evaluation Factor?"

Why dont  you ask those who want to evaluate key personnel why they want to, what information they will evaluate and what evaluation criteria they would use? 

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