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Hello,

Looking for thoughts on a basic question--

Is it possible to receive an Exceptional CPARS for Quality on a simple supply contract?

By definition it seems there is no way to achieve higher than SAT for simply giving us the "widget" we asked for.

However by giving a SAT rating are we then punishing that contractor when others doing the same work are likely given Exceptional?..

Thanks in advance...

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1 hour ago, Kid Acquisition said:

Is it possible to receive an Exceptional CPARS for Quality on a simple supply contract?

You asked a theoretical question without any specific facts to accompany it.  Therefore, you can only get a theoretical answer which in my opinion is  yes.

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I'm certain you see what i'm getting at.  I'm not sure specifics are necessary.  But let's say a box of pop tarts.

Satisfactory rating is achieved by meeting the requirement.  They delivered to me a box of pop tarts.  By definition this is Satisfactory.

How do you do more than "meet the requirement" for Quality on a box of pop tarts and receive an Exceptional rating?

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3 hours ago, Kid Acquisition said:

How do you do more than "meet the requirement" for Quality on a box of pop tarts and receive an Exceptional rating?

Yes. Why not?

Think about it this way.

You order your box of pop tarts. Should be safely packaged (bubble wrap) and arrive within 20 business days.

You receive your box of pop tarts. It is packaged in bubble wrap with packing peanuts surrounding the bubble wrap, with the box taped together with expensive riggers tape. Oh yea, you placed your order only 36 hours ago. 

The end item is the most important factor, but customer service, discount terms, speed of delivery and other factors can lead to higher or lower ratings. Companies make reputations on stuff like this (AMAZON). 

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You’re hitting on one big reason why I think the way past performance gravitated to is awful.  Most companies get high ratings for just doing what the contract requires.  Another fault is CORs, PMs and CO/KOs don’t give proper ratings.  They are hesitant to say anything negative.

Lots of ways exists to do good past performance assessments.  But most people are afraid.  How about digging in to work an offeror does, meet in person or through Zoom or something similar and ask tough questions to customers?  Instead most COs use an email questionnaire and send it only too sources included in proposals.  What offeror would list a bad reference?

Ive seen valid reasons for exceptional on supply contracts.  The contractor sees issues and provides no cost technical assistance, training, expedited delivery and similar things they see customers need over and above what the contract says. 

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Just to add  the Table 42-1 at FAR 42.1503 Procedures. suggests strongly what others have anecdotally offered to support their Yes response.  I suspect your agency FAR supplement or agency policy may provide further guidance with regard to evaluation considerations that could lead to an "Exceptional" rating.

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20 hours ago, Kid Acquisition said:

However by giving a SAT rating are we then punishing that contractor when others doing the same work are likely given Exceptional?..

If a SATISFACTORY rating is honest and jives with Table 42-1 at FAR 42.1503, then assign a SATISFACTORY rating.  Please, do not try to game the system in the contractor's favor -- just give an honest assessment.

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On 4/24/2020 at 5:50 AM, C Culham said:

Just to add  the Table 42-1 at FAR 42.1503 Procedures. suggests strongly what others have anecdotally offered to support their Yes response.  I suspect your agency FAR supplement or agency policy may provide further guidance with regard to evaluation considerations that could lead to an "Exceptional" rating.

Five observations:

1.  Table 42-1 definition of “satisfactory” would lead me to conclude that, if the supplier meets all requirements and evaluation elements without any problems, then it can be rated above “satisfactory”.

“Satisfactory: Performance meets contractual requirements. The contractual performance of the element or sub-element contains some minor problems for which corrective actions taken by the contractor appear or were satisfactory.”

”To justify a Satisfactory rating, there should have been only minor problems, or major problems the contractor recovered from without impact to the contract/order. There should have been NO significant weaknesses identified. A fundamental principle of assigning ratings is that contractors will not be evaluated with a rating lower than Satisfactory solely for not performing beyond the requirements of the contract/order.”

2. When using best value as an evaluation for a supply source selection or other comparative evaluation supply competition,  depending upon the situation, such as developing a new product or manufacturing, PP should probably be a minor factor. Likely so for commercial items commonly sold. 

3. When using past performance as an evaluation factor in a supply competition, one MUST READ the actual narratives accompanying the CPARS ratings to be able to recognize what, if any, advantages or benefits merited the assigned ratings. Just because one supplier has higher ratings than another might be meaningless if the reasons for the ratings don’t reveal any real differences. 

4. The Table 42-1 ratings definitions are actually contradictory because even the very good and exceptional definitions include statements that there were some problems. For a supply contract, if there were NO problems, technically, none of the ratings would apply - although that would be meaningless.

5. It bugs the crap out of me when Government evaluators only use the assigned ratings as discriminators in trade-off comparisons between firms and when they write evaluation factors that only consider the assigned ratings - not the reasons for those ratings. It reminds me of the old days when we scored proposals and many used the overall scores to select the winner, rather than dig down to make a trade-off comparison.

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Thus, many of the concerns expressed herein can be overcome by 

1. Making sure that your supply competition evaluation criteria for PP aren’t limited to looking at the CPARS ratings, without evaluating the reasons for the ratings.

2. Realizing that there may not be a need to make PP a relatively important rank or weight - focusing more on a track record of benefits or problems encountered with a firm than only the rating.

3. Ensuring that the supply competition eval criteria and trade-off considerations are established to provide true discriminators between firms, fully supported by narrative justifications for your ratings, for comparisons and for the reviews of those contracts in CPARS.

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20 minutes ago, joel hoffman said:

Five observations:

1.  Table 42-1 definition of “satisfactory” would lead me to conclude that, if the supplier meets all requirements and evaluation elements without any problems, then it can be rated above “satisfactory”.

“Satisfactory: Performance meets contractual requirements. The contractual performance of the element or sub-element contains some minor problems for which corrective actions taken by the contractor appear or were satisfactory.”

”To justify a Satisfactory rating, there should have been only minor problems, or major problems the contractor recovered from without impact to the contract/order. There should have been NO significant weaknesses identified. A fundamental principle of assigning ratings is that contractors will not be evaluated with a rating lower than Satisfactory solely for not performing beyond the requirements of the contract/order.”

2. When using best value as an evaluation for a supply source selection or other comparative evaluation supply competition,  PP should probably be a minor factor.

3. When using past performance as an evaluation factor in a supply competition, one MUST READ the actual narratives accompanying the CPARS ratings to be able to recognize what, if any, advantages or benefits merited the assigned ratings. Just because one supplier has higher ratings than another might be meaningless if the reasons for the ratings don’t reveal any real differences. 

4. The Table 42-1 ratings definitions are actually contradictory because even the very good and exceptional definitions include statements that there were some problems. For a supply contract, if there were NO problems, technically, none of the ratings would apply - although that would be meaningless.

5. It bugs the crap out of me when Government evaluators only use the assigned ratings as discriminators in trade-off comparisons between firms and when they write evaluation factors that only consider the assigned ratings - not the reasons for those ratings.

Joel,

The table also states that for ratings above Satisfactory that, "Performance meets contractual requirements and exceeds some to the Government's benefit", so imho simply delivering the product on time with no issues would not warrant anything above a Sat.  However, if they delivered it early (like in the example provided by Constricting Officer) that could warrant a higher rating.  I force my staff to justify to me whenever they want to give a rating above Sat how the performance was exceed to the Government's benefit.  There are too many COs and CORs that simply give out an Exceptional for doing what we contract a company to do. 

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On 4/24/2020 at 7:58 AM, Desparado said:

Joel,

The table also states that for ratings above Satisfactory that, "Performance meets contractual requirements and exceeds some to the Government's benefit", so imho simply delivering the product on time with no issues would not warrant anything above a Sat.  However, if they delivered it early (like in the example provided by Constricting Officer) that could warrant a higher rating.  I force my staff to justify to me whenever they want to give a rating above Sat how the performance was exceed to the Government's benefit.  There are too many COs and CORs that simply give out an Exceptional for doing what we contract a company to do. 

Desparato, I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I’m thinking that one could state that the government benefited by no problems encountered. And  yes, they delivered the products early, if that was a benefit and so forth.

However, the key here is that when USING PP as a factor in competitions - move the focus away from sole emphasis on the CPARS RATINGS in the system to evaluating the underlying, supporting documentation - the REASONS for the ratings.

This is particularly appropriate for commercial item acquisitions, right?

If a firm is concerned about sloppy ratings being a lack of true discrimination between firms in a competition, then I would suggest that they pay close attention to how the government states that PP records will be evaluated and how it will be used as a discriminator in the competition. Then decide if it could be a problem worth raising early and/or if it is worth it to compete. 

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Another thought occurred to me. Emphasize to your folks when creating a CPARS performance rating, to clearly state that there were no problems encountered, if that is the situation.

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In either the digression or extension (not sure which one) of this thread I fear there is a move away from the original question.  Why?   In CPARS there are in fact 7 seven possible areas of evaluation.

1) Technical/Quality of Product or Service 2) Cost Control 3) Schedule/Timeliness 4) Management or Business Relations 5) Small Business Subcontracting 6) Regulatory Compliance 7) Other

Now I may be reading too literally but @Kid Acquisition asked the question regarding "Quality".  In the simplest of views Kid has not stated if the widget is off the shelf or if made to order.  The latter most definitely creating lots of opportunity for the contractor to meet or exceed contractual quality requirements to the governments benefit.   The former the less so but still possible in the realm of "quality".

 

 @Kid AcquisitionNoting your thank you   I hope we helped.  In regards to the  detail that the further responses attempt to unveil I offer the below reference  in case it is not a reference on your radar as it may help in settling in your own mind how one could get to Exceptional for a widget.  I do have this final parting thought - The consistency between agencies in finalizing a CPARS is hoped for but there, as raised, are misgivings where what one gets as a rating  is not representative of anything.  Why do I say this?  In my current seat of being retired but involved I have personally been exposed to CO's that have stated that they would never give any evaluation other than SAT regardless of the contractors actual performance which leads you down the path of the extension of comments in this thread to your question. 

https://www.cpars.gov/documents/CPARS-Guidance.pdf  

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14 hours ago, formerfed said:

You’re hitting on one big reason why I think the way past performance gravitated to is awful.  Most companies get high ratings for just doing what the contract requires. 

This issue is universal and not at all limited to the acquisition space. We have this philosophical debate every year during annual performance reviews.

Boss: "You rated employee A as above average. Explain your rationale."

Me: "Employee A did all this great work during the year. Look at this list of significant accomplishments. Plus other behaviors such as collaboration and coaching ..."

Boss: "So Employee A did her job. That's hardly above average."

Me: "The average employee around here doesn't do a good job."

Boss: "Are you saying that's my leadership failure?"

Me: " ... "

Boss: "And you want to give her a bonus for just doing her job, as well!"

Me: "Look boss, do you want to retain this well-performing employee, or have her accept the next job offer that comes her way? Do you recall the statistics on how much it costs to recruit and train new hires? This is a pittance compared to that value."

Boss: <BIG DRAMATIC SIGH> "Oh, well. But this goes against my management philosophy."

Every year. Like clockwork.

People (and contractors) should be recognized for doing a good job. Because the average is less than satisfactory, in some way or another.

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I would love to see the Government use employer's evaluations of their employees as an evaluation factor for award.

Unsuccessful Offeror: Why did we only get a satisfactory rating for personnel qualifications?

Government: We based that on your ratings of your employees.

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3 hours ago, Retreadfed said:

Don, don't give DCAA ideas about how to do audits of labor costs.  I can see the finding now "The contractor's labor costs are unreasonable because they do not match employee performance ratings."

DCAA already approaches audits of incentive compensation (bonuses) that way. Not a large leap...

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On 4/24/2020 at 10:56 AM, here_2_help said:

Boss: "So Employee A did her job. That's hardly above average."

Me: "The average employee around here doesn't do a good job."

This reminds me of the philosophical debate about who are the extremists in a society of angels?

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As h2h pointed out, this issue goes beyond acquisitions. It appears to be common in any sort of rating program where humans determine the rating. Going back to my active duty Air Force days, we had an enlisted performance rating system that the Air Force eventually replaced because the vast majority of people were getting the top rating. When the new rating system was deployed, it was emphasized that most people would be "average" performers, and therefore should receive average ratings. This only lasted a little while, as I recall less than a year, until people complained that it was hurting these average performers, as some supervisors were once again giving their average performers the top rating. Many of these "top performers" were now given a promotion advantage (the promotion system was weighted with the performance rating being one of the factors). While many "satisfactory" performers were actually above satisfactory, but their supervisors didn't want to contribute towards over inflating the "new" performance rating system.

As a civil service employee, I have seen the above situation played out again. It depends on the agency/organization you are assigned to. Some organizations are liberal with giving top ratings, and some feel that "satisfactory" really is the proper rating for the "average" performer. There are others, such as my current organization, that falls somewhere between those 2 philosophies.

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Note to government suppliers who are concerned how the government uses their performance ratings in competitions. When the government prepares a performance rating for you to review, you may submit comments, rebut statements or provide additional information. If the government assigns a “satisfactory rating” ( or an even higher rating) AND there were ZERO problems encountered, you should ask that the government specifically state that under each factor. This is because the rating definitions, even for “exceptional” or “very good “, would imply that some problems occurred. You should ask and insist that the government document that there were “no problems”, if that is applicable, because the rating definitions ARE contradictory, when there were no performance problems encountered. 

From 42.1305(d)

“...(d) Agency evaluations of contractor performance, including both negative and positive evaluations, prepared under this subpart shall be provided to the contractor as soon as practicable after completion of the evaluation. The contractor will receive a CPARS-system generated notification when an evaluation is ready for comment. Contractors shall be afforded up to 14 calendar days from the date of notification of availability of the past performance evaluation to submit comments, rebutting statements, or additional information. Agencies shall provide for review at a level above the contracting officer to consider disagreements between the parties regarding the evaluation...”

Then- if past performance is used as a discriminator in future supply competitions, the documented reasons for the PP trade off must be able to support, for instance, why they would pay more for a another, higher priced offer.  The fact that no problems occurred on your sales could also be used to support award to you where there are no other documented differences or advantages in PP ratings.  

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8 minutes ago, joel hoffman said:

Agency evaluations of contractor performance, including both negative and positive evaluations, prepared under this subpart shall be provided to the contractor as soon as practicable after completion of the evaluation.

And what is the consequence to the agency if it does not do this?  I have seen several instances where the government fails to follow this guidance with the result that the contractor has not been provided with an opportunity to comment on the CPARS evaluation.  There is no clause implementing this policy which leaves contractors in somewhat of a no man's land regarding getting contracting officers to comply.

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4 hours ago, Retreadfed said:

And what is the consequence to the agency if it does not do this?  I have seen several instances where the government fails to follow this guidance with the result that the contractor has not been provided with an opportunity to comment on the CPARS evaluation.  There is no clause implementing this policy which leaves contractors in somewhat of a no man's land regarding getting contracting officers to comply.

For possible avenues of recourse, see :  https://www.smithcurrie.com/publications/common-sense-contract-law/challenging-negative-performance-evaluations/

If the government is following the  prescribed procedures and, if there were zero problems, it should be willing to notate that there were no problems experienced. If it isn’t willing to notate it, the contractor has the right to add additional information, as stated in the procedures. 

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All good points Joel.  The link you provided shows exactly why the governments past performance rating process is weak.  I know people subjected to this legal path and having to defend themselves while trying to be honest and objective.  Their response was “never again.”  I know two instances where CORs and COs were mentioned in correspondence to Congressional reps just because they provided honest statements.  It’s much easier to take the route than poor performance is satisfactory.  
 

The process as originally conceived was good.  But it became a bureaucratic nightmare.  What employee wants to provide honest information about a poor performing contractor on an agency questionnaire? Then again what CS/CO wants to seek good information by taking the time to sit down with customers and ask pointed questions face-to-face?  It’s easy to do nothing except use CPARS and send email questionnaires to offeror provided references. 
 

edit:  I just found this data in the post below..  It looks like 97% or so of all contractors are satisfactory or better

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