Moving Your Proposal to Beyond ‘Acceptable’

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Image: “GYST Services

WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY By By Lisa Pafe

Federal government evaluators couldn’t care less about win themes. They are looking for Strengths, and if they do not find Strengths, they may instead find Weaknesses, Risks and Deficiencies.

In the federal space, Strengths are features of merit with proven benefits that exceed requirements and/or significantly reduce risk in a manner the customer values.

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“We all know that, at a minimum, proposals must be compliant and responsive. If a proposal meets this minimum bar, the evaluator is likely to award it an Acceptable rating. But what if, despite several rounds of color team reviews, the proposal barely meets this mark?

A Mediocre Proposal

We can assume that an Acceptable proposal will not win in a federal government competitive best value trade-off, unless other bidders also submit Acceptable proposals, and price is the determining factor.

Under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), government evaluators must make an award based on benefits offered by the proposer. Those benefits may include features of the proposed offering with proven benefits, or a low price, or some combination of the two. Still, unless the win strategy is based on a low bid, the goal of our color team reviews is to improve proposal quality. As a result, we would hope that our proposal rises from merely Acceptable to Good or even Outstanding as we move from Pink to Red to Gold Team.

However, we encounter situations where despite the best efforts of reviewers and writers, the proposal never rises above mediocre. Why did this happen? In the case of some recent reviews we at Lohfeld Consulting joined as consultants, there were too many reviewers with no training or direction, too many comments and too little consensus, too little time to recover between reviews, and an ill-defined solution.

A Compelling Solution is Rich in Strengths

Writers cannot create masterful text with no direction. Communicating the win themes to writers is not enough direction. Writers need annotated outlines and/or content plans with Strengths mapped to evaluation factors.

If the capture team did not work with subject matter experts and solution architects to craft a solution of merit, and/or failed to vet potential Strengths with customers, then the writers will not write about Strengths. The reviewers will therefore not find any Strengths. The proposal will therefore remain mediocre.

Ten Lessons Learned

The lessons learned below assume that the team has developed and vetted a solution rich in discriminating Strengths. Assuming there is a well-defined solution, here are ten lessons learned our team identified to improve color team reviews and proposal quality.

  1. Types of Reviews: Not all color team reviews are created equal. Determine, up front, what type of color team reviews you will conduct and the purpose of each. We recommend that at least one group of reviewers act like a mock government source selection board to score and rate the proposal like the customer evaluation team. Every type of review should have discrete, well-defined roles that are clear and manageable.
  2. Team Composition: Get the right people committed early and get the reviews on their calendars. Keep review team membership consistent across reviews. Involve proposal professionals in the review to inspect for quality of proposal writing tradecraft (including graphics). Also, involve independent reviewers who know nothing about the opportunity.
  3. Training in the Art of Review: The right reviewers are trained reviewers. Make sure all the reviewers understand the proposal color team protocol. Set expectations for the reviews, provide agendas and scoresheets, and offer guidance/training on using automation, virtual proposal sites and/or evaluation tools.
  4. Team Size and Review Duration: Size the review team and review duration to the proposal size and complexity. Ensure each reviewer has adequate time to review assigned sections. A good rule of thumb is 25-30 pages per day per reviewer. Ideally, two or more reviewers will review each assigned evaluation factor or proposal section for a complete picture.
  5. Preparation: Ensure all review team members prepare in advance. Advance preparation includes reading the RFP, Q&A and amendments. The review team should also have access to the proposal manager’s compliance matrix and the capture manager’s win strategy. (If some reviewers are to act completely independent, do not provide the win strategy in order to see what a fresh pair of eyes finds).
  6. Horizontal and Vertical: Review horizontally for cross-section consistency. Review vertically to determine if the proposal is compliant and responsive (Acceptable) as well as persuasive and compelling (Outstanding). Do reviews at multiple entry points in case customer evaluators review only one section or one evaluation factor.
  7. Consensus: Review teams should have different roles. Some may be reviewing like a government evaluator. Others may be doing a compliance review. Still others may read the proposal for persuasiveness. No matter how you divide the roles, require each review team to provide a consensus out-brief including the proposal score or rating as well as perceived Strengths, Weaknesses, Deficiencies and Risks.
  8. High Level Out brief: Avoid time wasting, long-winded out briefs. Instead keep the group out brief under an hour with a focus on a prioritized set of recommendations for improvement. Save details for one-on-ones with authors to speed recovery and improve quality.
  9. Writer One-On-Ones: Too often, writers receive hundreds of comments and must fend for themselves during proposal recovery. Assign reviewers to fully brief the writers on consensus findings. Conduct iterative reviews before the next formal color team to ensure recovery is on track.
  10. Lessons Learned: After proposal submission, conduct an internal lessons learned using a standard template. Which review processes worked, and which didn’t? Do you need more training in proposal solutioning, writing, and/or reviews? Develop and implement corrective actions as needed.

It All Begins with a Solution

Just write and solution later is the worst way to develop winning content. Yet, too often, reviewers are expected to evaluate proposal drafts that reflect the lack of a compelling solution. If you want color team reviews that work, solution before you write. Give writers effective templates and fully developed content plans with Strengths mapped to evaluation factors. Then, implement the ten lessons learned above, and see your color team reviews improve and win rates soar.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2020/05/01/insights-pafe-beyond-acceptable.aspx

How Pandemic Response Is Shifting federal IT

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Image: London School of Economics and Politiacl Science

FCW”

The pandemic response has shown the traditional 12 to 36 month acquisition planning cycle is not how we need to do things“, says Harrison Smith, Deputy Chief Procurement Officer, at the IRS.

COVID-19 has underscored the need for us to move ahead in a more agile manner but also balance that quicker capability with responsible spending”

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“From supply chain, to acquisition, to automation, the federal response to COVID-19 is changing what IT means to agencies, according to several top federal IT managers.

As the pandemic grew, the Small Business Administration ramped up its telework efforts and surged its personnel and IT to support disaster and small business loan portals, the agency was told there were potential shortages desktop and laptop computers and lagging supplies of peripheral devices such as mice and monitors, according to agency CIO Maria Roat. That shortage, however, didn’t slow the efforts down, as the General Services Administration and NASA’s SEWP contract had enough to support SBA’s efforts, she said, but it showed a potential problem.

With other agencies, including Health and Human Services and the Veterans Administration looking for similar IT gear, “the supply chain on the hardware side was stressed,” said Roat during an April 30 ACT IAC teleconference.

Cross-agency teamwork, she said, is a critical piece of such a huge response. SBA’s dozens of field offices, for instance, can now rely on IT support from GSA and Agriculture Department IT field personnel because of collaboration through the Federal CIO Council, according to Roat. “I haven’t used that yet,” she said, but it’s helpful to know the help is there.

In setting up its telework and loan platform efforts, Roat said SBA has leveraged software defined networking, collaborative technologies, such as Skype, and Microsoft Teams.

In support of the loan platforms, said Roat, SBA has turned up its Gigabit bandwidth on Ethernet backbone circuits to handle the traffic on the portals. The agency, she said, plans to add more capabilities, as well hone existing capabilities in the coming weeks.

“We’re now getting ready for release five” of those portal efforts, she said. The agency will add additional features, such as chat boxes, a way to view active cases and additional workflow refinements, as well as additional personnel, she said.

The COVID-19 response, said Harrison Smith, deputy chief procurement officer, at the IRS, has shown the federal government needs faster, more responsive methods to get what it needs in times of crisis. The pandemic response has shown the traditional 12 to 36 month acquisition planning cycle “is not how we need to do things,” he said.

COVID-19 “has underscored the need for us to move ahead in a more agile manner” but also balance that quicker capability with responsible spending, he said.

That could mean making a way for agencies to shift to more creative ways of getting things on the fly, possibly forgoing interagency agreements for say, shared services, for instance, according to Smith.

GSA, said Beth Killoran, the agency’s deputy CIO, is learning to leverage drones, data analytics and virtual capabilities to handle more of its federal building management duties. The agency is using geotagged images to track contractors’ construction or repair work on its buildings, to save local and federal building inspectors from having to make a trip to sites, she said. The agency is tasking drone aircraft to do exterior building inspections, as well. GSA has also tapped public data of COVID-19 hotspots at federally-owned medical facilities, to inform where its cleaning crews can safely do their work.

Modernized IT, said Roat, Killoran and Smith, is key to responding to such a huge crisis. The workforces at GSA, SBA and IRS, they said, have adapted quickly to telework because they had begun to move toward telework before the crisis.

House lawmakers previously proposed a $3 billion bump for the Technology Modernization Fund in a COVID-19 bill that ultimately went nowhere, but future additions are possible. Roat, who is on the TMF board that approves projects for funding said it’s unclear if any new funding will be approved.

SBA, she said, spent 50 intense days planning and executing a plan to implement IT to support public-facing portals and services for COVID-19 response.

“From where I sit, I’d bet other agencies are doing the same” reflection on how to move ahead from here, she said. “How would we use that $3 billion to look at the bigger picture?” Should it concentrate on shared services, she wondered. “Everyone is at home right now. Everyone is digital. We need to ramp up out digital citizen interaction.”

https://fcw.com/articles/2020/04/30/covid-changing-federal-tech-rockwell.aspx?oly_enc_id=

The Pentagon’s Artificial Intelligence “Black Box”

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FCW

In February, DOD formally adopted its first set of principles to guide ethical decision-making around the use of AI.

By the guidance they seek to push back on criticism from Silicon Valley and other researchers who have been reluctant to lend their expertise to the military.

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“The Department of Defense is racing to test and adopt artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions to help sift and synthesize massive amounts of data that can be leveraged by their human analysts and commanders in the field. Along the way, it’s identifying many of the friction points between man and machine that will govern how decisions are made in modern war.

The Machine Assisted Rapid Repository System (MARS) was developed to replace and enhance the foundational military intelligence that underpins most of the department’s operations. Like U.S. intelligence agencies, officials at the Pentagon have realized that data — and the ability to speedily process, analyze and share it among components – was the future. Fulfilling that vision would take a refresh.

“The technology had gotten long in the tooth,” Terry Busch, a division chief at the Defense Intelligence Agency, said during an Apr. 27 virtual event hosted by Government Executive Media. “[It was] somewhat brittle and had been around for several decades, and we saw this coming AI mission, so we knew we needed to rephrase the technology.”

The broader shift from manual and human-based decision-making to automated, machine-led analysis presents new challenges. For example, analysts are used to discussing their conclusions in terms of confidence-levels, something that can be more difficult for algorithms to communicate. The more complex the algorithm and data sources it draws from, the trickier it can be to unlock the black box behind its decisions.

“When data is fused from multiple or dozens of sources and completely automated, how does the user experience change? How do they experience confidence and how do they learn to trust machine-based confidence?” Busch said, detailing some of the questions DOD has been grappling with.

The Pentagon has experimented with new visualization capabilities to track and present the different sources and algorithms that were used to arrive at a particular conclusion. DOD officials have also pitted man against machine, asking dueling groups of human and AI analysts to identify an object’s location – like a ship – and then steadily peeling away the sources of information those groups were relying on to see how it impacts their findings and the confidence in those assertions. Such experiments can help determine the risk versus reward of deploying automated analysis in different mission areas.

Like other organizations that leverage such algorithms, the military has learned that many of its AI programs perform better when they’re narrowly scoped to a specific function and worse when those capabilities are scaled up to serve more general purposes.

Nand Mulchandani, chief technology officer for the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center at DOD, said the paradox of most AI solutions in government is that they require very specific goals and capabilities in order to receive funding and approval, but that hyper-specificity usually ends up being the main obstacle to more general applications later on. It’s one of the reasons DOD created the center in the first place, and Mulchandani likens his role to that of a venture capitalist on the hunt for the next killer app.

“Any of the actions or things we build at the JAIC we try to build them with leverage in mind,” Mulchandani said at the same event. “How do we actually take a pattern we’re finding out there, build a product to satisfy that and package it in a way that can be adopted very quickly and widely?”

Scalability is an enduring problem for many AI products that are designed for one purpose and then later expanded to others. Despite a growing number of promising use cases, the U.S. government still is far from achieving desired end state for the technology. The Trump administration’s latest budget calls for increasing JAIC’s funding from $242 million to $290 million and requests a similar $50 million bump for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s research and development efforts around AI.

Ramping up the technology while finding the appropriate balance in human/machine decision-making will require additional advances in ethics, testing and evaluation, training, education, products and user interface, Mulchandani said.

“Dealing with AI is a completely different beast in terms of even decision support, let alone automation and other things that come later,” he said. “Even in those situations if you give somebody a 59% probability of something happening …instead of a green or red light, that alone is a huge, huge issue in terms of adoption and being able to understand it.”

https://fcw.com/articles/2020/04/28/dod-ai-black-box-johnson.aspx?oly_enc_id=

Vietnam And Modern Memory

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A member of the CIA helps evacuees up a ladder onto an Air America helicopter on the roof of 22 Gia Long Street April 29, 1975, shortly before Saigon fell to advancing North Vietnamese troops.

MILITARY TIMES By Edward F. Palm

Vietnam today is what we had tried to make it: a free-market consumer society. The tragedy of it is that over 58,000 Americans and some 2 million Vietnamese had to die just so that Vietnam could get there on its own timetable rather than ours.

The great majority of us served honorably and proved ourselves to be better than the muddle-headed politicians who had sent us. That’s something to be proud of.

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“Back in the mid-80s, an Army officer of my acquaintance succinctly summed up the mood of the post-Vietnam military: “It’s OK to be a Vietnam veteran in today’s military,” he observed, “so long as you don’t dwell on it or refer back to it.”

He was right. He had intuited the largely unspoken, but widely understood, politically correct attitude toward our humiliating defeat. Vietnam had been an aberration, the kind of war we would never fight again. And the less said about it, the better.

Ironically, this same spirit of denial and revision has spread to American society in general in recent years. It’s OK to be a Vietnam veteran in today’s America, so long as you remember that war the way President Reagan portrayed it, as a “noble crusade,” and so long as you profess utter admiration for our armed forces and unwavering support for our current crusades.

Thursday, April 30, marked the 45th anniversary of the fall of Saigon — and the end of our Vietnam misadventure. The Vietnam War I remember, and later studied, was anything but a “noble crusade.” It was a profoundly existential experience. Survival was the only moral touchstone, and getting through to our rotation tour dates the only goal we cared about. All the Marines I knew “in country” were profoundly skeptical of the official rationales for why we were there and increasingly embittered by the reluctance of the South Vietnamese to fight their own war.

My fellow Vietnam veterans seem to have forgotten how traumatized we were about all this. We have been co-opted, bought off with belated handshakes and glib expressions of gratitude. We have forgotten what really occasioned all the bitterness and fueled the post-traumatic stress of our generation.

It wasn’t that the country failed to welcome us home or to honor our service with parades. It was the discovery that our leaders had lied to us about the nature and the necessity of the war and that the conduct of the war put the lie to the ideals and values in which we had all been raised to believe.

Would that we all knew then what we know now. Ho Chi Minh was first and foremost a nationalist. Early on, he had appealed to us to help dissuade France from reclaiming its former colony at the end of World War II. But we needed France’s help in blocking communist expansion in Europe, and the ensuing Cold War clouded our judgment. We feared falling dominoes. By 1950, we were mired in Korea and bankrolling France’s Indochina War. With the fall of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, we took over. We sent in intelligence operatives to subvert the Geneva Accords, especially the plebiscite that would have reunited North and South Vietnam under whichever government the majority chose. Having defeated the French, Ho Chi Minh was the hands-down favorite to win. The South Vietnamese president we had installed, Ngo Dinh Diem, was almost as alien to his own people as we were. Ho Chi Minh had cornered the market on Vietnamese nationalism, and out in the countryside, most of the people seemed to want no part of what we were selling.

What’s worse, once we had taken over in our own right, we began to take that indifference personally. Contrary to popular belief, we weren’t forced to fight with one hand tied behind our back. We unleashed a greater tonnage of bombs on Vietnam than we did in all of World War II. We declared free-fire zones. We defoliated large areas with Agent Orange. We made liberal use of close-air support and indirect fire weapons with little regard for the so-called “collateral damage” such weapons inevitably inflict.

Racists that we were, we dehumanized the Vietnamese as “gooks” and “slopes.” Unable to distinguish friend from foe, we viewed them all as potential threats. Hence, the worst atrocity of the war — the My Lai Massacre. Hell hath no fury like a country scorned, especially one that considers itself to be exceptional and eminently deserving of admiration and emulation.

This is not to say that, because we were wrong, the other side was wholly righteous. They resorted to terror. They mistreated our POWs. They were hardly magnanimous in victory. But the irony is that we seem to have won after all.

So how then should those of us who served in Vietnam feel about participating in such an unnecessary and misguided war? While so many of our contemporaries sat in self-indulgent safety and comfort, we put ourselves on the line. Some of us went in believing. Others suspended judgment or even went against our better judgment. But the great majority of us served honorably and proved ourselves to be better than the muddle-headed politicians who had sent us. That’s something to be proud of.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/opinion/commentary/2020/04/30/vietnam-and-modern-memory/

Edward Palm

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A native of New Castle, Delaware, Edward Palm served as an enlisted Marine with the Combined Action Program in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Returning to the Marine Corps in later life, Palm served as the Marine Officer Instructor with the NROTC unit at University of California, Berkeley and taught English at the Naval Academy before retiring as a major in 1993. His civilian academic career included appointments as a tenured professor and college dean. He now lives in Forest, Virginia. Contact Ed Palm at majorpalm@gmail.com

COVID-19 Enhances Pentagon Cyber Policy Commission Report Recommendations

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FIFTH DOMAIN

“The importance of having that one person, that singular belly button in the executive branch who’s coordinating efforts across government .

So that you don’t have to create an ad hoc task force, [so] you’re not scrambling to find who are the right people we need in the room after the crisis has already occurred,” Co-Chairman Rep.Mike Gallagher, R-Wis. Gallagher

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“A co-chairman of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission said April 22 that the fiscal 2021 defense policy bill could include about 30 percent of the group’s cyber policy recommendations.

According to Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., who co-chairs the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which released a report with more than 75 cyber policy recommendations March 11, said on a webinar hosted by Palo Alto Networks that commission staff is working with the appropriate congressional committees and subcommittees to put about 30 percent of its recommendations into this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

The report proposed a three-pronged strategy for securing cyberspace, called layered deterrence: shape behavior, deny benefit and impose cost.

The report also takes U.S. Cyber Command’s “defend forward” policy, which allows the military to take a more aggressive approach in cyberspace. It also suggests broadening the policy to encompass the entire federal government.

Gallagher didn’t specifically identify recommendations he thinks will be included in the NDAA, but given that the bill focuses on authorizing Defense Department programs, Pentagon-specific recommendations are the likeliest to be in the legislative text.

The recommendations for the department focus on ensuring that the Cyber Mission Force is adequately equipped; establishing vulnerability assessments for weapons and nuclear control systems; sharing threat intelligence; and threat hunting of the networks of the defense-industrial base.

The spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, disrupted the commission report’s rollout, which included congressional hearings on the commission’s recommendation. Those hearings have been canceled. But the pandemic also highlights the need to implement recommendations made in the report, Gallagher said, specifically the establishment of a national cyber director in the White House.

“The importance of having that one person, that singular belly button in the executive branch who’s coordinating efforts across government so that you don’t have to create an ad hoc task force, [so] you’re not scrambling to find who are the right people we need in the room after the crisis has already occurred,” Gallagher said

Before the spread of the coronavirus, congressional committees had planned to host hearings on the commission report, but those were canceled after the coronavirus spread throughout the United States. Congress is currently wrestling with how to remotely conduct voting and committee business, as the pandemic is restricting gatherings of large groups of people.

“Even though coronavirus has complicated some of … our commission rollout, we’re continuing the legislative process right now, and I’m pretty optimistic about our ability to shape this year’s NDAA,” Gallagher said.

As for the other recommendations, Gallagher said they aren’t germane to the NDAA and will take “some time.”

https://www.fifthdomain.com/congress/capitol-hill/2020/04/22/cyber-policy-suggestions-for-pentagon-could-be-implemented-this-year/

A Framework For Federal Government Service Contracting Small Business Systems

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Image: “Smalltofeds”

SMALLTOFEDS” By Ken Larson

INTRODUCTION 

Waiting for a contract award to achieve a government contracting business process is not advisable. A win may not happen at all without addressing the structure and process requirements in your proposal to convince the customer you understand his business environment.

If you are not prepared in advance and you are fortunate enough to win, then in a very short time frame you will have to evolve your business system to perform on your contract and submit a billing.

This article will discuss a framework for a small enterprise to develop a business system in service contracting, which is the most frequent venue utilized to enter the government market.

The above diagram depicts the major elements of a suggested integrated template.

If you are a small startup organization, your process and automation may be quite rudimentary and simple in addressing the above structure and functions. If your company is in a high growth mode with many transactions, projects and details your processes and computerization will be more complex.

The point to remember is the need to overlay the above on your existing company for the unique products and services you provide, and then address how to fit, supplement, or accommodate the necessary adjustments to support contracting to the government.

Please read the following articles on the highlighted topics for details that may assist in evolving your unique business processes to support government contracting:

Long Range Planning

Should You Consider Small Business Federal :Government Contracting?

Provisional Indirect Rates

Teaming in Government Contracting

Protecting Intellectual Property and Proprietary Data

Human Resource Planning

Generic Contingent Hire Agreement

Contracts and Pricing
Proposal Preparation

Pricing
Project Planning

Earned Value Management Systems

Contract Baseline Management

Cost Centers, General and Administrative , Operations, Job Cost Records

The “Past Performance” Challenge

Establishing FAR and CAS Compliant Small Business Systems

DCAA Audits and Small Business Job Cost Accounting Systems

Customer Relations

Customer Relations and Government Personnel Roles

What Small Business Should Know About the FEDBIZOPPS Web Site

Multiple Front Marketing In Small Business Federal Government Contracting

Small Business Set-Aside Designations

SUMMARY

You may wish to download the free book and related documents at the “Box Net” cube in the right margin of this site for further information and live examples:

https://www.smalltofeds.com/2009/09/federal-government-contracting-small.html

Remember, small business federal government contracting is not rocket science – it is taking what you do well in the commercial environment and applying it in a slightly different manner from a business perspective to accommodate the way the federal government does business.”

https://www.smalltofeds.com/2009/09/federal-government-contracting-small.html

How ‘Distance Work’ Is Transforming The Workplace

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Image ricoh-europe.com

WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By John M. Kamensky

***These changes already happened years ago in some pockets of the government. ***A New Era of ‘Distance Work?’ ***What Is Reality on the Ground Today? ***This Is All Part of a Longer-Term Shift. ***What’s Next?

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“The response across the economy and in government to COVID-19 has massively accelerated the future of work. The lofty talk about the future of work – digital transformation, a remote workforce, distributed teams, telework – is suddenly a reality in both the public and private sectors. Long-standing resistance and silos have been knocked down by a crisis that threatens the very continuity of organizations.

And what does real distance work look like? At NASA, a team of engineers is orchestrating maneuvers of the Curiosity rover on Mars from their computers in their living rooms and bedrooms.

Not long ago, futurists were predicting that changing employee expectations, shifting labor dynamics, and new technology would reshape work and the workplace. But the reshaping was driven instead by the coronavirus. Still, the insights of futurists, such as Josh Bersin, are relevant to understand what organizational leaders will face in the weeks and months ahead. In a 2016 Forbes article, he identifies three transformational changes that we face:

  • Personal — such as how our careers progress, how we stay current in our skills;
  • Organizational — such as the roles of people vs. machines and how organizations are set up; and
  • Societal — such as how we educate and prepare people for work and how we help them transition as jobs change.

These changes already happened years ago in some pockets of the government. For example, in a recent op-ed for the New York Times, former general Stanley McChrystal and Chris Fussell wrote: “Fifteen years ago, in the throes of our fight against Al Qaeda, the Joint Special Operations Command, where both of us served, needed to do this exact thing. We pivoted from being a centrally located, thousands-strong enterprise to a network of small teams spread around the world. . . . “Digital leadership” was not in the job description for our generation, but it became a critical skill for all of us to learn in the fast-moving and constantly changing fight.”

Similarly, the Patent and Trademark Office began its transition to telework more than two decades ago, as one of the pioneers in the intensive use of telework in the government. Subsequently, it has touted the benefits of this approach as: increased employee satisfaction, work-life balance, and cost savings from reduced needs for office space. However, more importantly during the current pandemic, its webpage says that operations are expected to “continue as normal.” In fact, they are helping their clients – patent attorneys and inventors – by easing some of the requirements they face in teleworking, as well.

A NewEra of “Distance Work?”

Not long ago, the trends were towards open office, gig workers, and the increased use of automation in the workplace. In fact, telework was declining in many public and private organizations, especially in the federal government. But the response to the COVID pandemic is ripping up the playbook on how work gets done. Every organization faces new ways of working, and even though there are plans to return to office-based work, the new approaches involve distributed locations and collaboration that likely won’t be temporary.

decade-old law requires federal agencies to incorporate telework into their continuity of operations plans. However, less than half of federal employees are authorized to work remotely. Shawn Skelly, a commissioner on the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, recently wrote: “The challenges the nation is [sic] experiencing now should be a wake-up call for policymakers and federal agency executives alike.”

Separately, a telework advocate, Kate Lister, writes that expanding federal telework would save taxpayers an estimated $14 billion a year as a result of reduced real estate, absenteeism, and turnover, and increase productivity and continuity of operations.

Many private sector companies have moved to almost all online operations. This includes Automattic (the company behind WordPress, which powers 35 percent of all websites on the internet and has no offices) and IBM, which has moved virtually all of its global operations to a digital presence. It shifted from about 30 percent of its 350,000-person workforce being distance workers earlier this year to well over 90 percent in a three-week period.

What Is Reality on the Ground Today?

As federal agencies started shutting their doors and directing employees to work from home, they began grappling with concrete issues such as the resiliency and security of their IT systems, the availability of laptops, and connectivity. 

Many were concerned short-term about their continuity of business operations, and in the longer term, the culture shifts required to motivate and manage a distributed workforce. These issues, much like those workplace futurist Bersin raised, include:

  • Coping with the immediate response (e.g., increased challenge of balancing personal and work responsibilities with kids at home);
  • Planning for recovery and rebuilding (e.g., increased costs for network demand, emotional costs); and
  • Optimizing for the future (i.e., creating a new normal. What worked that we should continue? What must be redesigned? How better to prepare for future unforeseen events?)

The approach the IRS has taken in addressing these issues probably is not atypical. Federal News Networkchronicled its expanded use of telework during the COVID-19 crisis response effort. Commissioner Chuck Rettig told employees that they had the option of avoiding face-to-face contact with taxpayers. Empowering employees to choose gave them an unaccustomed freedom, and that freedom unnerved front-line supervisors.

According toFederal News Network: “Chad Hooper, president of the Professional Managers Association, which represents supervisors at the agency. “[We’ve] never in our careers been in a situation where employees have been empowered to that extent,” he said in an interview.” In addition to this sudden culture shift in the middle of the 2020 tax filing season, employees found that working from home was sometime impossible because much of IRS’s work is run on Windows 7 desktop computers, which tie people to their desks.

The reality of working from home affects federal agencies differently. Law enforcement, regulatory, and national security agencies obviously are concerned about security and systems access issues. Benefits, healthcare, and statistical agencies are concerned about privacy issues as processes to make decisions about benefits, services, and information move massively online as well. One model for addressing these challenges comes from the U.S. intelligence community, which has managed to create ways for some of its employees to work from unclassified facilities (e.g., from home) by addressing technical and policy options.

This Is All Part of a Longer-Term Shift.

Corporate telework advocate Lister recently told CNBC News: ““The coronavirus is going to be a tipping point. We plodded along at about 10 percent growth a year for the last 10 years, but I foresee that this is going to really accelerate the trend.”

In a similar vein, transformation consultant Khyati Nayak writes in Federal Computer Week: “The forced social experiment brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is compelling the federal government to adapt culturally and technologically at a rapid pace. Federal workers have turned to government-approved technology such as Skype, WebEx, and Slack to meet, collaborate, and in many cases, just to commiserate . . . ” and she concludes that this crisis creates an opportunity to transform the federal workforce.

What’s Next?

Given this premise that distant work and distributed teams will be enduring– even with a “return to normal” strategy being discussed — the response to this pandemic may spark a permanent change in how government will work from now on. This change likely will occur along a spectrum of possibilities, which I’ll explore in additional posts in coming weeks:

  • How is the private sector pivoting to work from home?
  • What’s been the federal government’s historical approach to telework over the past decade?
  • What’s happening in federal agencies today?
  • What’s happening in state and local governments today?
  • Tips and tricks on how you and your team can work remotely effectively”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2020/04/23/insights-kamensky-part-1-future-of-work.aspx

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

John Kamensky

John M. Kamensky is a senior fellow at the IBM Center for the Business of Government and a fellow at the National Academy of Public Administration. He can be reached at john.kamensky@us.ibm.com.

“Tracing”Challenges Using Tech To Combat COVID-19

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Image: “FCW

FCW” By Steve Kelman

This refers to gathering information about those with whom newly infected people have been in touch, in order to notify them that they might have been infected.  The most-interesting example of this is a recently developed Singapore app called TraceTogether.

It is impossible to mention systems such as these without some raising concerns about privacy. These efforts are still in the earliest stages — but we should be tracking how combating coronavirus has entered the digital age.

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“Recently there has been attention to the importance of what is called “contact tracing” for fighting the coronavirus.

This has come up in the discussions of “reopening the country” after recent lockdowns, with the argument that slowing disease spread depends heavily on being able to do this, though it did not appear in the president’s re-opening plan.

But contact tracing has historically been a resource-intensive and very imperfect process. Officials have had to go to newly infected people and interview them about whom they have been in contact with over the previous two weeks. Memories of course are often imperfect. People may not even know everyone with whom they interacted. And the interviewing itself takes significant time and manpower.

In just-published guidance of contact tracing, the Centers for Disease Control has stated that “contact tracing in the U.S. will require that states, tribes, localities and territorial establish large cadres of contact tracers.” Reaching people to interview about contacts can be slow, and contacting those contacts delays things further. Meanwhile, there is a limited window between infection and illness to catch contacts with problems, so speed is important.

However, since the Ebola outbreak in 2014, mobile telephone technology and especially smartphone penetration have dramatically improved. We are now seeing, mostly in Asia, the use of tech to provide quicker, more accurate, and more economical contact tracing in response to the coronavirus pandemic. I blogged a number of years ago on the theme of areas where Asia was overtaking the U.S. in tech apps, which I illustrated with the widespread use in China of mobile payment apps using smartphones and QR codes. We are now seeing Asian superiority with digital coronavirus apps in Asia as well.

This was the theme of a recent piece in the Daily Alert, a publication of the Harvard Business Review that publishes short management-related articles, called How digital contact tracing slowed covid-19 in East Asia, by MIT Sloan School professor Yasheng Huang and grad students Meicen Sun and Yuze Sui.

I think the most-interesting example of this is a recently developed Singapore app called TraceTogether. For those choosing the use the app, Bluetooth tracks smartphones that have also installed the app. The app then tracks when a user is in close proximity with these other persons, including timestamps. If an individual using the app becomes positive to Covid-19 they can choose to allow the Singapore Ministry of Health to access the tracking data — which can then be used to identify and then contact any recent close contacts based on the proximity and duration of an encounter. This is tech-enabled quick and accurate contact tracing. Apple and Google recently announced ago that they are developing a similar Bluetooth-based app, but rolling it out is apparently still a few months away.

Other Asian countries have used tech in other ways to help fight the virus. Taiwan has created a “digital fence,” whereby anyone required to undergo home quarantine has their location monitored via cellular signals from their phones. Venturing too far from home triggers an alert system, and calls and messages are sent to ascertain the person’s whereabouts. South Korea has an app called Corona100, which alerts users of the presence of any diagnosed Covid-19 patient within a 100-meter radius, along with the patient’s diagnosis date, nationality, age, gender, and prior locations. (A map version of the app called Corona Map similarly plots locations of diagnosed patients to help those who want to avoid these areas.)

Preview(opens in a new tab)

It is impossible to mention systems such as these without some raising concerns about privacy. The Singapore SmartTracker will save data for only 21 days, and the names of the ill and their contacts will not be shared with others. Wired ran an article on privacy risks of the Google/Apple system and concluded purported risks were quite small.

A bigger question is whether the government should be allowed under any circumstances to require people to sign onto a new contact-tracing app. Observers worry that without very widespread adoption, the benefits of such apps will dramatically decline. One can make an argument, which underlines the general case for disease quarantines, that if people do not quarantine themselves and then become sick, the costs fall not just on themselves but on others they might infect. However, even Singapore, a country without the robust culture of privacy we have in the U.S., has not been willing to require people to install SmartTracker, and only about 20% have done so.

In other words, these efforts are still in the earliest stages — but we should be tracking how combating coronavirus has entered the digital age.”

5 “Linked In” Keys To Stay At Home Sales And Business Development

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Image: Salespop.net

“WASHINGTON TECHNOLOGY” By Mark Amtower

Here are a few things you might not be doing on LinkedIn that can help you stay active, in the loop, and maybe get closer to winning that deal you’ve been working on.

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First, and always foremost, make sure your profile is up-to-date and fully represents what you do and who you do it for. An out-of-date or incomplete profile will probably cost you business instead of helping you win business. LinkedIn is the top venue for vetting professionals in our market, so present yourself well.

Second, find things to share. As you’re reading the GovCon trade media, listening to podcasts or reading blogs, find things that are worthy of sharing, things that your connections will find interesting and useful. I share events, podcasts (like Nick Wakeman’s Project 38 or Amtower Off Center), contract updates and more. And of course I will be sharing this article when it runs.

Third, reach out to key accounts. Touch bases with all of your connections and look for new connections to make in those accounts. When I am reaching out to new people in a company I am working with, or want to work with, one thing I always do is see who our “shared connections” are. If you share twenty+ connections with someone; that may be worth noting when you reach out. I have people with whom I share over 1,000 connections. Steve Cooper (yes, that Steve Cooper) and I share 1,328 connections.

Fourth, there are a lot of soft touches that you can make through scanning your Notifications page. There are always people who have changed companies, moved up in their current company, have birthdays, and more. For each of these I look at their profile before I send anything. I look to see who else I know at the company and glean anything I can to help me formulate a more personal message rather than simply send “Happy birthday” or “Congrats on the new job.” The more personal it is, the more memorable you become.

For example, a friend of mine just got a new position with a government contractor and I happen to know five other people at that company. So in my congratulatory message I referenced knowing these people and offering to do an introduction. In normal times this might not be necessary, but during the stay at home situation, she may not meet these people for a while. I’ve worked with this woman before and I know she’s extremely competent in what she does so in my introductions to the other people I know I have a high degree of confidence in saying “you just added a great person to your team.”

Fifth, scroll through your homepage to see what other people in your network are doing. This is like a Twitter feed and the more active your network is the more information will be there in real time. So scroll through and look for things that you can comment on, or congratulate people for, or otherwise acknowledge in some meaningful way.

LinkedIn offers you a 24/7/365 way of staying in touch with your 1st degree network. In our current stay-at-home environment this is extremely important.

These are some tip of the iceberg social selling techniques that I have been using and coaching my clients on for several years. They are especially effective at helping you stay top of mind in difficult times.”

https://washingtontechnology.com/articles/2020/04/21/insights-amtower-stay-at-home-bd.aspx

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Amtower

Mark Amtower advises government contractors on all facets of business-to-government (B2G) marketing and leveraging LinkedIn. Find Mark on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markamtower.

The Vital Role of PERMANENT Inspectors General

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THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO)

Inspectors general (IGs) are the people on the front lines investigating waste, fraud, and abuse in our government. 

They are our eyes and ears into what’s happening—or shouldn’t be happening—in our government.

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“In fact, for every dollar invested in an IG office, they are able to identify about $17 dollars in potential savings to their agencies. But these essential watchdogs, until recently, weren’t the American public’s radar.

This video explains who IG’s are and why we should care.”