To Reenergize Your Leadership Team, First Confirm Your Purpose

© Rido – Fotolia.com

This is a guest post by Jack McGuinness of Relationship Impact.

All leadership teams have the opportunity to serve as force multipliers for their organizations where the team’s impact goes far beyond the contributions of individual team members. Leadership teams work hard to shape long-term visions and missions that rally employees, shepherd the execution of strategies that set their organizations apart from competitors, and define values that form strong cultural foundations.

Unfortunately, many times these efforts fall short. A recent survey of senior executives conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership indicated that only 18% of executives rated their teams as “very effective.” In the same survey 97% of executives agreed that increased leadership team effectiveness would have a positive impact on organizational results.

Great leadership teams never succeed by accident. Without nurturing, leadership teams can actually become organizational impediments as characterized by duplication of effort, finger pointing, “real” meetings happening after “official” meetings, unhealthy interdepartmental competition, delayed decision making and churning over and over on the same issues. Here’s how to reenergize your leadership team for maximum organizational impact.

Confirm Purpose

A leadership team’s purpose should serve as a guidepost for focusing the team and the organization on what is strategically most important at any given point in time based on the environment in which the organization operates. Absent of a specific purpose that goes beyond ‘leading the organization’ and ‘carrying out the organization’s strategy’, leadership teams will struggle to have a force multiplier impact.

Unfortunately, it is quite common for leadership teams to come together and immediately begin to do business or at least attempt to do what each member believes the group’s business should be.

Earlier last year we were asked to work with the global leadership team of a professional services firm to strengthen its effectiveness. It quickly became clear that each business unit VP was diligently executing strategies designed to maximize business unit growth but were missing opportunities to enhance the long-term potential of the organization.

This seemingly unintentional lack of coordination had a reverberating effect including increasing tension among VPs, customer confusion due to multiple touch points, and emerging competition among business units for limited resources. In short, this leadership team had failed to establish (or at a minimum had lost sight of) its unique enterprise-wide purpose.

As articulated in the book Senior Leadership Teams, a leadership team’s purpose should encapsulate what the formal leader (CEO/president) needs “this group of enterprise leaders to do that cannot be accomplished by any other set of people.” Below are four steps that leadership teams can use to shape or redefine their purpose:

  1. Start with the organization’s strategy and identify the most critical areas that must be tackled for the strategy to be successful. In the case of the professional services firm the critical need was to focus on diversification beyond a customer that represented over 70% of revenue.
  2. Next, identify the interdependencies among leadership team members that will drive the strategy. The leadership team of the professional services firm identified that every VP from the leaders of resource management, sales, finance and each service line was needed to develop a coordinated diversified growth strategy.
  3. Once the interdependencies are defined the leadership team needs to narrow them down to the critical few that the leadership team is uniquely positioned to address and drive. The leadership team of our professional services client identified a few critical priorities including shaping and executing an integrated sales approach for the three services they offer, developing new products and services that leverage their current offerings, and building a support infrastructure that enables them to scale effectively.
  4. Finally, the formal leader needs to take this input and shape a compelling leadership team purpose. The president of our professional services client developed the following purpose statement: ‘the long-term viability of our firm depends on our efforts to capture new customers and expand into new markets.’

In the next two posts in this series, Jack McGuinness will introduce two other essential tips for reenergizing your leadership tips, starting with fostering productive dialogue.

This post originally appeared at ChiefExecutive.net at https://chiefexecutive.net/tips-reenergizing-leadership-team and was reprinted with permission.


WOSB Sole-Source Authority Dispute

This is a guest post by Alice Lipowicz, editor, Set-Aside Alert.

A recent federal audit that found nearly 90% of sole-source contracts awarded to Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) were improper is getting significant pushback from the Small Business Administration.

The report by SBA’s Acting Inspector General (OIG) Hannibal Ware said four of the five recommendations it made were left unresolved by the SBA.

Most significantly, the SBA and the OIG aired more broadly their disagreement on whether WOSB sole-source awards currently are allowed at all.

While Congress approved authority for such awards in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, the SBA and OIG interpretations of the law clash.

The OIG says Congress authorized such awards on the condition that a formal WOSB certification program would be in place.

The SBA, on the other hand, “disagrees with the view that the NDAA of 2015 expressly or implicitly required SBA to establish a certification program concurrently with the sole source authority set forth in the NDAA,” Robb Wong, SBA’s associate administrator for government contracting and business development, wrote to the OIG.

Legal risks

The ongoing conflict about the current legality of the WOSB sole-source awards potentially is risky for small business contractors.

The disagreement may discourage contracting officers from making WOSB sole-source awards. The dispute potentially could be raised in a protest or a court case in an attempt to overturn a WOSB sole-source award.

The SBA currently plans for a formal WOSB certification program to be launched in January 2020. The OIG is urging strongly that the deadline be moved up to June 2019, which the OIG said was previously the launch date set by SBA.

The SBA also accused the OIG of errors in its data and also went on to describe “unique and complex” problems and “structural issues” in the WOSB program, owing to requirements in the law that created the program.

OIG report

The audit found that 50 out of 56 sole-source WOSB contracts reviewed–or 89%–were non-compliant. Those improper contracts totaled $52 million. Irregularities included companies with incomplete or no documentation and contracts awarded in incorrect industries.

As a result, the government’s WOSB achievement may be “overstated,” the report said.

The inspector general made five recommendations for improvements. SBA resolved only one.

On the OIG’s advice to initiate debarments of WOSB firms that violated rules, the SBA said it would complete those actions by September 2020. OIG said that is too late.

Also unresolved was a recommendation for SBA to take a more active role in correcting errors in procurement data from other agencies. Wong said that recommendation was “vague” and not likely to help.

The OIG also wanted SBA to conduct quarterly eligibility reviews of all newly-certified WOSBs and EDWOSBs. That was unresolved. The Women Impacting Public Policy group said they found that recommendation “demeaning” because it applies only to women-owned firms.

SBA’s comments

Wong, in his OIG letter, was critical of the report’s reliance on Federal Procurement Data System-NextGen data, which he said is prone to human error. “SBA’s OIG has not verified that the actions recorded in FPDS are actual contract award actions, or actual sole source awards,” he wrote.

SBA reviewed the OIG’s data for 17 contract actions for which allegedly no documents were on file. Of those, five contracting officers acknowledged they had misclassified the vendor as a WOSB, Wong added.

Furthermore, Wong said the OIG had not taken into account the multi-faceted problems and “structural issues” of the WOSB program, as established by law and regulation.

He noted that WOSB and EDWOSBs set-asides are the only ones limited by NAICS industry codes. Also, it is the only program that, by law, requires participants to provide documents to three government databases certifying their eligibility as WOSBs or EDWOSBs. Contracting officers must review the documents.

These rules have been confounding, Wong wrote, adding that most firms and contracting officers are not aware of the need to submit or review such documents.

Those issues have contributed to “limited success” in the WOSB program, and should have been given more weight in the OIG’s evaluation, according to Wong. Wong did not respond to Set-Aside Alert’s request for further comment.

More information:
OIG report
WIPP statement

Copyright © 2018 by Business Research Services Inc. Story reprinted with permission from June 20 edition of Set-Aside Alert. Founded in 1992 Set-Aside Alert is the only comprehensive news and information source focused solely on small business federal contractors. Check them out at www.setasidealert.com. The publisher Business Research Services is a veteran-owned small business.


How Proposal Managers Can Help People Cooperate During a Proposal

© Jakub Jirsák – Fotolia.com

This is a guest post by Carl Dickson of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY. Even when they want to help out, the reality is that you can’t always depend on the people who contribute to your proposal, especially if this falls outside of their other job responsibilities.

In a two-part guest series, Carl is sharing 29 helpful tips for this situation. After presenting his techniques you can use at the proposal level in Part 1, here in Part 2 offers techniques for the organizational level.

Now let’s take a look at some organizational improvement techniques that can have a profound impact on how well people cooperate during a proposal:

15. Incentives, consequences, and rewards. Think beyond financial incentives for participating in a proposal. Think about intrinsic rewards. Growth is the source of all opportunity in an organization. Make sure people realize it. Make that realization personal.
16. Capacity planning. Of course there aren’t enough resources. But is there a light at the end of the tunnel? What is being done about it? Is it getting attention or being ignored?
17. Role modeling. Are the behaviors you need to maximize the organization’s win rate being demonstrated? Role modeling trumps lecturing. Every. Time.
18. Environmental support. Is the environment supportive? Does it facilitate cooperation? Or is there a lot of organizational friction that impedes people’s ability to get things done?
19. Resource allocation. Are resources allocated to maximize ROI? Is the proposal function being treated as a cost to be minimized or an investment to be cultivated?
20. Data driven decision making. Proposals are all about ROI. ROI discussions should be data driven and not opinion driven. Is the right data being tracked to support this?
21. Open dialog. Can these things be discussed? Will someone listen?
22. Interventions. This can include everything from clarification and priority resets to appraisals, coaching, and supervision.
23. Compensation. Think beyond the paycheck. How about a day off after working the weekend? Or covering meals when working late for a week straight? Meditate on what the word “compensate” means and a world of opportunities can open.
24. Culture. Is the reality of your corporate culture different from your aspirations? Are you building a winning culture, or is your company’s culture just happening?
25. Reengineering. Your staff can’t decide it’s time for a reset without you. They will only be as committed to it as you are.
26. Job and work design. How are positions defined? What are the expectations, risks, and rewards that go along with them? Is the way your staff see their positions in the organization getting in the way?
27. Staff and capability development. What capabilities do you need in your organization if you want to maximize your win rate? Are you growing them? How should that impact your proposal staffing and resource allocation decisions?
28. Competition. A little bit of the right kind of internal competition between people and business units can change how people cooperate. For better or worse. How does this impact your culture?
29. ROI. ROI. ROI. Is it worth it? Do the math. Every time we’ve worked through it with companies, we’ve found that small increases in win rate pay big returns. But what this article shows is that the investment of executive attention can also pay big returns.

How many of the items on the second half of this list can your staff address on their own?

And now for a little bit of good news

You may not need to do much to get people to cooperate beyond getting out of the way. Most organizations are full of cruft (that’s a technical term, look it up) that gets in the way of cooperation. Fix that and people will often naturally work together.

But while you’re changing things for the better, why not give them a little encouragement?

Just don’t do the same ol’ same ol’ that has never worked and isn’t going to this time

Training is everyone’s “go to” for improving things. We need to change, so we better start training people. We want to improve, so people need more training. People don’t cooperate, so let’s send them to training. But training fails to address the organizational issues.

Gilbert said, “If you hold a gun to a man’s head, and he can do what you ask, then he doesn’t need training.” Yet we go to training all the time because it’s far easier than almost any other intervention. Training informs people without changing all the organizational issues that get in the way of them cooperating. Just because you know how to do something or what needs to be done, doesn’t make doing it your highest priority.

Another popular technique is tools. Since we can’t hire and fire, let’s get some tools. But introducing tools into an organization with uncooperative staff and immature processes probably will not end well. Going back to the Gilbert reference above, think in terms of what’s needed for performance improvement. Tools can be a part of that, but wrap them with everything else needed to perform.

If your win rate depends on people cooperating during proposal development, you should start at the organizational level. It matters more. Your proposal manager may be an amazing hero. But the management during a proposal will not change the culture of the organization.

If you assume that the proposal manager will do what it takes to prepare the proposal, you are right. They will find a way to submit proposals using uncooperative people. Submitting is not the same as winning. Organizations that want to grow will do everything to ensure nothing gets in the way of people cooperating.

This article originally appeared at PropLIBRARY at https://proplibrary.com/proplibrary/item/739-29-techniques-for-dealing-with-uncooperative-proposal-contributors/ and was reprinted with permission.

Carl Dickson is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.


The Good News and Bad News About Uncooperative Proposal Contributors

© carballo – Fotolia.com

This is a guest post by Carl Dickson of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY. Here he shares 29 techniques for dealing with uncooperative proposal contributors.

One of the joys of managing proposals is that none of the people who are drafted to contribute to the proposal actually report to the proposal “manager.” And frequently they are expected to contribute to the proposal after all of their other responsibilities are taken care of. It can be like working two jobs. So even when they want to help out, they often aren’t the most enthusiastic and cooperative people to depend on.

I recently had a discussion about this with a friend of mine, Chris Ryan. He’s an expert in organizational improvement and management consulting and brings a different perspective to the proposal arena. He clued me in to some studies regarding human performance improvement.

Apparently Thomas Gilbert is often credited with inventing the whole thing. He showed that some of the things that drive behavior are individual, but some of them are organizational. For example, each individual has their own knowledge, capacities, and motives, but environmental factors like information, resources, and incentives can actually play a larger role in their ability to contribute to something like a proposal.

Proposal managers are great at solving things at their own level. But you can’t maximize your win rate without also addressing the organizational level.

Techniques at the proposal level

Here are some of the techniques that we can use on our own, without involving The Powers That Be:

  1. Manage expectations. Also known as “proactive scolding.” I prefer to think of it as a preventative. This should be your standard opening.
  2. Just-in-time training, in all its forms. A major reason why people don’t cooperate is that they don’t know how to do what you’ve asked. Building in training, often without calling it “training,” is a great way to get past the hurdle.
  3. Job aids. What can people reference or use that will make completing their assignments easier
  4. Anticipate information dependencies. When people don’t have the information they need to do what you’ve asked, things grind to a halt. Anticipating that and proactively providing that information smooths cooperation. If you don’t have the information yourself, then providing the workaround or source to get it is the best you can do.
  5. Persuasion. Sometimes we beg and plead. Sometimes we threaten. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all technique that works in all circumstances.
  6. Work the chain of command. Sometimes you go over people’s heads. Sometimes you persuade The Powers That Be to publicly support you. Sometimes you get them to shuffle resources in your favor or reduce the workload of proposal contributors. Sometimes The Powers That Be are not available and you’re on your own.
  7. Conflict resolution. Advanced techniques for conflict resolution can help you get everyone on the same side and balance the competing priorities.
  8. Make it easier for them to do what you need than it is for them to fake it on their own. If you ask people to put effort into following “the process” because it will “pay off later,” you’ve already lost half of them. But if the steps in your process make it easier for them to complete their assignment and get back to their “real” job, you might just get some cooperation out of them. Think tools, checklists, recipes, and guidance instead of process, steps, and mandates.
  9. Oversight. No one likes someone hovering over them while they work. But if you can structure frequent checks, especially ones that aren’t obviously checking up on people, you’ll get more cooperation. Some people procrastinate. So give them more deadlines. Instead of two weeks to complete writing a section, give them two days to plan it, a day to write the introduction paragraph, etc.
  10. Self-assessment tools. Enable people to know when they are on the right track without having to ask. Equally important, you also enable them to see when they are not on the right track.
  11. Alternatives. The more alternatives you have, the fewer points of failure. Can you replace people? Can you switch them to another task or role?
  12. Automation. If we can’t force them to cooperate, maybe we can get the computer to do it for us!
  13. Team building. Don’t just think of team building as morale boosting and cheerleading. Think of it as collaboration. Can you change the collaboration model to reduce the amount of friction that’s leading to a lack of cooperation?
  14. Peer pressure. Sometimes you don’t need the chain of command to apply pressure.

And now for the bad news

All of these techniques have their limits. Collectively they amount to a smaller chance of improving cooperation than any one of the organizational approaches below can achieve. They amount to keeping honest people honest and enabling people who want to cooperate to do so.

Getting The Powers That Be onboard regarding the organizational issues ultimately decides your success and the organization’s win rate and growth. But you can usually get a proposal out the door without their explicit support when you have to.

This is what should motivate The Powers That Be to lend a hand. Getting by will not maximize your win or your ROI. Most already realize this, though, and are trapped in an ROI dilemma and negative incentives of their own that exaggerate the chances of winning and minimize the resource requirements to do so.

In Part Two of this post, Carl will reveal some organizational improvement techniques that can have a profound impact on how well people cooperate during a proposal.

This article originally appeared at PropLIBRARY at https://proplibrary.com/proplibrary/item/739-29-techniques-for-dealing-with-uncooperative-proposal-contributors/ and was reprinted with permission.

Carl Dickson is the founder and president of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.


How to Build a Game – The Serious Game Design Workshop at I/ITSEC 2017

© nhongf22 – Fotolia.com

This is a guest post by TAPE’s Information Systems Analyst Jeff Long.

The Serious Game Design Workshop occurred on the last day of the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), an annual five-day convention held in Orlando, Florida. The TAPE group in attendance included Business Analyst Walt Long, CEO and President Louisa Jaffe, and our PM TRASYS contract team.

The I/ITSEC showroom floor had closed when we walked into the workshop and were greeted by our two instructors for the day: Peter Smith, an assistant professor of game design at the University of Central Florida, and Vance Souders, founder of Plas.md, a creative studio focused on developing innovative immersive solutions for health, wellness and education for DoD, government, and commercial entities.

This was an excellent experience that I think didn’t got the attention it deserved. I believe everyone from beginners to advanced would benefit from this high-level overview about making a “serious” learning game (definition below). The entire course was done with pen and paper, with no programming required.

One engineer at our table commented that it was great to see non-game designers interested in the inner workings of what can be a complicated process to understand. “We don’t see enough manager types in these classes but I noticed we have a great mix today.”

So what is a serious game? A serious or applied game is a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment, typically for training.

We began with a high-view concept of what kind of planning and stages it takes to make a simple serious game. Then we were split into various groups, taking on roles related to instruction (instructional designers, trainers, and instructors), game (game designers, game developers, and producers), subject matter experts (who might have experience with procedures/tactics/equipment regarding a profession, or other processes to be used as curriculum within a game), and technical/management (software developers, managers, and artists). Each participant chose a role and we acted in that role over a series of 15 exercises throughout the day.

Analysis

Our first task was in the realm of analysis. Before we could make a game we had to ask ourselves a few questions: What purpose does it serve and who would be the audience? What’s our game concept? What are our learning objectives? What are we assessing? These great questions helped focus our plan of attack. Without knowing these basics it would have been easy to go off the rails. Each group collaborated to answer these questions and develop the initial idea of what their serious game could be.

Core Design

Next we moved on to core design. Here we would take our assessments and begin to develop a story, one that was relevant to the interest of the audience we identified during the analysis. The next step was to figure out how we would take the learning objective and teach our audience the required skills.

This is where a creative mind can go just about anywhere. In general gaming there is almost an infinite number of genres, with new ideas showing up daily. My four favorites are role-playing games (RPG), real-time strategy (RTS), first-person shooters (FPS), and virtual reality (VR). A quick Google search of any of those terms will reveal countless games to find inspiration for your game.

Finally, we asked this very important question: What shouldn’t be in our game? It’s easy to lose yourself in a wish list of features, but each feature will need to be created and with limited resources having too large of a scope can run your project over budget and behind on development time. Having an ambitious project is great, but don’t go overboard, especially if it’s your first rodeo. Distilling your ideas so not to overburden the player will result in a better gaming experience.

Experience Design

Here we started with a small discussion about common pitfalls. The instructors provided a helpful overview of the concept of design patterns. This is about establishing reusable systems so people don’t end up reinventing the wheel. (See this excerpt from Robert Nystrom’s Game Programming Patterns for more on the concept of design patterns.) Using these wherever possible will help ensure that your game design is easier for your team to create, understand and implement.

In experience design, we explicitly define and iteratively refine each of these learning game elements: goals, control, actions, assessment, guidance, and feedback. Each of these concepts help the player understand and move through your serious game.

Revise

In this stage we did a mental walkthrough of the game from the player’s perspective. We wanted to identify issues that the player could experience, such as edge-cases, poor performers, “gaming the game,” or bored players. You want to be a devil’s advocate to find anything that breaks immersion, flow, or buy-in.

Finally, we tried throwing a wrench into the works like what might happen when real life intervenes, like what happens when a customer doesn’t think the game is fun, or wants to go deeper? Or when students don’t like the game or it isn’t producing the desired learning outcomes? What if it takes too long to play? Or your budget is reduced or money runs out before you finish creating the game? What if the players aren’t taking the game seriously?

Any of these problems have the potential to tank the entire project. While we can’t predict or avoid every problem, we can imagine these situations and try to have a plan when possible.

I personally hope they bring this workshop back and that we see a larger group there for 2018. If you are interested in making a serious game, this workshop was designed around a book called Design and Development of Training Games Practical Guidelines from a Multidisciplinary Perspective, edited by Talib S. Hussain and Susan L. Coleman. If they don’t have another workshop in 2018 or you can’t make it to I/ITSEC, this book might be for you.

Good luck and have fun!
Jeffrey Long


Team TAPE and Operation Blended Warrior at I/ITSEC 2017

© Aleksey Dmetsov – Fotolia.com

This is a guest post by Walt Long, Business Analyst at TAPE, LLC.

In this post we’ll continue our recap of the 2017 Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), in Orlando, Florida, the world’s largest modeling, simulation, and training conference.

While we were there, we visited Marines conducting a training exercise as part of the 2017 Operation Blended Warrior (OBW), a yearlong collaborative, live-virtual-constructive (LVC) planning and execution event that culminates during I/ITSEC with the purpose of uncovering and documenting the challenges in the rapid development and integration of diverse simulation systems and components.

We’re proud that this work was supported by our Orlando TAPE office in Research Park. There, we provide contracted subject matter experts to support the Program Manager Training Systems (PM TRASYS) program office. In this specific case, we provided analysts who supported the set up, execution, and breakdown of the OBW demonstration at I/ITSEC.

In a video for I/ITSEC TV, OBW Manager Kent Gritton discussed the need for this type of event:

“There are multiple ways of doing training: you can do it live where you actually jump into your aircraft and go fly with your actual system itself; you can do it virtually, where you are in a simulator actually controlling the event – it’s a man-controlled event; or you can do it in constructive where it’s a computer controlled event.

Each of those capabilities are used for certain objectives in the training world. With the richness that [an LVC event] can provide by blending all these three together we have a better training environment for whatever we want to accomplish. Plus we have some warfare capabilities now that cannot be trained solely within the live realm and so it’s a necessity to go ahead and bring that virtual and constructive into the live domain so that we can train all of the capabilities of the new warfare platforms.”

Team TAPE devoted extensive time and effort over these many months in setting up the network infrastructure, developing the scenarios, and coordinating with multiple government and industry participants to execute the four-day Ground Scenario portion of OBW. Team TAPE’s professional presentation of the ground operations set a high mark of achievement and received many accolades from senior government and industry personnel.

Carlos Cuevas, project manager of Orlando team, shared the support team’s highlights from the training event:

• Operation Blended Warrior (OBW) is a unique forum to assist military services, industry and academia in meeting tough challenges associated with live-virtual-constructive simulation environments. I/ITSEC 2017 was an overwhelming success. PMTRASYS/TEAM TAPE were among the 38 government and industry organizations that participated.

• Team TAPE PTSS support to I/ITSEC/OBW was comprised of extensive coordination prior to IITSEC commencing. This included, but was not limited to loading specific software on designated laptops and creating and rehearsing scenarios in Virtual Battle Space (VBS), and working directly with the Reserve Detachment; these Marines would serve as the actual operators for the OBW demo.

• Upon I/ITSEC start, Team TAPE personnel participated in the setup of the TRASYS booth and assisted in booth duties as required throughout the week. During this time, several OBW scenarios or “vignettes” were executed; this required communication, coordination with other entities participating, as well as any last minute troubleshooting.

• At the conclusion of I/ITSEC, Team TAPE personnel assisted with the teardown of the booth, and return/accountability of the equipment utilized. Additionally, all provided detailed after-action report comments.

In the final post in this series, TAPE’s Information Systems Analyst Jeff Long will share his notes from the I/ITSEC Build a Game workshop.


VR & Game Technology Showcased at I/ITSEC 2017

© Sergey Nivens – Fotolia.com

This is a guest post by Walt Long, Business Analyst at TAPE, LLC.

In Fall 2017, I joined TAPE’s Information Systems Analyst Jeff Long, and CEO and President Louisa Jaffe Louisa Jaffe, as well as several others, for the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), an annual five-day convention held in Orlando, Florida. Orlando has many good facilities for large conventions and the nearby University of Central Florida (UCF) plays a major role in modeling and simulation research as well as implementation for the US Military.

From the official I/ITSEC webpage: “I/ITSEC is the world’s largest modeling, simulation, and training conference. Held near the beginning of December in Orlando, Florida, USA, I/ITSEC consists of peer-reviewed paper presentations, tutorials, special events, professional workshops, a commercial exhibit hall, a serious games competition, and STEM events for teachers and secondary students.

I/ITSEC is organized by the National Training and Simulation Association (NTSA), which promotes international and interdisciplinary cooperation within the fields of modeling and simulation (M&S), training, education, analysis, and related disciplines at this annual meeting. The NTSA is an affiliate subsidiary of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA). Hence, I/ITSEC also emphasizes themes related to defense and security.”

Having attended the previous year’s conference, I saw that there were some interesting evolutions happening on different fronts. In the few booths I visited where I experienced virtual reality (VR) thru a VR headset/goggles, I was able to see that VR comes a little further every year in sophistication.

Once you get past the fear of how you look to others who are outside of your virtual world, it is pretty amazing to put on VR goggles and really experience how real everything looks that you are seeing in the virtual world. You can usually look in any direction and see detail that stretches out quite a ways. It’s always fun to see what folks come up with each year in the way of virtual landscapes.

The other type of software that impressed me was a set of learning games in the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge section, as described on the I/ITSEC website: “The Serious Games Showcase & Challenge (SGS&C) celebrates the use of games and game technology as a delivery medium for instructional material. The Challenge is divided into categories: Business, Government, Student, Mobile, and Special Emphasis. After a rigorous evaluation, the top entries from all received are selected as finalists and invited to Showcase their Games on the exhibit floor during I/ITSEC.”

These game products were specifically designed to put the user into a workplace setting where they faced other people in difficult situations and needed to make tough decisions in managing those people as well as other resources. The games introduced levels of stress in terms including people that were difficult to deal with and/or a stressful fast-paced office environment with many choices needing to be made in a relatively short period of time while navigating one-on-one conversations, phone calls, and subordinates requesting direction.

Unlike other sections of the I/ITSEC showroom floor, some of these games had nothing to do with combat or even in some cases the military. One was about how to deal with a white collar office environment and make choices about email content and how to manage a piece of work.

Another game was designed for veterans’ hospital staff, on how to speak to ill and sometimes poorly informed veteran patients about their treatment and expectations of what healing they might be able to accomplish in partnership with VA staff.

In subsequent posts we’ll highlight how TEAM TAPE in Orlando, Florida had their work showcased at I/ITSEC, and Jeff Long will share notes from the Build a Game workshop.


How DIUx Works With Non-Traditional Innovators

© red150770 – Fotolia.com

In a recent blog post we described a procurement method known as other transaction agreements (OTA) that has become increasingly popular to access valuable war-fighting technologies, especially from non-traditional defense companies.

We highlight a structure used by Army Contracting Command – New Jersey (ACC-NJ) that leverages a consortia of companies that agree to participate under a common ruleset to submit white papers in response to the government’s interest in emerging technologies.

10 USC 2371b (Other Transaction Authority for Prototype Projects) provides significant flexibility in how DoD can use OTAs for prototype projects. Another methodology in use by DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) bypasses the use of consortia and solicits ideas directly from industry with a focus on non-traditional defense companies.

DIUx was stood up in 2016 to “develop new partnerships with the private sector in communities in Silicon Valley and America’s many other great innovation hubs” to “put commercial-based innovation in the hands of America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.” That same year DIUx initiated a first-of-its-kind acquisition framework called the Commercial Solutions Opening (CSO) by which DIUx solicits solutions to problems that our warfighters are facing.

To effectively work with non-traditional innovators DIUx divided the CSO into several phases: Solicitation, Phase 1 Evaluation, Pitch, Phase II Evaluation, Kick-offs, Proposal, Negotiation and Awards, and OT Modifications as applicable.

In the solicitation phase, DIUx posts areas of interest (AOIs) on its website. Instead of complex requirements and specifications, AOIs describe problems to be solved or particular technologies DoD is interested in. In response to solicitations posted on the DIUx website, companies submit either a short 5-page white paper or a presentation not to exceed 15 slides. In their submission they simply describe their technology and their company.

In Evaluation Phase I, DIUx uses four factors for evaluation:

  1. Relevance: Is the company’s solution relevant to the AOI?
  2. Technical merit: Does the proposed solution feasibly address the AOI?
  3. Business viability: Is the company viable enough to perform the work?
  4. Innovation: Does the solution represent a truly unique and innovative approach?

If the company receives a favorable evaluation they will be asked to pitch their idea either in person or through video conference. During the pitch phase the company and DIUx discuss the technology and potential use cases in more detail as well as a rough order of magnitude (ROM) of the costs involved.

After the pitch DIUx re-evaluates the technology based on the Phase 1 factors and three additional Phase II factors: cost, schedule, and data rights. Based on a positive evaluation the agreements officer (AO) will issue a Request for Prototype Proposal (RPP).

Once the RPP is issued DIUx schedules a kickoff meeting with the company, the DoD customer and the AO. At the kickoff meeting, the DoD team will explain the proposal process, which is a collaborative process wherein the contractor will develop the statement of work in collaboration with the government. During this process the government team and contractor discuss different ideas and send drafts of the proposal back and forth.

In the proposal process a final statement of work has been collaboratively developed, accordingly the technical aspects of the proposal have already been evaluated and the government performs a final cost/price evaluation based upon non-traditional government methods which might include return on investment.

After evaluation the agreements officer will negotiate the terms and conditions of the OT with the company. Since the government and the company have worked collaboratively, this is usually a relatively quick process. Often the company is willing to sign the baseline OT without any modifications.

Once the project is underway the government may want to modify the scope of the OT based upon requirements changes or even because of emerging technology. As long as the scope changes are within the original AOI, the government and the contractor work together to update the project scope and modify the OT.

The CSO process outlined above and OTs have allowed DIUx to effectively access innovative technologies from non-traditional defense companies. It offers another way to do this without the use of consortia by reaching out directly to the technology companies and leveraging the OT authorities recently given to the Department of Defense.


Intellectual Property and the NDAA 2018

© zenzen – Fotolia.com

Early in 2018, Edmund Amorisi of Smith Pachter McWhorter PLC and and Bill Walters of Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP presented a comprehensive summary of the key provisions of the FY 2018 NDAA. As they explained, Sec. 802 emphasizes DoD’s ongoing interest in intellectual property issues.

It directs DoD establish a “cadre of intellectual property experts” to “ensure a consistent, strategic, and highly knowledgeable approach to acquiring or licensing [IP] by providing expert advice” to the acquisition workforce. Sec. 802 also authorizes DoD to contract with a private-sector entity for “specialized expertise” to support the cadre.

Currently there are FAR and DFAR provisions to protect intellectual property, both the portion that the government should own after something new is developed, and the portion that the contractor brings to the table. However, this expertise does not exist in the regular contracting workforce. So this provision really goes into detail about intellectual property and directs the DoD to establish some intellectual property expertise that they can use.

Any company with an innovation will have a real issue about bringing their innovation into the contracting community because they may not be properly protected to keep their IP. Too often contractors don’t pursue their innovative ideas because they don’t want their innovation to become the property of the government.

So this provision is really about allowing innovation to play a part, and that’s a very good thing.


The 3 Most Critical Elements of a Small Business Cybersecurity Plan

© nd3000 – Fotolia.com

This is a guest post from Tonya Buckner of BucknerMT Management & Technology, Inc.

In a previous post, we looked at the disturbing prevalence of cyber-attacks, and how small businesses are especially at risk.

As of December 31, 2017, any company wishing to work with the government is required to have a documented cybersecurity plan. This is an excellent opportunity to make sure your business is prepared for this inevitable threat.

The three critical elements of a cybersecurity plan

1. People

• Requires executive leadership commitment to security
• Train and educate employees about cyber threats and hold them accountable
• Require employees to use strong passwords and to change them often

The bottom line is that employees should participate in identifying and protecting your business from security incidents. Ultimately, your goal is to build a culture of cybersecurity that includes employees knowing how to protect themselves and the business.

2. Processes

• Create a cybersecurity policy for your business
• Develop procedures for safeguarding employee, vendor, and customer information
• Establish security practices and policies to protect sensitive information
• Include protocols/processes that employees must follow in case of a breach

3. Technology

Although all three are critical, the technology is the most critical element of a cybersecurity plan.

• Update computers and software
• Regularly update your computers, including desktops, laptops, and mobile devices
• Ensure operating systems, software applications, and web browsers are up to date
• Encrypt data and create backups
• Regularly backup the information so if information is stolen, you will have another copy somewhere else
• Limit and control access
• Unauthorized personnel should not have access to company computers and accounts
• Secure your infrastructure (physical location, network, etc.)
• A business’s Wi-Fi can be an easy way to access data; secure your Wi-Fi so only authorized personnel can access it.

If you become a victim of a breach take the following steps:

Act immediately
• Contact your IT team, legal counsel and cyber liability insurance agent

Contain the breach
• Take affected systems offline, but don’t turn them off – that way your IT team can examine the source of the breach

Document every step
• Authorities will need to know these details

Communicate clearly
• Ensure affected groups are made aware of the issue and the steps being taken

A great cybersecurity resource is the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), who distributes bulletins and alerts. It provides information for both technical and non-technical users, shares cybersecurity tips, and responds to incident, phishing, and vulnerabilities reports.

It is imperative that businesses exercise breach preparedness and readiness in order to remain competitive in today’s marketplace. Cybersecurity strategies are not optional; they need to be regarded as a core activity in your business.

BucknerMT Management & Technology, Inc. (BucknerMT, Inc.) is a verified service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) and woman-owned small business (WOSB). Since 2007, they have supported the Department of Defense (DoD), Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) by providing engineering, integration, and sustainment solutions to protect its critical military infrastructure, platforms and data. Department of Defense is the highest level of cyber protection.


css.php