Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Contingency planning and prioritization - #apmp advice

I work in proposals, which means that I need to respond to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) that are issued by a variety of government agencies.

In the ideal world, Government Agency X would tell all of the vendors several months in advance that an RFP would be issued on a particular day - and it would actually be issued on that day.

(Also in the ideal world, Government Agencies X, Y, and Z would all coordinate with each other so that their RFP responses were NOT due on the same day. But that's a topic for another post.)

Well, government agencies are about as perfect as the rest of us. And RFPs are complex documents that have to be reviewed by a number of organizations (technical, financial, purchasing, legal) before they are issued. Because of this, it's nearly impossible to determine when an RFP will actually be released to the public. Maybe it's issued "on time" (whatever that means). Maybe it's issued a few weeks later. Maybe it's issued a few months later. Maybe it's never issued at all.

Now what if you're a vendor who's trying to plan staffing to respond to an RFP?

The Lohfield Consulting Group publishes a regular feature from Wendy Frieman, the Proposal Doctor, and a recent version included a question from a proposal director that discussed this particular topic. In this particular proposal director's case, several of his or her proposal managers had already delayed vacation in anticipation of RFPs that never arrived, and they couldn't delay them any more.

Now I suspect that Proposal Doctor Wendy Frieman does not have a medical degree, but she did provide the following advice.

I don’t postpone vacations or trips or occasions for pending RFPs....When I commit to a family event, I honor that commitment even if I have a high level of confidence that an RFP will appear that day. In my household, we celebrate birthdays on the actual birthday, anniversaries on the actual date, Passover on whatever night it actually occurs (even though it would be so much more convenient to “move” it to a weekend). You get the idea.

I came to this approach after realizing that dates and commitments are what give meaning to my life, and it undermines my sense of order to start moving them in anticipation of something that might or might not happen – usually, not.

Frieman then proceeds to answer the specific question about staffing for RFPs, but the excerpt above has applications well beyond the proposal realm. It's something that I didn't realize when I first joined the ranks of the employed, but it's something that I slowly learned over the years.

Actually, I am facing an issue this week that touches upon this. It's not technically work-related, but it requires this need to prioritize things and balance things. I am involved with a volunteer organization, and I need to complete a particular online training course to be fully qualified as a volunteer. (I should also note that this training is mandated by an agency of the U.S. federal government.) In my part of the country, the online training will be available at 6:00 in the evening.

Ordinarily, this would not be much of a concern. I would hang around late at work, dial in to the conference number, fire up my web browser to see the training slides, and drive home from work after the training is complete. Yes, I'd get home late, which would be a concern, but I'd just have to really really make sure I get the trash out or whatever.

There's only one problem this time. There is a family event that is taking place at 7:00 in the evening that same night. And for me to stay at work, go through the training, and then drive home in time for the family event, I would have to drive home at a speed of approximately 120 miles an hour. In the state of California, this happens to be illegal. During the afternoon rush hour, this happens to be impossible.

Since the volunteer organization will be able to detect this, I'll go ahead and let you in to a little secret right now. I WON'T BE LOOKING AT THE SLIDES WHEN EVERYONE ELSE IS LOOKING AT THEM. I printed the slides a few days ago. And yes, I'll dial in to the audio, but I've recently confirmed that my handy-dandy FM radio broadcasting thingy, which broadcasts audio on my FM radio, can also function pretty well as a hands-free device - especially when I'm supposed to be on mute anyway so that the presenter can give the presentation.

I wish my handy-dandy FM radio broadcasting thingy could solve all of my scheduling problems.

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