DO YOU “PLAN TO ACT” OR “ACT TO PLAN”?
One of the major criticisms government customers have about contractors is that they tend to be way too reactive. While contractors may take that with some justifiable irony from a customer that is typically risk-averse, the basic point is a good one. Way too often companies, especially larger ones, get so caught up in the preparation process that they miss the opportunity for action. A former boss of ours called this “the great overthink” or “preparing to prepare”. While there is certainly a benefit to conducting necessary research and meeting preparation, contractors must keep the end goal of executing the actual meeting or project in mind. Responding in a timely manner to customer requests is essential, especially later in the fiscal year. Remember, too, that “late is late” when submitting a proposal, regardless of how brilliant it is. There isn’t always time, or a real need, to hash out an action plan, especially if one has already been developed for a similar project. Being the third or fourth company to respond to a customer inquiry can make your company seem like its disinterested no matter how great the eventual response is. Acting in a timely manner is also critical for good contract management and compliance. Way too many contractors wait until the last possible second to take action on a compliance matter, even something as simple as keeping a SAM registration current. While this isn’t a planning problem, it is similar in that delayed action creates a crisis that didn’t need to happen. The associated rush that often comes with last-minute actions creates mistakes that must, themselves, be dealt with. Planning and preparation have their place in government contracting, but should never be confused with the need for the timely execution of whatever plan is developed.