The VA head smack

A few weeks back I posted on the incomprehensible decision by the Veteran’s Administration to award almost all of a $6.8 billion contract to two “different” companies that are actually very closely related.

Last week came the news that the Government Accountability Office delivered an official head slap – with a 2×4 – to the VA.

Politico reported [subscription required]

the GAO “citing “prejudicial errors” has directed the Department of Veteran Affairs to go back to the drawing board…the office “recommended that the VA reopen negotiations with the offerers, solicit, obtain, and evaluate revised proposals; and make new source selection decisions” [emphasis added]

Oh, and the VA “misled two of the protestors during the conduct of discussions or negotiations.  These errors led the VA to make source selection decisions…that were unreasonable…” [emphasis added]

Here’s my take.

First, there’s obviously some backroom dealing going on here.  When a giant defense contractor – Lockheed Martin – that has a documented record of failing to deliver a service and its “partner” are awarded most of a “competitive” $7 billion contract, while a much smaller competitor that happens to have a far better record of delivering that service on time and to specifications is awarded a tiny piece of the contract, something stinks.

Kudos to the GAO for the investigation.  HOWEVER, it’s unknown if this investigation would have happened at all if the three competitors who were screwed on the initial deal hadn’t spent hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing a protest within a really short time frame – a time frame that, to this observer, looks like it was designed to make it damn near impossible for the losers to react to the initial contract award to Lockheed Martin.

Second, and more important, this is outrageous, and demands further investigation.

There are thousands of veterans waiting on disability evaluations, a wait needlessly prolonged by what smells like corrupt contracting by someone or someones in the VA.

One just has to listen to calls from vets whose disability evaluations are delayed for months, vets in limbo because they have no idea if they will ever get any benefits, help, or the right treatment. These are men and women suffering from PTSD, missing limbs, burned, scarred, traumatized, now subjected to the mental anguish of not knowing when or if they will ever be taken care of by the country they fought for.

I would encourage you to email the GAO and ask it to continue the investigation to determine if this should be turned over to the Department of Justice.  Here’s the email address – youngc1@gao.gov 

Because the individual or individuals responsible for this unconscionable delay deserve more than a head smack.

[disclosure – I’ve consulted in the past for one of the protestors – Veterans Evaluation Services]


NCCI outtakes

This morning began with Ted Koppel – not a workers’ comp expert, but a terrific speaker and highly entertaining.  So, while listening to Mr Koppel, a few things worthy of note are coming to mind.

First, while my original thought was this was, while fun and interesting, pretty much a filler, I have to say that was short-sighted.

We workers comp folks spend far too much time navel-gazing, and the chance to engage, really engage, with a very thoughtful, highly experience, and deep thinker was valuable indeed. Topics addressed included India, Pakistan, the energy infrastructure, Edward Snowden, Putin, Nixon at the Great Wall and where to find good sources for information (Mr Koppel’s favorite is John Oliver’s This Week Tonight on HBO – and yes, it is for the news content, not just the terrific delivery).

While Mr Koppel was impressive, what was perhaps more impressive was the depth and interest level of his questioners.

Kudos to each and every one who posed a question – you enriched the experience for all of us.

What does this mean for you?

It’s not about the urgent; it’s about the important.  Look up, read, listen, and not just to those who think just like you.




NOT taking risks is what’s risky

I’m talking about marketing here folks, and not the typical work comp service marketing, which is not much more than a big party at NWCDC &/or RIMS plus some folks doing RFP responses and the (very) occasional website re-do.

Nope – real marketing – creative brand promotion that dramatically raises awareness.  Campaigns that make the market sit up and take notice. Smacking them in their eyeballs with innovative, aggressive, creative messaging.

When was the last time you saw really good marketing in this boooooring business of ours?  Stuff like the Newcastle campaign?  Campaigns like Kinaxis‘ that produce brilliantly simple and quite funny brand messages for pretty dry products?

(This video on implementation as a differentiator is hysterical)

Or Microsoft’s Camp Network? (I can already see execs cringing over the “nobody eat the berries” bit…)

Not taking risks is what’s risky.  Staid, boring, yawn-inducing plain-vanilla stuff is, well, safe – if you define “safe” as no one will ever pay attention to it, so you won’t get fired.

It also won’t get you any results.

What gets results is risky, aggressive, out-there marketing.  If it doesn’t make the denizens of the C-suite at least a little nervous, its probably not worth doing.  Because it can be holy-smokes-effective, as in millions of impressions and millions in new revenue.

Let’s be clear – we aren’t talking “risky” as in “stupid”.  Not offensive, but rather “we think this works but it may not”; “this is a big departure from stuff we’ve done in the past”; “no one else in our niche has ever done anything like this”. To break through, you have to take that risk. In a world of grey and greyblue, bright orange will stand out and grab the viewer.

Which gets you their attention, for about a nanosecond.  Great marketing grabs and holds the viewer’s attention while communicating your message clearly and completely. 

And you can’t do that if you go immediately from orange back to your usual greyblue.

What does this mean for you?

Success favors the smart risk taker.