Training Shouldn’t Be LPTA
There are many reports that impugn the training that the acquisition workforce receives as ineffectual and the cause of poor acquisition execution and achievement of outcomes. We suggested in a previous blog a way to improve the outcome of training. In this blog we’d like to take a step back and describe how buying training could be improved and performance improved.
As a training and consulting company, we see many solicitations that specify course names and sometimes lengths, but provide no information about why they are buying the training, what problems they are trying to address through training, or even the objectives and topics they want the training to address. At times, when the buyer provides a course outline of topics they want covered, they don’t specify whether they want this training to be refresher training, in depth training, or basic training. Training providers may get the impression that the extent of market research, if accomplished, went no deeper than seeing if a training provider had a course name that related to the subject on which they wanted training. This becomes obvious when the course names in a solicitation duplicate the names of a particular training provider’s catalog. One company’s Source Selection course is not, by definition, the same as another company’s Source Selection course. One could be current and reflect up-to-date guidance with interactive exercises facilitated by a veteran of many source selections, while the other could be a straight lecture course delivered in a much shorter length and always at a cheaper price. Should price alone be the determining factor on which course will meet your needs?
There also seems to be a lack of recognition that length has an impact on the depth and level of learning that can take place. We see incidents where an agency wants to reduce the length of a longer, say 5-day course to 1 or 2 days while covering all the topics in the course. This is doable, but I fear the outcome of that training would be no more than an overview of the topics at Bloom’s level 1.
Buying training by name and length may seem to be driven by economics, but I would submit it is false economics. If the training doesn’t produce the outcomes sought, the dollars are wasted. If the agency has not specified what it needs and treats training as a commodity to be bought at the lowest price possible, then those dollars spent have a high probability of not producing improved performance. It would be entirely serendipitous for the agency to achieve the outcomes of the training if the buyer doesn’t define the outcomes it wants to achieve, defines the length without regard to those outcomes, identifies name only, and treats training as a commodity without differentiation. I submit that all training is not a commodity and can be differentiated by design and delivery methods and therefore is not best suited for the Lowest Priced Technically Acceptable (LPTA) source selection method. Also ask yourself – how you could hold the contractor accountable if you buy by course name only?
Training providers and their courses can be differentiated if agencies analyze what they want from the training and describe it in the solicitation. Training is not a commodity, in my opinion and therefore, LPTA should not be used in most cases. If agencies take time to determine what outcomes they seek from spending the funds on training, communicate that in the solicitation, and use tradeoff to choose the best source, they can achieve that outcome and receive value in improved performance for the funds expended.