Winning isn’t everything, but it sure feels good. Follow these tips to make your next award nomination a winner.
By Ms. Susan L. Follett
The Army Acquisition Workforce includes more than 37,000 highly talented professionals, all of whom have achievements of which they can be proud. But only so many awards are given out every year. Here are a few tips to help your nomination stand out from all the rest.
Prepare well in advance.
Start the process early and give yourself plenty of time. Like most holidays, these awards come around at the same time each year. Nominations for DOD acquisition awards are collected at the direct reporting unit level every spring, and the deadline is usually at the end of May. Nominations for the Army Acquisition Executive’s Excellence in Leadership Awards and the Secretary of the Army Excellence in Contracting Awards are due in the summer. Consider the stars in your organization, figure out early on who or what program would be a good candidate for nomination and keep track of your measurable successes.
Read the instructions carefully.
Review the instruction packets completely—word by word, page by page. What are the award requirements? Who’s eligible? How are the winners chosen? What does your paperwork need to look like? As you move through the process of finalizing your nomination, keep going back to the requirements to make sure that all aspects of the nomination are addressed succinctly but completely.
Use the judging criteria as an outline for organizing your nomination. Using the same criteria headings in your write-up enables judges, who have limited time to review each nomination, to quickly evaluate your nominee and will reduce the chance that critical information will be overlooked.
Follow the guidelines.
Three pages means three pages. One page means one page. Don’t use wider margins or smaller fonts to cram more onto a page. Instead, hone your narrative: Use concise language to meet the requirements. If you’ve tried all that and still exceed the page limit, consider modifying the format: bullets, acronyms and brief statements can effectively convey a lot of information in a small amount of space. Judges are selected because of their expertise in the award area, so they’re likely to understand terminology that would confuse a layperson.
Tell a story.
Telling a story does not necessarily mean moving chronologically from beginning to end. It means giving each element of the nomination a logical flow so that judges get a clear picture of the accomplishment and can see clearly why the individual is deserving of recognition. Try this structure:
a. This is what the nominee achieved.
b. This is why it’s important.
c. This is the effect of that achievement.
The same schema can be used to express the value of the achievement and the example of the individual’s leadership. Eliminate phrases that are likely repetitive and just take up space, such as “in this position” and “in this capacity.”
Substantiate all claims. If you say some program is “the best” or that a system is faster or stronger, make sure the language in the nomination backs that with facts that can be documented.
- What measurable outcomes resulted from the nominee’s achievement?
- Include specific achievements and tangible benefits.
- Clearly articulate the challenges and scope of responsibilities.
- How did the accomplishments impact the unit or command?
Talk with your nominee and those who work with him or her to identify specifics about the nominee’s leadership. How have these accomplishments affected the team, the organization or individual team members?
DO NOT cut and paste from requirements documents or an organization’s marketing literature.
Avoid overuse of superlatives and empty-sounding praise. A little puffed-up language is fine in award nominations if it is used sparingly. But nomination forms are short, and most often the space can be better filled with information that supports your claim.
- Avoid the use of too many pronouns and run-on sentences.
- Use simple tenses: “led” rather than “has led.” “Did” rather than “has done.”
- Choose active voice—“Gen. Smith decided to overhaul the program”—over passive voice: “A decision was made to overhaul the program.”
Proofread. And proofread again.
Make sure you and at least one other person proofread your statements. Grammatical errors and misspelled words detract from the quality of the nomination.
Information about upcoming acquisition awards and past winners can be found at https://asc.army.mil/web/acquisition-awards/. Good luck.
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