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A Tale of Two Contracts: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY (AIR FORCE) (SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY AND ENGINEERING) WASHINGTON DC
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When I wrote My Big Slow Fail Jan-Feb 2011, I figured I was just telling a story, and not a particularly significant one at that. I thought people might get a chuckle out of the challenges and frustrations involved with awarding a contract. I hoped maybe wed all learn a little something. I never expected this comedy of errors to trigger an avalanche of e-mails from readers around the world. The thing I didnt mention previously and which may augment our analysis of the first story is this I was actually managing two contracts at the time. While no two contracts are identical, the two I managed were remarkably alike. Both were with the same type of contractor, both were supported by contracting professionals from the same organization external to mine, both were active in the same timeframe, and both had the same program manager -- me. But unlike the infamous contract in my previous article Contract A, the other contract Contract B, had no significant delays, zero contracting-related problems, and zero rework. What could possibly account for the divergent outcomes Well, for all the similarities between A and B, there were two major differences. First, Contract B had no personnel turnover. The contract specialist I worked with on day 1 lets call him Chip was still there when I left that job almost 2 years later. Compare that to the downright comical level of personnel turnover on Contract A. I think this fact alone accounts for much of the difference in outcome. The second difference was that, early on, Chip and I sat down and wrote out a detailed process flow, documenting all the steps of all the activities we would undertake for Contract B in the following year. We created a stack of templates work statements, cost estimates, performance plans, etc. and agreed on both the content and the format. Overall, the indicators point to the idea that a stable workforce combined with a well-defined process sets a foundation for efficient operations.
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