| In essence, project management
is about people. Virtually every successful project is
defined by good relations between the people involved.
In the same way, nearly every failed or troubled project
is about poor relationships between the people involved.
Let's consider one type of relationship: the one between
the government and the contractor.
It's easy to say that a contractor must earn the government's
trust, but what does that mean in practice? Who needs
to earn whose trust? What's the timeline for doing that?
How does anyone know when he or she is trusted? What
is the relationship supposed to be like before one feels
like trust has really been established? So many questions
it makes my head hurt. I have always found it better
to begin a relationship assuming that everyone is trustworthy
until, and unless, something occurs to belie trust.
Actions speak volumes in a government-contractor relationship.
For instance, I often refer to Dave, the very first contractor
program manager I ever worked with. Whenever I expressed
a concern or issue to Dave his reply was always the same:
"We just have to go and get that fixed." And he always
did. A few times he asked me to do something, and I responded
in kind. It was a great relationship.
openness and candor is an important part of a successful
When Dave left, his replacement, Ben, was not action-oriented
at all. Any issue I raised with Ben became a point of
contention, and Ben's aim typically was to try to talk
me out of expecting anything of him. Interestingly,
Ben was not timid about insisting that I do things he
wanted. For a time I did, but after awhile I got tired
of his failure to act in kind. I started saying "no"
even for those things I could have managed relatively
easily. As you might imagine the overall relationship
Complete openness and candor is an important part of a
successful government-contractor relationship. I recall
talking one time with Dave when he brought up that my
Contracting Officer (CO) was a threat to the overall relationship.
Dave told me that my CO seemed totally pre-occupied with
finding evidence that the contractor was violating the
contract, taking great delight in pointing out the slightest
infraction, and this was causing Dave's people to begin
taking a legalistic view of everything they were doing.
Once I investigated and found the allegation to be true,
I got rid of the CO. Had Dave and I not established an
air of openness between us, I never would have known there
was a problem.
|NASA is conducting
research into molecular-size devices being developed
under the rubric "nanotechnology." This photograph
depicts two "Nano-gears" with multiple teeth. One
can imagine how precisely in synch these gears must
be to run properly. This article details another
type of synchronous relationship -- between two
The government-contractor relationship requires nurturing
and attention by their respective managers. While many
people believe that the contract defines the relationship,
the truth is that the contract only provides the framework
or the starting point for relationships among the people
involved. It is the character of these relationships,
not the contract, which distinguishes good projects
from bad ones.
Terry Little is currently the Director of
the Kinetic Energy Boost Office of the Missile Defense
Agency. Before that he was the head of the Air Force's
Center for Acquisition Excellence. He is one of
the Air Force's most seasoned program managers.
He entered the Air Force in 1967 and served on active
duty until 1975. In 1997 he was promoted to the
grade of SES.