A lot of Feds out there think of themselves as Project Managers but for the most of us that run projects where a contractor is doing the actual work, I hate to be the one to break it to you but you’re not just a Project Manager, you’re also a Contract Manager. Meaning, you’re responsible for managing some agreement between you and your contractor and that agreement essentially constitutes a promise, guarantee, and/or obligation to do something. So if you’re just the “Project” Manager, then who’s holding your contractor accountable for that agreement?
This is one of the biggest problems with the Federal Government. We don’t really understand accountability. Accountability isn’t just a promise. It’s also the motivation for ensuring that [whomever] follows-through on that promise. There’s no accountability without consequences. There’s no accountability without consequences!
We talk tough about performance metrics, service level agreements, QASPs (if you’re a Fed reading this and you don’t know what this is, you better look it up), performance work statements, etc. and I’ve seen some stellar examples. But they always forget one little detail. What happens if they don’t do it?
There needs to be incentives or disincentives that motivates [whomever] to do the “right” thing. And don’t just think about it as defining incentives for performance. Think about it also as the kind of behavior you want to encourage.
I once managed a project/contractor which required several deliverables be completed and submitted according to a given schedule. If the contractor didn’t deliver by the due date, then they ate the additional cost. For one of the deliverables, I knew for a fact that they could’ve submitted it 2 weeks ahead of schedule but they didn’t because that meant they couldn’t continue burning at their agreed upon labor rate for those remaining 2 weeks. The metric was to ensure that they weren’t late but I should’ve also incentivized them to deliver early as well. Instead, I effectively only incentivized them to deliver on-time.
So the next time you’re putting together an “agreement,” make sure it includes these 3 things:
- Mechanisms to measure performance
- Incentives that motivate the “right” behavior
- Consequences if [whomever] doesn’t follow-through
And make sure you also tell them what they’re actually supposed to follow-through on.