Letter: In contracts, it's about defining goals

One reader offers a solution that doesn't mean using cost-plus contracts but looks at contract management.

Regarding "McCain wants to end cost-plus contracting": Now that consultant's Christmas is just past, we are into a new contract year. When the purchaser has not clearly defined their requirements, and the contractor is willing to take on the job, what other way is there to go except "cost plus?" There is a better way.

In my 1970 article, "The MYTH of MIS" the road map for avoiding the faults of cost plus by invoking proper project management was presented. Since so few managers know how to; first, define a project in workable terms and second, practice project discipline — what choice do they have?

Project managment is far more complex than have a set of plans from which to develop a PERT chart. It should include some recognition of the impact of the mutation of Maslov's Hierarchy of Needs. Project managers should be aware of how territorial imperatives come into play (the Baboon Platoon — modeled after Jane Goodall's works). In any project there is the real, but invisible, concept of project management in a three dimensional world (a different article), and how people react in differing environments — the routine, crisis, and knowledge orientations; from Dr. Waino Suojanen, 1970.

In addition, we can bring into play the affects of the Circadian Cycle...

With this as background, suffice to say that ethical contractors try to help their customers focus of the problem at hand since their own planning depends on knowing what the future may bring. Since neither the contract awarding agency nor the contract winner does know the future, cost plus becomes the answer. With the customer invoking the "one little (or big) change" syndrome while the project is under way the contractor has no choice but to ask for more budget to cover the change order. What else is there to do?

When a project contract escalates from $100 million to $400 million, with more to come, it is painfully obvious that more than one person did not practice good project management and control. Until those responsible for defining project requirements are taught how to define a goal, how to develop the objectives to achieve that goal and then, look at each objective as the goal for the next lower level to use in defining their project — we are doomed to see cost plus projects as a way of life. There is a better way!

E T (Ed) Dibble

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