NASA 8 Lessons Learned and Rules for Contractors and Contracting:
Rule #47: A project manager is not the monitor of the contractors work but is to be the driver.
In award fee situations, the government personnel should be making every effort possible to make sure the contractor gets a high score (i.e., be on schedule and produce good work). Contractors don’t fail, NASA does and that is why one must be proactive in support. This is also why a low score damages the government project manager as much as the contractor’s manager because it means that he is not getting the job done.
Rule #48: Award fee is a good tool that puts discipline both on the contractor and the government. The score given represents the status of the project as well as the management skills of both parties. The project management measurement system (pms) should be used to verify the scores. Consistent poor scores require senior management intervention to determine the reason. Consistent good scores which are consistent with pms reflect a well-run project, but if these scores are not consistent with the pms, senior management must take action to find out why.
Rule #49: Morale of the contractor’s personnel is important to a government manager. Just as you don’t want to buy a car built by disgruntled employees, you don’t want to buy flight hardware developed by under- motivated people. You should take an active role in motivating all personnel on the project.
Rule #50: Being friendly with a contractor is fine-being a friend of a contractor is dangerous to your objectivity.
Rule #51: Remember, your contractor has a tendency to have a one-on-one interface with your staff. Every member of your staff costs you at least one person on the contract per year.
Rule #52: Contractors tend to size up the government counterparts and staff their part of the project accordingly. If they think yours are clunkers, they will take their poorer people to put on your project.
Rule #53: Contractors respond well to the customer that pays attention to what they are doing but not too well to the customer that continually second-guesses their activity. The basic rule is a customer is always right but the cost will escalate if a customer always has things done his way instead of how the contractor planned on doing it. The ground rule is: never change a contractor’s plans unless they are flawed or too costly (i.e., the old saying that better is the enemy of good).
Rule #54: There’is only one solution to a weak project manager in industry-get rid of him fast. The main job of a project manager in industry is to keep the customer happy. Make sure the one working with you knows that it is not flattery but on-schedule, on-cost, and a good product that makes you happy.
Lessons Learned as Compiled by Jerry Madden , Associate Director of the Flight Projects Directorate at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center: (Jerry collected these gems of wisdom over a number of years from various unidentifiable sources. They have been edited by Rod Stewart of Mobile Data Services in Huntsville, Alabama.). January 1, 1995. Updated July 9, 1996.