Put it in writing
Sooner or later, all Government Contractors will be faced with a situation like one of these:
- Your government client wants you to do something you consider out of scope
- You’re under contract and come across a circumstance you didn’t anticipate and need to deviate from the scope of work
- Your bid / proposal made assumptions that you later determined to be incorrect and you find out after award
Regardless of how major or minor the implications of these situations might seem, there is one cardinal rule to follow – put your concerns in writing as soon as possible and engage the Contracting Officer (KO).
Typical Contractor-Government relationships work best with daily, even hourly, interaction on an informal basis. This informal interaction is generally acceptable and provides critically needed communication to keep programs moving and business relationships working smoothly. Phone calls, e-mails, meetings, talks “while going down the hall” or, “out in the plant” between key personnel become commonplace. This informality, while important, is a dual-edged sword. Occasionally it can expand beyond what’s in everyone’s best interests either because the players may conclude the relationship has become so cordial, cooperative, even friendly, that there is little need to document actions extensively.
Not properly documenting changes can get everyone burned – but most especially the Contractor.
When a supposed “in-scope” work requirement really is not, it may eventually become a conflict if costs escalate, schedule slips, or performance is affected.
And once an issue becomes a conflict, it is too late to start documenting ‘who said what to whom’, way back when.
The realization that documentation is required to resolve a contract scope issue usually occurs too late – just as it escalates into a conflict.
Conflict can destroy a previously wonderful relationship – and ultimately end up in court. The time and effort spent on such issues “after the fact” erodes trust and draws critical energy away from the key objective: providing outstanding contract performance.
The bottom line: When in doubt, “put it in writing”. If the other party objects and gives you the impression you will be seen negatively, that is even stronger justification to do so.
A final recommendation: Train your workforce on this, repeatedly.