by Bill Flury

It was early Friday morning and Bob was telling me that the report he was working on was almost done and he would have it ready for me next week. He asked if that would be OK. I told him it was not OK and figured I had better explain why.

About Bob

Bob was a recently retired colonel whose most recent assignment had been at a large military software development center. He had been overseeing several long-term development projects. He had joined us a few months ago and this was his first job as a civilian defense contractor.

Bob’s technical expertise was in data mining and he had successfully completed a number of internal government projects in that area. We wanted him to help us refine the requirements for a new project that we were working on for the Air Force.

About Our Project

Our project was being done on a task order that had been proposed and estimated based on careful calculations of the staff hours required for each task. The work was proposed and awarded on a fixed price basis. The task order required us to review and harmonize the data requirements as stated by four elements of our client government organization. We had done the analysis and had drafted the final report.

Bob’s Task

Bob’s task was to do a final review in time for us to correct any errors he might spot. We had allocated a week of his time to do that. Up to now we were right on track to complete the work within the estimated number of hours. But now, Bob was telling us he would not be done until the middle of next week.

Let Me Explain

I told Bob that being late was going to be a problem for us and he seemed a bit surprised. So, I asked him how this situation would play out in the organization he just left. Bob told me that it would be no problem. If something was due on Friday and he wasn’t finished he would work as hard as he could next week and would get the task done as soon as he could.

I asked him: “In those circumstances, would you still be in the service and getting paid for the next week?”

Bob seemed surprised by the question and said, “Certainly, why not?”

I told Bob that was different in the fixed price environment. I told him that we had budgeted a certain number of hours for his task and when those hours were used there was no more money.  If we were being very strict about it, there would be no more job for him and no more pay next week.

Happy Ending

Bob got the point. He worked through the weekend and got his report in on Monday. He thanked me for explaining how this contracting business worked – and was never late again.

Do you have team members who disregard their deadlines? What incentive can you give them to change their ways?

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