Do we learn from our experiences?


A real story: The clauses for service contracts and construction contracts each have a requirement for the contractor to have an inspection system. Each clause is slightly different regarding the requirements of the inspection system. So when an inexperienced CO or COR discovered contractor work that did not meet contract specifications, he/she informed the contractor that the work was unacceptable and that it did not meet the Requirements section of the clause:

(e) If any of the services do not conform with contract requirements, the Government may require the Contractor to perform the services again in conformity with contract requirements, at no increase in contract amount. When the defects in services cannot be corrected by reperformance, the Government may—

(1) Require the Contractor to take necessary action to ensure that future performance conforms to contract requirements; and

(2) Reduce the contract price to reflect the reduced value of the services performed.

When the CO/COR rejected the work, the contractor got very angry and was defensive about the rejection.

Why create conflict, when asking the “proper” questions may result in a more productive, problem-solving solution

In the above situation, the rejection caused a response which was hostile and non-productive. “Non-productive” denotes a state in which both sides have failed. Progress does not stem from non-productive situations, and neither does setting another party up for failure.

Now consider what might have happened if the CO/COR had simply made the statement to the contractor: “It appears that your quality control system is not working properly.” This would have generated a discussion about quality control.Inspecting Group

The truth is that the quality control system should have caught the defective work, in which case, it could have been corrected before seeking acceptance or payment. As a practical matter it is not unusual for defective work to be performed—and even offered for acceptance.

Asking questions can help you gain information; more questions can gain you more information. Eventually, you have knowledge. Once you have knowledge, there is the potential to make wise decisions. Why create conflict, when asking the “proper” questions may result in a more productive, problem-solving solution serving the needs of both parties?

Unfortunately, experience sometimes comes from using poor judgment when asking the right questions. Fortunately, over time, good judgment comes from our experiences. That’s where we need to look at that internal shelf of what we’ve learned and like an alchemist turn our experiences into knowledge.

Until our next off ramp… Cheers!

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