Partnering is primarily a relationship in which program stakeholders
work, cooperate, and perform in good faith as a unified team. Partnering is
similar to picking teams for a tug of war at the company picnic. Each team is
together for the duration of the competition and the “partners” know that they
must work together to succeed. If the partners do not pull in the same
direction, hold on to the rope, and dig-in with their feet, the team will not
In the acquisition of government systems, the program is the rope that unites
the program partners. Accordingly, the partners are required to put aside
individual interests and work together, communicate their expectations, agree
on common goals and methods of performance, and identify and resolve problems
early, before losing the opportunity for success.
The Army defines partnering as: “A project-specific interorganizational
dispute-avoidance process.” It is “project specific” because the Competition In
Contracting Act (CICA) does not permit long term government commitments to
individual companies that exceed the duration of the competitively awarded
contract. It is “inter-organizational” because it joins a number of different
organizations into a single project team. “Dispute avoidance” refers to the way
partnering works to eliminate the root causes of conflict. It is a “process”
because philosophy is not enough. By developing a specific process,
participants have guidance tools rather than just good intentions.
The Army limits the partnership to the acquisition agency and the contractor in
the period after contract award. We have the opportunity to extend the concept
to include the using and the acquisition agencies before award, and adding the
contractor to the team after contract is awarded.
This document outlines the development of partnering, describes its benefits,
and offers some suggestions for use on MITRE programs. In addition to
references cited in the text, the bibliography lists sources of information
related to partnering.
A brief history of how partnering came about in our environment starts
with the construction industry, which has used partnering for a number of years.
In 1994, the Construction Industry Dispute Avoidance and Resolution Task Force (DART) surveyed 8,000 attorneys, design professionals, and contractors.
The design professionals viewed project partnering “as a superior method” for
achieving desired results, and the contractors were “extremely favorable toward
the prospects of project partnering and tended to view it as a highly effective
vehicle for achieving a host of goals on construction projects.” More than 70 percent of all three groups predicted future
increases in the use of partnering. The design professionals and attorneys
indicated that favorable experiences with partnering outnumbered unfavorable
experiences by five to one.
Recognizing the success in the construction industry, the Army Corps of
Engineers experimented with the concept. Their success has prompted them to
adopt a policy of developing, promoting, and practicing partnering on all
construction contracts and to expand the concept to other relationships. The
Corps defines the concept this way:
Partnering is the creation of an owner-contractor relationship that promotes
achievement of mutually beneficial goals. It involves an agreement in principle
to share the risks involved in completing a project, and to establish and
promote a nurturing partnership environment. Partnering is not a contractual
agreement, however, nor does it create any legally enforceable rights or
duties. Rather, partnering seeks to create a new cooperative attitude in
completing government contracts. To create this attitude, each party must seek
to understand the goals, objectives, and the needs of the other — their “Win”
situation — and seek ways that these objectives can overlap.
Delivery of an operationally useful system on time or early, and on or under
budget, is a win situation for the user, the acquisition agency, and the
contractor. Program success is a powerful incentive for all the partners and
eliminates the disincentives associated with failure to achieve technical,
cost, or schedule goals.
The Office of Federal Procurement Policy recognized the success that the Army
Corps of Engineers and several other federal agencies have achieved in
construction projects and has recommended (as a “Best Practice”) the
implementation of partnering principles in the automated data
processing/information resources management areas.
The direction from the Secretary of Defense in DoD 5000.2-R to implement Integrated Product and Process
Development (IPPD) and Integrated Process
Teams (IPTs) encouraged and enabled partnering throughout the Department of
Defense (DoD). The Air Force Electronic Systems Center supports the concept and
has already demonstrated successful partnering efforts that involve the user,
the acquisition organization, and the contractor.
IPPD is the latest phase of the Total Quality Management (TQM)
initiative adopted by the American automotive and consumer electronics
industries in the early 1980s. The adoption of TQM philosophy was in response
to the market share lost to the Japanese manufacturers who had implemented TQM
in their manufacturing processes. One of the key TQM areas was the Design For
Manufacturability (DFM) early in the conceptual stage of product development.
This permitted a faster concept to market cycle than the serial design and
manufacturing engineering processes used in American industry. In the mid
1980s, American industry supplemented the early TQM initiatives with Concurrent
Engineering (CE) and IPTs. These two additions permitted the involvement of
manufacturing, support, marketing, and other “illilties” early in the design
process. The implementation of IPTs moved the focus away from the functional
departments and toward the product being developed. It introduced teamwork as
part of a major system development process.
In the new version of DoD 5000.2-R, the Secretary of Defense directs
“that the department perform as many acquisition functions as possible,
including oversight and review, using IPTs.” The regulation also endorses the
use of “government-industry partnerships” as a best practice, but points out
that the participation of prospective contractors before award be in accordance
with procurement integrity rules and requires legal review. DoD Directive
5000.1 states that “Program IPTs focus on program execution, and may include
representatives from both government, and after contract award, industry.”
In their draft reengineering team report, the Electronic Systems Center
(ESC) recommended the formation of “strategic partnerships” early in the
program. The following summarizes their
“A successful program is dependent on establishing strategic partnerships
early. Working with both the user and industry early can lead to a program
where everyone understands what is wanted and there are few surprises. An
atmosphere of disciplined trust, where everyone understands each other’s role
and respects it, is fundamental to reducing the risks of other (more
radical) tenets of acquisition reform.
The optimum process would start with a dialog between the user and the
acquisition agency like:
2) Let’s get industry involved up front to perform tradeoffs and contribute to
our risk assessments.
3) Let’s agree up front what we will do for you.
4) Let’s form a strategic partnership for the duration of the effort among the
user, ESC, and industry.”
The ESC strategic partnerships fall into two categories: 1) those involving
users and potential contractors participating in Cooperative Research and
Development Agreements (CRDAs) and 2) those involving the user and the selected
contractor for any given program.
The partnerships involving potential contractors are best illustrated with the
Command and Control Unified Battlespace Environment (CUBE) efforts that provide
an interoperability showcase for participating CRDA contractors to demonstrate
their products to users. Since the Competition In Contracting Act precludes
limiting the competition for any particular contract to the participating CRDA
contractors, ESC uses Requests for Information, Presolicitation Conferences,
the Hanscom Electronic Request for Proposal Bulletin Board (HERBB), and draft
Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to provide all potential contractors
(including the participating CRDA contractors) with the opportunity to better
understand user requirements and to provide inputs to government requirements
tradeoffs and risk assessments while the RFP is being developed.
The second category of strategic partnerships involves the relationship
between the ESC program office and the user (as well as other government
stakeholders) in defining the requirements and the source selection factors for
the acquisition in question. Although contractor inputs during RFP development
are solicited and frequently accepted when they benefit the government (and
don’t give any one contractor a competitive advantage), the decisions regarding
the requirements and source selection factors are a government responsibility.
As the RFP evolves, the government requirements and source selection factor
decisions are provided to all potential contractors on HERBB. The contractors
deciding to bid submit proposals on their respective approaches and the source
selection results in the award of one or more contracts. Once the contract is
awarded, the selected contractor(s) can be included in the government
stakeholder partnership for the duration of the program. The following
discussion is limited to this second category of partnership–the program IPT.
Without some change in our actions, we may think “IPT”, but act the same
old way and get the same old results. The recommended partnering process lets
us change our actions and reap the benefits. Some examples follow:
Partnerships and IPTs are formed to facilitate concurrent problem
solving. Both concepts involve the interaction of disparate groups to solve
complex problems. If all parties in an acquisition were of like mind, then
there would be no need for either IPTs nor partnerships. However, this is not
the case. Many of the “stakeholders” in the acquisition of a major system come
from different cultures and have different value systems and vocabularies. For
example, the stakeholders may include the following groups:
Conflict is a disagreement between two or more parties. The issues in
conflict are typically either substantive (such as allocation of resources,
policies, procedures, requirements) or over emotional (such as values, culture,
management style, personal preferences, distrust). Frequently, conflicts
involve both types of issues. Conflict can range in intensity from a minor
irritant to a major problem that threatens the success of the entire program.
Research indicates that a typical manager spends 20 percent of his or her time
resolving conflicts and disagreements. The DoD 5000.2-R direction to implement
the use of IPTs changes the role of the typical manager. The empowerment of IPT
members and IPT leaders delegates some of the program management authority and
increases the number of individuals required to deal with conflicts and
disagreements. With the increased use of IPTs, there are numerous opportunities
for conflict. Although the senior representatives of the participating
organizations may be equipped to deal with conflict, many of the individuals on
the IPTs have not had either training or experience in conflict management.
The Defense Systems Management College (DSMC) Program Manager’s handbook points
out that conflict has been traditionally viewed as a negative factor, and if it
is present, organizational management has failed. The handbook also points out a new perspective:
Here are some constructive ways of dealing with conflict and some
recommendations for successfully implementing program IPTs on major programs.
The DSMC Program Manager’s handbook indicates a number of sources of
conflict within a Program Management Office (PMO) and discusses the role of the
program manager (PM) in dealing with this conflict. The PM continues to have a
major role in dealing with conflict within the PMO. However, we will also
examine those sources of conflict in a broader context that considers the
entire program and the participation of the user, the contractors, and other
external organizations in program IPTs. Sources of conflict include:
Conflicts between the user and the acquisition agency can be caused by
incomplete understanding of the user’s requirements, inability of the
contractor to deliver the promised product due to cost growth (under-bidding
the contract, unforeseen difficulties, etc.), changes in user demand for the
product, user concerns about development process efficiency, and user
disappointment in the evolving or final product. The disputes can lead to
significant delays in the development of the product, “requirements
adjustments,” or the correction of defects. Once on contract, delays are
expensive–the program office and contractor “marching armies” continue to use
resources even when the useful labor effort is at a standstill. These disputes
typically take place in a constrained funding environment (note the DoD 5000.2
direction for Cost As an Independent Variable). Serious early or mid-program disputes can lead to the
cancellation of the program since the user is responsible for program advocacy
and submitting funding requirements. Disputes late in the program often force
the user to take an unacceptable system rather than wait for funding and
development of another system.
Conflicts between the acquisition agency and the contractor can be caused by
requirements interpretation, lack of cost-realism during the bidding process,
delays in completion of intermediate milestones, funding fluctuations,
overestimated software productivity, and changes in user requirements. Like the
user-acquisition agency disputes, these disputes can stop the progress but not
the costs on the program. Unlike the user-acquisition agency disputes, these
disputes can and have been referred to the courts.
Five basic conflict resolution strategies are identified by DSMC:
avoiding, forcing, accommodating, compromising, and collaborating.
Regardless of the source of the conflict, the “competing” or adversarial
conflict resolution strategy typically employed when these conflicts occur,
wastes significant manpower and dollar resources. In addition, it tends to
cause resentment in the other party and a long-term deterioration of the
business relationship among the parties.
The DSMC Program Manager’s Notebook advises that the only strategy that
optimizes the benefits to all of the parties involved is “collaborating.”