You have heard the old saying known throughout the Western USA from the time you were born (assuming you were born in Texas, Utah, Nevada, etc.) “We are from the Government and we are here to help!” It usually has a negative connotation as you can guess. Part of the reason is confusion. The government, every government, is stacked with confusion. Furthermore, the government has its own interests (presumably on behalf of the people but under a Marxist form of government such as China or N. Korea, as you know by now, people exist to serve the government not the other way around and in western forms of government democracy vs Marxism hinges on the balance of interests). Confusion can never be ended because it is the end result of new information and Congress is constantly churning out new information. But hey, you elected them and that is also part of the balance of interests. But confusion can be mitigated through education. Today we attempt to understand the difference between a Statement of Work, a Performance Work Statement and a Statement of Objectives which is part of the ongoing pursuit of balance of interests in contracting.

A SOW not only describes what is to be done, but how it is to be done. In a SOW the organization gives detail of exactly what the contractor is to accomplish and how it is to be accomplished. If the contractor does exactly what is described in the SOW and the project fails, then it is the organization’s fault and not the contractor’s. There is not an exact template for writing a SOW (although most organizations have one as they have written several of them already) they generally include BACKGROUND, OBJECTIVE, SCOPE, TASK REQUIREMENTS and FINAL PRODUCT.

A PWS has two mandatory features.

  1. Work states in terms of outcomes rather than the method of performance
  2. Measurable performance standards and a method of measuring performance against those standards

Quality control and assurance is the government’s responsibility to ensure that the performance standards are met

A SOO is best when the organization needs something but does not have the experience to do either a SOW or a PWS. We are in an era of rapid technological change and other industry players are often in a better position to understand these changes. The contractor itself is in the best position to craft the necessary solution by offering a PWS through competition. This method also allows the organization to judge the work and understanding of the different offerors.

Statement of Work
(SOW)
Performance Work Statement
(PWS)
Statement of Objectives
(SOO)
What is the desired outcome?Precise, detailed descriptionClear, specific, and objective terms including measurable outcomesBasic, top-level description
What work will the contractor perform?Precise, detailed descriptionDetailed descriptionThe contractor will describe process to achieve desired outcome or result in the form of a PWS
How will the contractor approach the work?Process details are specified exactlyProcess details will be determined by the contractorThe contractor will describe process details in the form of a PWS
How will performance be assessed?The contractor’s performance is assessed against the specifications and resultsThe contractor’s performance is assessed against specified measurable performance standards and resultsThe contractor will respond with performance metrics, measurement plan, and quality assurance plan
What will the format of the statement be?– Background
– Objective
– Scope
– Task Requirements
– Final Product(s)
– Desired outcome or result
– Method of performance assessment
– Purpose
– Scope or mission
– Timing
– Place
– Background
– Performance objectives
– Operating constraints (optional)
ExampleThe contractor must mow the lawn twice per week (regardless of its growth rate or appearance)The grass must be maintained at a height between 2-3” by any suitable meansThe grass must be maintained at a reasonable height to be specified in the PWS
ProsProvides exact specifications to achieve the desired outcomeEncourages contractors to use cost-effective and innovative methods to achieve the desired outcomeEmpowers contractors to offer scenarios that are both cost-effective and efficient based on their experience
ConsIf the SOW was completed as specified and the result is unacceptable, the government – not the contractor – is at faultOutcomes are limited by the expertise and experience of the contractorThe time-consuming process of communicating objective and evaluating proposed solutions and results are dependent upon knowledge and expertise of the contractor
Management Concepts

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