“I love flossing”, said no one, ever.

I recently went to the dentist for my semi-annual checkup. I got the obligatory “Have you been flossing?” question. To which I gave the obligatory answer, “Most of the time.”

If I’m being honest and if I stay on top of flossing, I’m an every-third day flosser (if that’s a thing). As it turns out, that’s good enough to keep dental issues at bay (cavities, etc.).

That wasn’t always the case. In my 20s, I was not consistent (read: I didn’t own dental floss). As a result, in my 30s I needed a LOT of repair and overhaul to my teeth…including having to endure the adventure of getting one of my molars pulled. Not a joyous event.

The happy ending is that my dental woes are behind me….if I floss every 3 days. I found that solution for me to ensure dental success has 3 elements

  • Commitment: making the active choice to take care of my teeth
  • Consistency: doing it at least every 3 days even when I don’t feel like it, and
  • Convenience: keeping the floss the within reach so I see it and use it. Remember the part about me not owning any in my 20s?

Ok, now it’s time to transition this seemingly irrelevant thread to GovCon.

Contract management (and relationship management for that matter) operates in much the same way. Managing (or administering) contracts is often best done a little bit at a time, like flossing. Sometimes there are large modifications, complex actions and multi-phase overhauls of contracts.  But often, it’s the active awareness of the contract activity, combined with small adjustments in communication and process along the way that lead to healthy contracts.

In contrast, if we ignore contract management, the decay can build up around the contract. This results in us having to make significant overhaul and repairs (like root canals and dental crowns). Sometimes, it’s too late and we lose the tooth or the contract because the decay overwhelmed the contract structure.

Use these three elements to enable healthy contracts.


This concept may seem too nebulous, but it’s critical for effective low-maintenance contracts. Committing to effective contract management is a team effort. This means all 3 key players (the contractor, the contracting officer and the customer/user) must be committed to contract management.

Contract management is not just a contracting function. It’s not a paperwork exercise that the contract administrator does in a vacuum. It’s HOW and WHETHER the contract works including:

Clear expectations of performance.

Clear expectations of acceptance of that performance.

Clear communication and execution of payment for that performance.

And more

“Without commitment before success, organizations risk having neither.”

Seth Godin

Contract management starts with the commitment from all three parties to execute the contract well. I can vividly remember the contracts I managed as a Contracting Officer where the three key players were all committed to executing well. I can also vividly remember the contracts where 2 out of the 3 of us were committed and how frustrating and inefficient those contracts were to administer. I’ll save those stories for another blog article. This one is already getting long.


Just like with flossing, consistency is key to effective contract management. Consistent communication is about small repeatable engagement.  Not just large scale “Program Management Reviews” with PowerPoint decks and long meetings. This is one of the reasons email or even cloud-based communication platform make such better tools for effective contract management than formal PMRs. The value of small incremental communication compounds over time, just like the value of consistent flossing. Consistency affects HOW and WHETHER the contract works, including communication on:

Upcoming contract changes (if needed)

Upcoming funding changes (if applicable)

Potential risks to contract performance

Risk of scope creep (through unauthorized commitments, for example)

Invoicing, payment and expenditures ledgers

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.”

Anthony Robbins

Contract management continues with consistency from all three parties to execute the contract well. I vividly remember the contracts I managed as a Contracting Officer where we did not maintain consistency in our processes, our communications and our documentation. In full disclosure, consistency was one of my biggest struggles as a Contracting Officer earlier in my career. It is very easy to get distracted by all the moving parts of GovCon (see my blog article: Overchoice). I found myself playing catch up due to not having enough shorter and more frequent conversations with our contractors. Instead, we fell into the quarterly PMR cycle. Or worse, kept the communication very superficial until there was a problem that needed to be fixed.

I suppose it’s ironic that some of the most valuable things we do now are based on consistency (posting a weekly Skyway blog, every week, for more than five years!). Thanks to Shelley Hall for making sure we remain consistent (as she posts the blogs each week).


If the floss is not in the bathroom…and if it’s not right next to my toothbrush…I’m not very likely to use it. It needs to be convenient to increase the chance that I’ll use it. When the tools we need are in our line of sight we are less likely to ignore them. It’s the path of least resistance. It’s convenient.

The tools of contract management likewise need to be easy to find and even better easy to use. This is one of the reasons emails are so user friendly: it’s right in front of us on most computers and even on our phones. Contrast this with tools like SharePoint databases, SalesForce.com, CPARS or eSRS updates. Each of these require a separate login and knowledge of navigating a new system. By using the same platform, the more likely we are to use it. This is likely why email is a most common communication tool: everyone can use it. There are other tools that are much better than email, but the trick is that they are usually not better for all three key players. Slack is very popular with some companies. Trello is an effective project management tool. Wunderlist is my favorite tools for keeping up with an avalanche of projects and tasks. However, these won’t work in GovCon contract management because all three players do not use them…or may not even have heard of them.

Email, as rudimentary as it may be, everyone knows how to use.

The value of convenience increases the chance of communication and documentation actually happening consistently. Just like Commitment and Consistency, Convenience affects HOW and WHETHER the contract works.