Developing a Performance-Based Work Statement

Performance-based Work Statements (PBWS) are becoming very common in government service contracts.  To develop competitive proposals, you must be able to create an effective PBWS in response to Request for Proposals.

The core of successful federal contracts is the Statement of Work, which is a detailed document that conveys the government’s needs to contractors to ensure accurate bids and successful performance.  In performance-based contracting, the Statement of Work disappears and is replaced with a Statement of Objectives and other documents.

With these documents, the Request for Proposals changes from a detailed description of how the contract should be performed to a description of what should be performed.  The focus shifts from the how to the what.

In a traditional Statement of Work, federal agencies provide detailed specifications on how to do the work.  Contractors often receive little or no incentives to develop innovative approaches, increase efficiency, decrease costs, or improve the level of customer satisfaction.

In contrast, performance-based contracts encourage contractors to design work approaches that link measurable outcomes with contract incentives.  Successful acquisitions in performance-based contracts center around three questions:  What do I need?  When do I need it?  How do I know that it’s good?  The contractor, not the federal agency, has the responsibility for deciding how to respond to the requirements.

A PBWS is likely to include the following key elements:

  1. General Information and Scope of Work.  This section, which may be several pages long, describes the RFP.
  2. Purpose of the Contract.  This section, which may be several pages long, describes the work to be performed in the contract.
  3. Performance Work Statement.  This is the heart of any PBWS.  All the previous sections have served as an introduction to this section, which may be several pages long or 40 pages long, depending on the size and complexity of the tasks described in the SOO and related documents.  It is usually done in a tabular format.
  4. Contract Deliverables.  It identifies the contract deliverables by the PWS number, deliverable title, frequency of delivery (monthly or quarterly, for example), due dates (first report within 60 days of contract award, for example), and the Contract Data Requirements List (CDRL) number.

If there are stringent page limitations, you can concentrate on the Performance Work Statement (PWS).  I recommend that the PWS be in tabular landscape format for ease of reading.   The PWS should contain this information in columns:

  • PWS ID:  a numbering system for all tasks.
  • Work to be performed:  what you propose to do.
  • Performance Standard:  a targeted level of accomplishment.
  • Metric:  how the performance standard will be measured.
  • Acceptable Quality Level:  the expected performance level for the contract.
  • Monitoring System:  how you will evaluate the work to be performed.
  • References:  the Request for Proposals documents and Statement of Work used to develop a particular PWS category.

Not all PBWS are done in a tabular format.  Sometimes, it may be a narrative divided into Contract Line Item Numbers or program areas.  But whatever format, the basic goal of the PWS remains the same:  to describe what will be done by the contractor, how it will be measured, and what constitutes acceptable performance.


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