Lisagor: Cheaper and faster, but not yet better

A look at the Clinger-Cohen Act with a tip of the hat to Edgar Allan Poe.

Editor's note: This column is one in a series looking at the impact of the Clinger-Cohen Act as that law approaches its 10th anniversary.

Once upon a midnight dreary,
Feeling sad, extremely weary,
In the midst of a proposal rage,
I counted out our 800th page.

Hoisting the document by giant hooks,
I cursed the act wrought by Brooks.
Will anyone even read it?
Doth the government really need it?

Outside the lightning and hail did storm
As I dreamed of procurement reform.
Not knowing what seeds I would be sowing,
I prayed for Clinger; I prayed for Cohen.

I hoped for an end to long evaluations
With endless amendments and repetitions.
And, perhaps, with too much naiveté,
I wished for increased productivity.

The seasons turned and on I labored
To win more business, to curry favor.
But when I thought there could be no more,
Another amendment arrived at my door.

This must stop, insisted Clinger,
But the challenge was a real humdinger.
Fortunately, he and Cohen persevered
And now they are both universally revered.

But better, faster and cheaper
Made absolutely no sense to me.
Maybe you can have one or two,
But seldom can you have all three.

So, if it's worth doing at all,
It's surely worth doing right.
But that is for another day,
Another uphill fight.

Still, we made the process shorter
And easier for all.
But complex IT programs
Continued to sputter and stall.

GWACs are certainly better,
And lengthy protests I don't miss.
Many other things have improved,
Way too many for me to list.

I have visions of project success.
More qualified PMs and full budget access.
I wonder as I type this missive,
Am I being too dismissive?

Will we learn to focus on the mission?
See the forest for the trees?
Will a GAO report
Ever award IT programs As and Bs?

We still need our wits to fix
The resistant agency cultures.
Small businesses are suffering,
Swallowed by corporate vultures.

Hark, I hear another knock
Upon my very office door.
At least it isn't Brooks this time.
Quoth the raven, nevermore!

Lisagor is program chairman for the WSA Business-to-Government conference in Washington state June 15 and the Program Management Summit in November, both sponsored by FCW Events. He founded Celerity Works in 1999 to help information technology executives accelerate and manage business growth. He lives on Bainbridge Island, Wash., and can be reached at


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