Preliminary Observations on Program Instability
This white paper reports emerging findings at the end of Phase I of the Lean Aircraft Initiative in the Policy focus group area. Specifically, it provides details about research on program instability. Its objective is to discuss high-level findings detailing: 1) the relative contribution of different factors to a program’s overall instability; 2) the cost impact of program instability on acquisition programs; and 3) some strategies recommended by program managers for overcoming and/or mitigating the negative effects of program instability on their programs. Because this report comes as this research is underway, this is not meant to be a definitive document on the subject. Rather, is it anticipated that this research may potentially produce a number of reports on program instability-related topics. The government managers of military acquisition programs rated annual budget or production rate changes, changes in requirements, and technical difficulties as the three top contributors, respectively, to program instability. When asked to partition actual variance in their program’s planned cost and schedule to each of these factors, it was found that the combined effects of unplanned budget and requirement changes accounted for 5.2% annual cost growth and 20% total program schedule slip. At a rate of approximately 5% annual cost growth from these factors, it is easy to see that even conservative estimates of the cost benefits to be gained from acquisition reforms and process improvements can quickly be eclipsed by the added cost associated with program instability. Program management practices involving the integration of stakeholders from throughout the value chain into the decision making process were rated the most effective at avoiding program instability. The use of advanced information technologies was rated the most effective at mitigating the negative impact of program instability.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology