The Dismal Theorems of Contract Negotiation

©1999 Gerald M. Weinberg

My friend Brad, a Los Angeles cop, mentioned that he regularly sold traffic tickets.

“But it’s not what you think,” Brad smiled. “I work at night and go to school
during the day. If I have to appear in court, I miss classes. ‘Selling the ticket’ is
convincing drivers that they really were speeding, so they won’t take the matter to

“That’s a side of police work I never considered,” I said. “You have to be a good

“It’s not that hard,” Brad explained. “You see, I give dozens of tickets every week,
but most of the speeders only get one in a year. I get lots more practice than they

Negotiations between speeders and police can never be equal, because speeders are
amateur negotiators while cops are professionals. By the time you had enough
experience at speeding to become a professional, you’d be in jail.

Negotiations between contractors and agencies can never be equal, because
contractors are amateur negotiators while agencies are professionals. By the time
you had enough experience at contracting to become a professional, you’d be dead.

Unfortunately, you need to negotiate every new contract:

“There will always be issues and disputes between contractors and agencies. The
key, and perhaps the best that can be hoped for, is to understand the other side a
little better

About Gerald M. Weinberg

For more than 50 years, Jerry (Gerald M.) Weinberg has worked on transforming software organizations. He is author or co-author of many articles and books, including The Psychology of Computer Programming. His books cover all phases of the software life-cycle. They include Exploring Requirements, Rethinking Systems Analysis and Design, The Handbook of Walkthroughs, Inspections, and Technical Reviews, and General Principles of System Design. His books on leadership include Becoming a Technical Leader, The Secrets of Consulting, More Secrets of Consulting, and the Quality Software Management four-volume series. His book, Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method, appeared in 2005. His first techno-thriller novel, The Aremac Project (Dorset House), will appear in 2007. Email Jerry or visit to read excerpts of the Shape Forum. Picture (c)2004 Steven M. Smith
This entry was posted in Articles and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>