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Posted by on Sep 25, 2019

Will a SOW, PWS, or SOO Work Best to Achieve Your Objective?

Will a SOW, PWS, or SOO Work Best to Achieve Your Objective?

Will a SOW PWS or SOO Work Best

Traditionally, a Statement of Work would be drawn up to provide every possible detail of the objectives, process, and assessment of an acquisition.

Then, the idea of performance-based work arose. Why not simply tell the contractor what you want the result to be and give them the freedom to accomplish it in the best possible way with a Performance Work Statement?

Further still, there are situations where the desired result may be more abstract than concrete or may involve emerging technologies or other levels of expertise that are foreign to the ultimate decision-maker. In this case, the desired outcome is described in detail in a Statement of Objectives, and the contractor is tasked with proposing a holistic solution in the form of a Performance Work Statement.

The chart below illustrates the differences and similarities between the three statement types.


Statement of Work

Performance Work Statement

Statement of Objectives

What is the desired outcome?

Precise, detailed description

Clear, specific, and objective terms including measurable outcomes

Basic, top-level description

What work will the contractor perform?

Precise, detailed description

Detailed description

The contractor will describe process to achieve desired outcome or result in the form of a PWS

How will the contractor approach the work?

Process details are specified exactly

Process details will be determined by the contractor

The contractor will describe process details in the form of a PWS

How will performance be assessed?

The contractor’s performance is assessed against the specifications and results

The contractor’s performance is assessed against specified measurable performance standards and results

The contractor will respond with performance metrics, measurement plan, and quality assurance plan

What will the format of the statement be?

– Background
– Objective
– Scope
– Task Requirements
– Final Product(s)

– Desired outcome or result
– Method of performance assessment

– Purpose
– Scope or mission
– Timing
– Place
– Background
– Performance objectives
– Operating constraints (optional)


The contractor must mow the lawn twice per week (regardless of its growth rate or appearance)

The grass must be maintained at a height between 2-3” by any suitable means

The grass must be maintained at a reasonable height to be specified in the PWS


Provides exact specifications to achieve the desired outcome

Encourages contractors to use cost-effective and innovative methods to achieve the desired outcome

Empowers contractors to offer scenarios that are both cost-effective and efficient based on their experience


If the SOW was completed as specified and the result is unacceptable, the government – not the contractor – is at fault

Outcomes are limited by the expertise and experience of the contractor

The time-consuming process of communicating objective and evaluating proposed solutions and results are dependent upon knowledge and expertise of the contractor

Source: A COR’s Guide to Statements of Work, Performance Work Statements, and Statements of Objectives

Some of you may be able to recite differences between a SOW, PWS, and SOO in your sleep. Or maybe you tend to use these terms interchangeably. While some of the differences are subtle, and there much overlap across the three vehicles – it is important to choose the type of statement that will deliver the results you desire.

Whether you need to brush up on the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), achieve or maintain your certifications, Management Concepts is here to help.

Natalie Komitsky is the Content Marketing Manager at Management Concepts. For more than ten years, she has been creating compelling content that tells stories, communicates ideas, and captivates readers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Nonfiction Writing and Editing from George Mason University.