By Chris Gandy
Do you know how many versions there are of the song Love Me Tender? I don’t know the answer but sadly I am very familiar with at least 28 of them.
The reason I have this worthless knowledge is that a few years ago when working on a very intense contract renewal tender a smart aleck team member decided to relieve the tension by downloading 28 different versions of the song onto his iPod and playing it in the background during each of our 12 hour days as we laboured away researching and writing. Mercifully he downloaded other tunes which meant that each fourth or fifth song was THAT tune but this didn’t stop people resorting to throwing a paper object at his iPod each time the song came on.
Looking back at that experience our colleague’s gesture probably helped preserve the sanity of the rest of the team during what was a highly unpleasant time.
As many not for profits in this part of the world know, the tender process is something that has to be responded to, tolerated and endured if you wish to keep your doors open for another 3-4 years. What made the “love me tender tender” experience, as I referred to it, so painful was that the organisation did nothing to help itself to have its contract renewed. Its performance was below average, it did little to address some fundamental structural and management talent issues and support systems where rooted in the pre-digital age. As to be expected from an organisation that was managed the way it was, responsibility for having the contract renewed was adroitly shifted to the tender team and all and sundry were told that failure rested squarely on our shoulders.
Well, making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear is a tough job at the best of times and the organisation’s contract was not renewed nor did it deserve to be. The organisation ceased to exist in its own right following a forced merger with another organisation.
The lessons here are obvious. No matter how well constructed a tender proposal may be if it isn’t backed by sound credible evidence it will be seen by the evaluators as a piece of fiction. They will have little or no confidence the organisation can deliver on its promises. And the chances of success in what has become a highly competitive arena will be slim – irrespective of how impressive the tender document is!
Don’t leave it to a funding body at contract renewal time to be the sole arbiter of your performance. Conduct your own due diligence. Honestly identify where there is room for improvement and swiftly do whatever is needed to remediate any problem. A skilled tender team can produce outstanding proposals. You need to back it with an organisation of comparable quality.
When your organisation is tendering for a new contract, give your tender team every reason to be inspired by such music as Chariots of Fire. Don’t give them cause to go searching for the theme from the Titanic.
About Chris: Chris Gandy is the founder of Cause and Effective – a provider of contingent resourcing and leadership search services to cause-based organisations.