How to Handle ‘Parkinson’s Law’

One of the biggest challenges for bid specialists, and something which is becoming more common, is how to handle Parkinson’s Law. For those of you that aren’t familiar with this concept, there is an adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. This is not a new idea as it was first floated in The Economist in 1955 by Cyril Northcote Parkinson. So how does it apply to tender writing?

At present we are seeing bids and tender response times being extended multiple times, pushing the deadlines back. For many bid writers and managers, this can bring relief and the pressure of the upcoming deadline is somewhat released. But more often, we find it brings new challenges for teams. So often, they will have postponed other projects to complete this bid, perhaps even the completion of other tenders and proposals. The new deadlines can then also start falling during periods of holiday and pre-agreed times when Senior Management have been booked to review the finished proposal and these now need to be changed.

So, in this ever-changing landscape, what should you do. Here are our top seven tips of how to handle that extra time:

  1. UPDATE ANY BID MANAGEMENT PLANS AND DIARY NOTIFICATIONS – firstly, update your online calendar and bid management plans to reflect the new deadlines. This will allow you to plan your workload, understand other deadlines and the ongoing projects to factor in.
  2. DON’T STOP – the biggest mistake teams make is to completely down tools. Teams revert back to their day jobs and push their bid work back. Critically, momentum that has been built up developing win themes, pricing strategies and key case studies is lost, and it can be almost impossible to recover. By all means manage your time more carefully and work on other projects, but make sure that the bid work that still needs to be done is not ignored.
  3. MANAGE THE NEWS INTERNALLY – this is perhaps the most difficult challenge of all. There is no right, or wrong answer and it comes down to individual Bid Managers’ and how they get the best from their teams. If you know the team will down tools, keep the news quiet. It is always worth notifying senior management and Directors, so that they can plan their review time more effectively. Whatever you do to manage the news internally, keep the end result of the completed bid in mind.
  4. UNDERSTAND WHY THE BID HAS BEEN EXTENDED – it is important to understand the reason why the bid deadline has been extended. Three most commons reasons are 1) need further time to answer clarification questions; 2) need to issue a new pricing schedule 3) complaints from bidders about the original deadline, usually around holiday periods and bank holidays.
  5. CHECK IF THERE IS A REVISED CLARIFICATION QUESTION DEADLINE – If the bid deadline has been extended, typically the deadline for clarifications will also extended. Use this time to ask pertinent questions of the buyer to gain a better understating of the statement of requirements, work pipeline or pricing schedule for example.
  6. USE THE CORRECT DOCUMENTS –sometimes when the client extends the deadline, they will issue new versions of the tender documentation and/or pricing schedule. These will typically be stored on the tender portal and be shown as v2 or v3. Always ensure you are using the correct version of the document and if you have started completing an earlier iteration, transfer your responses across so that you are completing a compliant bid.
  7. BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU SUBMIT – do not attempt to submit the bid by the previous earlier deadline. Monitor any bid portals on an ongoing basis and then submit the day before the deadline wherever possible. If you submit too early, some portals will not allow you to remove or overwrite your previous bid and so your response could be deemed non-compliant. Also, updates from the buyer can be posted almost up to the submission deadline.

So next time your next tender gets extended, plan and manage the process but most of all, Keep Calm and Carry On!