This article is an excerpt from The Art of Tendering: A Global Due Diligence Guide, which is available for purchase.
The more complex your project and the larger your team, the more critical the need to establish a clear game plan at the outset. While the pressure of pending deadlines may tempt you to rush headlong into the drafting process, you need to exercise discipline at the initial stages in order to prevent significant downstream inefficiencies in the process. The first step in your drafting process is to design an initial mapping statement. This will help you communicate what you are buying and serve as a framework to organize your team throughout the drafting process. This discussion explores the importance of applying clear thinking, group organization, and clear language to the creation of that initial mapping statement.
Organizing Your Team in the Clean Room
When it comes to drafting procurement documents, we are often our own worst enemies. Our failure to communicate effectively with our suppliers is often a by-product of an even more fundamental problem: our failure to communicate effectively amongst ourselves. We need to achieve a consensus within our own team by answering the key question: What are we buying?
Never assume the answer will materialize as your draft develops. One of the biggest mistakes a drafting team can make is to use the drafting process as the way to build consensus. In fact, the key is to reach consensus before you start drafting. Once you have consensus as to what you are buying, you need to maintain it by not revisiting or revising your base assumptions as you proceed to develop your detailed requirements. Assembling your team and nailing this answer down at the outset is critical because it will serve as the blueprint for the rest of your drafting process.
This consensus-building can best be achieved through a “clean room” exercise, with everyone focusing on the common objective. The most effective way to quickly and clearly answer the basic question of “What are we buying?” is to assemble your drafting team in a clean room, away from your computers, charts, printouts, and slide decks.
The lead drafter needs to focus group thinking and highlight the importance of reaching a clear and simple consensus among those who will play a role in contributing content to your tender call document. Some of your team members may try to dismiss the exercise as being unnecessary, saying, “Everyone already understands what we’re buying, so there’s no need to go over this.” But this statement couldn’t be further from the truth.
Also, your clean room will likely include subject-matter experts who would be more comfortable discussing the specific obscurities of their areas of expertise rather than the development of the initial mapping statement. However, subject-matter experts play an important role in crafting an initial mapping statement that frames your objectives in clear, plain, nontechnical language. After the initial mapping statement is complete, the subject-matter experts can expand on the details using more technical terms in their discrete sections of the procurement document.
This initial mapping statement should be structured to align with the main price categories in the pricing form. The pricing form should therefore be developed in conjunction with the initial mapping statement to provide alignment across the document. Aligning the initial mapping statement with the pricing structure from the outset of the drafting process allows the specifications to then be organized into separate modules or “containers” that align with different milestones across the contract performance timeline. This milestone mapping is critical to future project success in the post-award stage of the procurement process.