Friday, 23 August 2013

Make 'em laugh 'cause shortlisting is no joke

Saturday will see the announcement of who wins the Foster's Comedy Awards. Thursday's Times carried a brief story on the shortlisting for Foster's Comedy Awards which I'm sure brings a smile to the faces of many in the procurement world - the shortlist is normally restricted to five or six, but this year the judges ended up with seven. The judges had two rounds of voting and six hours of arguing before deciding the shortlist should be longer.

Like all good procurement evaluations the method was set out in advance and communicated but it does not appear to be as robust as you would expect in a procurement. How do they protect against claims that someone is dropped in the early stages just to make it easy for a judge's personal interest in another competing joker and giving them a clearer run? Of course comedy is in the ear of the beholder - some of those shortlisted would not bring much of a smile to my face. So it must be very hard to bring some sort of objectivity to the gruelling task of listening to non-stop funnies for three weeks.

I don't get the impression there was any form of weighting and scoring. Nor does there appear to be any numerical restriction on the number who make the shortlist. Convention and tradition restrict the shortlist to five or six, but this year that was increased to seven. Is that a good thing? Well in the Comedy Awards, I suspect just being shortlisted brings dividends and increased business. In procurement, increasing those on the shortlist brings additional costs to both sides.

On the plus side of the Comedy Awards, every eligible contender is guaranteed their day in the footlights with at least one of the judges evaluating their performance - that's a lot better than some procurement shortlisting I have been aware of where submissions have been dismissed without even being read.

When the winner is duly announced there may well be some critique in the culture world, but it is unlikely to end up in a costly court case. However, the judges clearly didn't find shortlisting as easy as they would have hoped. Six hours of arguing - can you honestly recall that level of debate in any procurement shortlisting discussion?

It's hard shortlisting potential service providers, as the Foster's judges will have discovered. It does strike me that procurement professionals need to consider how others, beyond the profession, manage shortlisting and evaluation - I'm not joking, we may pick up something useful.

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