Friday, 4 October 2013

Some dosh, some dosh, my design for some dosh

In 1485 Richard III died in battle. His remains were recently found underneath a carpark and there's an argument still taking place as to where he should have his final, more fitting, resting place. This is the King linked to the conspiracy theory that he was responsible for the mysterious deaths of ‘The Princes in the Tower’ - the children of 'The White Queen' (remember the recent TV series). He was also a Shakespearian character. So it is perhaps fitting the the drama continues, but can procurement learn from this latest act?

The Richard III saga has now turned into a hostage crisis as a potential contributor to the cost of his burial now threatens to withdraw their offer of funding, if they don't get their way in the design of the tomb. Now Cathedrals can be accepted as knowing a bit about design (most medieval Cathedrals remain iconic today), so you'd have thought Rich's mates would have concluded: "let's just go with the flow". Not so.

The Richard III Society had offered to contribute £40,000 to the cost of the £1.3m tomb in Leicester Cathedral The Cathedral hadn't budgeted for the funding from the Society. So, to a certain extent, the Cathedral gang appear happy to say "keep your dosh".

This has wider implications for procurement strategy
given the emphasis on consultation for strategic commissioning in the public sector when money is tight and even when we want to consult with the market on procurement approaches. We have also seen the EU flexing its muscles and asking for the return of funding when grant conditions haven't been adhered to. Procurement practitioners need to be involved in these commercial discussions and understand the conditions attached. A commercial judgement can be made alongside a stakeholder impact assessment.

The Cathedral gang can of course stand their ground in this case and do without the £40k. Even though they hadn't budgeted for the £40k they will have opportunity costs associated with the loss or gain of the contribution.

But the Cathedral gang really need to ask themselves how they handled this key stakeholder and managed their expectations. To me this is a sourcing strategy issue. Wouldn't it have been so much better if discussions with the Rich's mates had agreed how their views could be reflected in the design contest so that the funding (and blessing) could have been secured? Then again, the time to discuss constrains on potential grants is at the start of the process - it's a contract negotiation by any other name. As we are starting to see with EU threats of claw-back, the conditions of the grant need to be adhered to and managed - these are commercial agreements but who is bringing the commercial nous?

Richard III has had over 500 years shrouded in controversy - I wonder can procurement learn from this latest act and see this as procurement risk management?

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