Saturday, 30 July 2016

Nuclear fallout in procurement award process

Forget the Hinkley Point procurement process for a minute and let's reflect on the procurement process for the £7bn decommissioning of the UK's first generation of nuclear power plants - yes, they got it wrong!  Well at least that was the judgement of Mr Juctice Fraser at the High Court; now the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority "are considering [their] legal options".

So what went wrong?
  1. A bidder, which should have been excluded from the process due to omissions in its submission, was allowed to progress to the next stage;
  2. Bidders were not treated on equal terms - allegedly one tenderer was disadvantaged in the scoring;
  3. "Experts" evaluating the submissions manipulated their calculations to arrive at their preferred outcome; 
  4. The wrong consortium were awarded the contract.
All fairly basic breaches of procurement good practice and yet potentially this would have gone unnoticed had one consortium not challenged the award.  

Were no concerns expressed by the evaluation team? Were there no whistle-blowers? Was this just incompetence or perhaps something more sinister? 

Let's remember that the wrongful award appears to have had a significant detrimental impact on the wronged bidder. There will now be compensation costs and possibly significant delays to completion of the work which needed to be completed. And of course, significant reputational damage to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and its procurement advisors. Not a good CV entry and not a good look for the profession.

Massive amounts of money being spent are no excuse for not getting the basics right.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Black Box Thinking - book review

How many times have you heard it said "lessons will be learnt" - the mantra often used instead of just saying "sorry, we got it wrong", yet rarely seems to result in any action.  Syed's remarkable book truly addresses, through many examples, the need to learn from when things go wrong.  Syed provides fascinating insights into how different professions tend to address failures, on the positive side, learning and improving, while on the negative side, denial and cover-up. I find myself contrasting this with excuses.

The key message is that if we want to drive improvement and innovations we need be more honest and critical of failures.  We need to understand what happened and what needs to be done differently based on that learning.

Some of the case studies are nothing short of scandalous and yet, I suspect few professionals are entirely innocent. Particularly eye-opening is the example relating to latex gloves and the bravery of the anestistist in challenging the surgeon. The book is also a call for bravery and the need to intervene when it is clear to you a mistake is being made. I will not spoil the book by saying more.

For procurement professionals this critical reflection could address why a key stakeholder didn't seem to welcome your advice, whether a negotiation could have delivered a better outcome, whether the sourcing strategy was optimal, and even if the last interview.  Within the profession we talk a lot about innovation - to me this is a practical book on making innovation happen.

I found the book really easy to read, excellent for the holidays and really thought provoking - it will not be going to the charity shop but added to my 'must keep and re-read'.  I recommend.