Proposal Land

Term: Supplier

A company that provides a given product or service; often used synonymously with bidder, but can also refer more precisely to a lower-tier company in the contracting chain (that is, to a company that has no direct contractual relationship with the client).

Also often used in conjunction with vendor, as in “vendors and suppliers,” in which usage the distinction between the two is too fine for me, and may vary by industry or company anyway.

Don’t Apologize: Fix It

Today, Seth’s Blog talks about the gig of Chief Apology Officer. (To be clear for Canadians, he wasn’t referring to our current Prime Minister.) Their job, he says, is “to mollify critics and disappointed customers” without having their hands on any of the organizational levers, strategic or operational, that would enable change.

Most companies I’ve seen in Proposal Land have an informal Chief Apology Officer. There’s often an executive who sympathizes with undeniably overworked employees but who does nothing to correct the company’s actions and decisions that led to that overwork:

  • Assigning too few people, or too few capable people
  • Participating in too many simultaneous or back-to-back proposals
  • Failing to prepare (data gathering and resource development) either between proposals or using other staff
  • Failing to commit in a timely way, leading to key decisions being made way late to need, driving both re-work and last-minute work
  • Using processes that see executive input arrive too near the submission deadline

Executives often focus on what they see as the outcome: Did we win? And if they didn’t win: What feedback can we get from the client?

Fair enough: That matters. Insulation from market feedback is a recipe for quick disaster. But to Seth’s point, the insulation of proposal processes from any kind of feedback loop from workers is also a recipe for disaster: a slow-moving one, maybe, but just as sure.

By insulating the industrial [Ed: or proposal] system
from the feedback loop that would improve it,
these organizations doom themselves to a slow fade.

This time, Buddy, it’s OK to say you’re sorry. Next time, you’d better fix it.


Better Signs #1


Due to the requirements of the International Ship and Port Security Code (ISPS Code), access to pedestrians and vehicles may be restricted while cruise ships are berthing, moored alongside, and unberthing at Cobh Cruise Terminal.  We apologize for inconvenience caused.  Thank-you for your cooperation and understanding.

A modest Proposal

Stay Out

No Pedestrians Allowed                             No Vehicles Allowed

For safety and security reasons,
we restrict access when cruise ships are here.

Posted by: Authority responsible for Cobh Cruise Terminal
In compliance with: International Ship and Port Security Code

Want to report a violation? Call 999.
Have a question?  Call Joe at 27.374.9207


Don’t thank people for their cooperation and understanding when it’s their compliance that you require.

Don’t apologize for causing inconvenience when you have a legal obligation to prevent unsafe/insecure behaviour.

Don’t beat around the bush: not on signs for people with varying and unknown reading skills, and not in RFPs. Clarity trumps politesse. First, get the behaviour you require, then explain, justify, and/or play nice-nice as seems reasonable/politic in the circumstances. But first, get the behaviour.


Term: Out of Scope

Refers to products or services not in the Work, usually because the client is retaining it, or another contractor is responsible for it.

Useful primarily for identifying products and services that you might reasonably have assumed would be part of this Work, based on industry norms. Knowing you don’t have to do it allows you to reduce your price; conversely, not realizing something is out of scope drives your price up, making you less competitive.

See scope of work and scope creep.