I have written several times over the years about how Job Descriptions which give too much detail drive off the stellar performer (who is thinking, “that’s not how I would do it”…) and gives aid to the mediocre candidate (who now knows what sort of a story they need to tell).

It is a bit like mandating exactly how a teacher is to teach a particular subject in a nation’s schools; yes, you may (may) be mitigating some of the impact of the poor teacher; but you have definitely just demoralised the great teacher, who - if they have any sense - is now moving to another country or career.

But I’ve just realised this same dynamic applies to HR /OD tender documents.

When you specify exactly how you want the work done, down to structure, components and maybe even (by implication) the hours involved, you are, perhaps unwittingly, assuming that you know more than any potential supplier. So then the question arises, why not do it yourself? (Or perhaps, why buy a dog, if you intend to do the barking yourself?)

In one case I saw recently, the programme was specified in great detail, along with the budget. Unfortunately a simple manhours calculation showed that the budget was out by 100%.

Why do this to yourself? Why drive off the stellar potential suppliers and give succour to the mediocre ones? And when the wheels fall off - well, that’s procurement, isn’t it.

In the example above, it appeared to be the Chief Executive of the Organisation who had specified the square circle (i.e. impossible to reconcile requirements). Perhaps he fancied himself as a consultant. Other times it is simply insecurity on the part of the development professionals speaking: “if I don’t nail down all the detail, some greedy supplier will take us for a ride, and then I am in trouble.”

This is a miserable way to live. Whether it is someone who should know better putting their oar in, or just personal insecurity on your part that is driving this condition, you can be sure that you - as the development professional - are going to have the unpleasant task of trying to redeem a mess and save face (your own or the CEO’s).

What is the alternative? Simple: just say what you want. What is the outcome you are aiming at. At the end of this process, what change needs to have been achieved; what lasting legacy?

As a service provider, I meet very few development professionals who have this kind of clarity; and I really don’t understand why not. Instead most seem to be overly concerned with the ‘how’ and too little with the ‘what’ and the ‘why’.

The truth is that if you have that level of clarity, you can hold a supplier or service provider’s toes to the fire. “Stop telling me all the things you are going to do and start telling me how you are going to achieve my outcomes.”

Doesn’t that sound like more fun?

If you can share budget in this context of knowing exactly what outcomes and results you require, that is even better. Now the really great potential suppliers are competing to show you the best way to achieve your goal, for a given budget. Worried about getting lots of proposals that simply come in at $5 less than the budget? You shouldn’t be; you may well see that pattern, but after all, it is a budget and you set it. Every supplier is going to be working their socks off to pack more outcomes into your budget (not padding their proposal to make sure they eat up all your budget).

Tell us what you need. It works!