Double Whammy – Losing a Bid and Learning No Lessons!

Win or lose, a debrief can arm sales and pursuit teams with best practices that could be leveraged for future opportunities and with knowledge of landmines to be overcome moving forward. Without a process or drive for continuous improvement, businesses will remain trapped in a trough with no lessons learnt, continually reinventing the wheel and getting caught in a never-ending cyclical swirl.

A lack of willingness to learn lessons from losses can be perilous for any company in a milieu where new players are emerging rapidly with disruptive offers that can shake leaders off their pedestals.

Celebrate Wins, Learn Lessons from Losses

Lessons Learned sessions are designed to capture the full gamut of the pursuit process spanning preplanning activities, bid strategy, execution, risk mitigation and, importantly, stakeholder management. They are just as imperative as celebrating morale-boosting wins.

Without these, areas that need improvement will be brushed under the carpet. Errors made will escape scrutiny without a chance to keep them at bay in subsequent opportunities. It will be a lost opportunity for discovering and resolving missteps that make wins slip away.

That will be a double whammy – a lost bid and no lessons learnt. Even best practices will remain with the pursuit team without the opportunity to document and share them with other internal sales teams.

Lessons Learned graphic

Key Questions for Customer Debrief

When a bidder ends up at the losing end, it is crucial to request a customer debrief for a grip on such questions as:

  1. What were the decisive factors that clinched the deal for the winning vendor?
  2. Where did we fall short? What are technical gaps that weighed us down?
  3. Did our compliance responses meet your expectations?
  4. What are the strengths that gave us a good score?
  5. Did we miss addressing any of your core business drivers in our proposal?
  6. What could we have done better both during early engagement and post-submission?
  7. Did our proposal adhere to your instructions? Was it clear and did it facilitate easy navigation?
  8. How would you rate our post-submission deliverables — solution demonstration, clarifications to questions on our proposal, etc.

The book, Powerful Proposals that I find a compelling benchmark (along with the Shipley Guide), authors David Pugh and Terry Bacon suggest asking the evaluators / decision-makers the extent to which the following influenced their decision:

  • Pre-proposal activities
  • The Proposal
  • The offering
  • Post-proposal activities
  • Individual or organisational behaviour

I will assume the winning bidder will already have a good grasp of factors that helped them close the deal. If not, the above can be applied to them as well.

Internal Review

Once the customer debrief has been completed and answers for the above questions gathered, an internal review must be organised to validate the feedback for meaningful learning. That will give teams a third-party and authoritative perspective on why we lost, so any technical gaps can be relayed to the product team, so they can keep any key missing functionality in the roadmap.

While the bid manager will drive the internal lessons learnt session, participation from the sales leadership is key. Each of the contributing members of the pursuit team must share their perceptions on what worked well and what did not, offering suggestions to fix any gaps.

All documented lessons and best practices must then be reviewed, approved and uploaded to a central database for sales teams to tap for their upcoming opportunities.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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A Complex Web of Authority, Ambition and Abuse!

Will MeToo Make Workplaces Cleaner and Safer for Women?

As #MeToo revelations have become the new normal the outcomes the campaigners seek appear to remain elusive.

Notwithstanding all-round protests, Kavenaugh and President Trump have clinched what they were after. Cristiano Ronaldo remains in the reckoning for the Ballon d’Or 2018 award despite serious rape charges against him. An alleged victim of his misdemeanour has revived a gag settlement reached between the two several years ago. If he had paid a few hundred thousand pounds back then to silence her, his claims of innocence seem hollow.

MeToo Graphic

Likes of Weinstein and Cosby Everywhere

India is hogging all current hot news in the #MeToo stakes – as if its rape infamy is not enough! The floodgates are open and no man in any position of influence appears to be above blame. The likes of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby are everywhere, not just in the lecherous higher echelons of society – West or East!

Even a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government, MJ Akbar, is on the mat with allegations of sexual harassment from several women during his journalistic days. His party has no dearth of scandalous leaders – some of them even took out rallies in support of party sympathisers charged with the rape and murder of an eight-year-old child in Kashmir earlier this year.

The BJP Government has been keeping silent for the last few days and at the time of writing this Mr Akbar remains a minister. Some of the party leaders have even resorted to victim shaming, a demeaning recourse to escape flak for any male transgressions.

Harassment of women is endemic across all fields – Politics, Cinema, Media, Sports and, worse, Religion. The corporate world is not immune to it either.

Yet, it will be removed from reality if the blame is put entirely on just the offending male breed.

Authority (abuse of position), ambition (the drive to succeed as seen through flirtations), masculine power and feminine charms (deployed for striking business deals or for personal glory) all play up in the libido game.

Trading Charms for Growth

The political incorrectness notwithstanding, it is not hard to find compliant, consensual women ready to trade their charms for career growth. It is they who give smutty male leaders a sense of false entitlement, making them target even the unwilling.

The world knows all corporate talk of business ethics is often an exercise in convenient deception. The real victims are those who keep clear of devious means, sacrificing professional gains for moral fulfilment.

It is refreshing to see victims of male debauchery come out in the open to take on the high and mighty unmindful of the stigma they will be slapped with. This has the potential to lead to a cleaner work environment free of vulgar corporate machinations and predatory elements.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Double Gold for China at Chess Olympiad

Indian men and women failed to live up to expectations at the 43rd Chess Olympiad that ended today with a double for China.

The Indian men’s team led by former World Champion V Anand finished sixth and the women eighth.

Anand and Vidit Gujarati were the weakest links while among the women Koneru Humpy and Dronavalli Harika were a disappointment.

After a tame surrender to Caruana, Anand had a string of draws against lower-ranked players for a poor showing at the Olympiad. He is just not fit for team events. He mostly plays for quick draws and ends up putting pressure on his teammates.

Funny he wants chess in the 2020 Olympics! What for?

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Singapore Media Meddling in Indian Elections?

Free Speech is Fine, But Suspicions Arise When It Appears Like a Prejudiced Pattern

China’s aim with any manoeuvring in the U.S. is to topple President Donald Trump, an allegation that is gaining ground amid an escalating trade war, there may be external forces seeking to help Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi retain power in 2019 when it is due for elections.

China is not alone as Russia has also been accused of meddling in U.S. elections.

I get the impression that The Straits Times of Singapore and some institutions in the country are trying to do just that by unleashing everything within their means to undermine the opposition and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in India.

Mocking Rahul Gandhi

In today’s edition of The Straits Times, an opinion piece describes Rahul Gandhi as the “son of a Roman Catholic mother and a father who was half Zoroastrian and half Hindu.” It was obviously designed to mock at Rahul visiting temples and portraying himself as a staunch Hindu and devotee of Lord Shiva.

The image makeover has clearly been driven by political compulsions as the Indian electorate is fixated on making India a Hindu theocracy akin to Islamic Pakistan.

Singapore also served as a platform for Modi fanatics to ridicule Rahul Gandhi at an event in Singapore in March this year, suggesting that the Congress leader’s family was behind some of the country’s problems.

ST interference in Indian politics

Rahul’s response to it was: “If anyone in this room thinks the Congress had no role in the country’s success – that getting freedom, green revolution, telecom revolution, rights-based laws and liberalisation are not part of that success, he must write a new book.”

Rewriting History with Fake News

Rewriting history with fake news is the agenda of the current Indian government. BJP’s president Amit Shah recently boasted that the party had the power to make any message, including fake news, go viral.

A few months ago another report in The Straits Times, Mr Modi Comes to the Shangri-La, advised him to “break from the U.S. to proclaim his faith in free and open trade, and for a closer economic partnership with the region.”

Religion is the only card that works in Indian politics – Modi rode to power in 2014 on the power of Hindutva aided by corruption that had seeped into the system during the Congress regime. The country did have reason to feel let down by the Government, particularly after the 2010 Commonwealth Games fiasco.

Corruption Intact, Majoritarianism the Trump Card

Four years after Modi assumed prime ministership, governmental corruption remains intact even as economic mismanagement has left India in a financial mess – rupee at an all-time, joblessness growing by the day, the adverse impact of demonetisation still being felt across all sectors, religion-based crimes at its ebb, no thanks to the ruling BJP’s politics of hate, and the country’s secular fabric has been damaged beyond repair.

Majoritarianism remains the trump card for Modi and the BJP.

With newspapers such as The Straits Times, Modi is getting help from beyond India’s shores which cannot be discounted as Singapore has a significant NRI population.

Singapore is generally very stern with the international media poking their nose into the country’s internal affairs. The local media should get the same treatment when they try to wade into the political scene of other countries. Free speech cannot be allowed to betray the writer’s political prejudices. If Modi’s divisive, communal agenda resonates well with some in the country, it can prove harmful for multi-cultural Singapore.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Mahathir’s Call Against Veto Power, Only Sane Voice at UNGA

Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) had its share of laments on issues ranging from the Rohingya crisis and Israel to the palm oil industry and the environment – all targeted at the West.

Where the 93-year-old leader had a pertinent gripe was on the veto power that the UN Security Council’s five permanent members enjoy. (China, France, Russia, Britain and the U.S.)

At the UNGA session on Friday, speaking in fluent English, Dr Mahathir reiterated a suggestion he had made at the same forum 15 years ago – that the veto power must be held by at least “two powers backed by three non-permanent members.”

Under Control

That, to me, is a very valid point as it is a travesty of fair play if one country wields undue control over an international body! I often wonder how China became a permanent member of the U.N. Council when even Germany is not in it!

Japan is known for its war excesses particularly against China. So, Japan was out and China was in, with support from the U.S. I may or may not be wrong, but let me park my knowledge or ignorance aside and offer my thoughts from the outside, as an armchair critic, on the UNGA sessions!

India could have made a similar demand given that China has been vetoing India’s quest for NSG (Nuclear Suppliers’ Group) membership for the last several years. But then, the NSG and UNSC are different – the NSG has about 50 countries enrolled in it, including Japan. There are a few other countries opposing India’s entry into it.

Tit-for-Tat Beheading

Back to the UNGA session, India and Pakistan squabbled over terrorism even as the two countries were revelling in tit-for-tat beheading (as India’s Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been quoted as saying) of their respective armed forces.

Even on terrorism, China has been vetoing India’s bid to get Pakistan’s Jaish-e-Mohamed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar to be declared a terrorist. So, India has a stronger case for arguing against the veto power that China enjoys.

Political Mileage, Only Aim

But then the Indian Government will get political mileage only by attacking Pakistan, which is a big friend of China!

The similarity between India and Pakistan was that their two leaders spoke in their own native languages – External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Hindi and her counterpart Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Urdu.

The veto power or the stipulation for consensus is just bogus, particularly when one of the member-nations is irresponsible and exercises under control – as I had argued in a few posts over the last two years. Let India show some vision, some cerebral power.

India must stop seeking NSG membership or for Masood being declared a terrorist. It must support Dr Mahathir’s call and start a campaign for the veto power to be taken away from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Anand Blunders and then Resigns too Soon

Anand did not appear focused today in India’s Round 4 match against Fabiano Caruana of the U.S., losing in just 26 moves.

He was looking here and there, eyes often straying away from the board, even when it was his turn to move in what looked like a false sense of confidence.

I thought he surrendered too soon, a rash and premature resignation not acceptable from a team leader. He was positionally weak, not materially, and could have soldiered on to save the game. Without a fighting spirit, he let India down.

Anand perhaps was embarrassed to continue after his position had weakened following a blunder.

The other three boards ended in draws, making the U .S. the winner.

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Skills, Varsity Rankings, Degrees and Wastepaper!

The 2019 list of global university rankings from Times Higher Education is out and the National University of Singapore has slid only a notch – from 22 last year to 23 now. Tsinghua University has moved to the 22nd place (eight slots higher from last year’s list) which makes it Asia’s number 1 university.

This is where the NUS has lost lustre as it can no longer pride itself as the region’s leader in education. Singapore will still be pleased as it has only lost the mantle to a university in China, given its affinity for the red giant.

The slide may become an annual fixture as the Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Mr Ong Ye Kung (who has a degree from the London School of Economics and an MBA from another institution in Europe) had recently advised Singaporeans not to be fixated about degrees. He even thought a future Prime Minister without a degree was a distinct possibility.

That is Singapore’s style of dealing with any demand for more places in Singapore universities for locals.

Interestingly, Tsinghua has a student population of more than 47,000, with only less than 8% of them being from overseas (3,472). In other words, it caters to a largely local population as 92% of its students are from China.

Foreigners Outnumber Locals: In contrast, NUS has a strength of around 38, 000 students with more than 28% of the slots being consumed by foreigners. My understanding is that if we break it down into STEM and non-STEM UG courses, foreign students will account for an overwhelming majority of them.

I don’t understand what the minister has been implying by saying skills are more important than degrees. Shouldn’t he and the Government be initiating steps to ensure more Singaporeans get into varsity courses with focus on skills that are in demand in a smart Nation?

When a degree in a non-STEM discipline is weighed against one in STEM, it requires no rocket science expertise to see the former will have less market value, affecting their job prospects.

So, why are more Singaporeans pursuing degrees with a diminishing value? What is the Government doing about it? Bringing in more foreign workers to meet their goal of a seven-million population?

G Joslin Vethakumar

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