In the aftermath following the UK General Election, these timeless words from Forrest Gump apply just as aptly to elections as they do to life. And not just to elections: they are also bang on for describing the process of tendering for work.
For, when you think about it, what is an election if it's not a tender run on a massive sugar-rush?
So - here are some suggestions from which to pick 'n' mix to try to avoid a hung parliament - or a procurement challenge.
No artificial colourings or flavourings: just as people in the market for a decent box of chocolates want to know what they're getting, so do the electorate, and so do the parties to a tender. The collective memory can take a long time to forget, never mind forgive, manifesto mis-statements: just take the now notorious Brexit bus slogan promising £350m per week to the NHS. It's exactly the same with tenders. Law firm partners have lost their practising certificates for unethical behaviour when working on tender responses, such as plagiarising another firm's text. On the other side of the tendering fence - clients inviting firms to pitch for work - also have a duty to maintain the integrity of the process. At worst, clients could find themselves facing a procurement challenge, and at the very least, they may find that the number of bids they receive falls short of expectations, leading to a diminution of choice and possibly quality.
May contain nuts: just as people are fed up with politicians dodging answers and caveating statements to the point of meaninglessness, so are clients when they open up pricing bids and find them so full of assumptions and exceptions that it's like wading through caramels which have melted in the sun. Procurement also has a responsibility to make sure that they are asking for pricing in a clear and fair way so that they can compare (toffee) apples with apples. If you want a fixed price for a court hearing, fair enough - but provide the scope of the work so that firms know exactly what should be included in the price.
Box-fresh: just as no one wants to eat chocolates which are past their sell-by, the public will not vote for ideas which have gone stale, and clients have no interest in hearing about credentials which are more Marathon than Snickers. Similarly, if clients invite firms to invest time and money to pitch for work, and all the client has done is to recycle a previous invitation to tender, then like a box of chocolates which does the rounds of several dinner parties, the client should expect a response as dull as untempered chocolate.
Authentic ingredients: the public have a taste for authenticity. Just as they can tell 72% cocoa solids from chocolate-flavour coating, so they can differentiate between policies which are artificially sweetened and those which are the real deal. So too in tendering: clients will spot when credentials are being embellished or when a shiny gloss is being put on a mediocre product. Inauthentic can also mean unethical: law firms have faced disciplinary action for putting forward key people in their team who, due to long term sick leave, were unlikely ever to return to work, never mind lead a team. Clients also need to act with care. Their credibility can be damaged if the anticipated legal spend falls far short of the amount stated during the tendering process.
Box-ticking: the Forrest Gump box of chocolates aphorism is, incidentally, one of the most commonly misquoted film quotes. Most people think that it's "Life is like a box of chocolates….", whereas in fact it's actually "Life was like a box of chocolates….." There is a lesson in this for us all. Just as politicians have found themselves under scrutiny for inaccuracies, such as getting policies or figures wrong, so too can parties to a tender exercise. Following evaluation of bids, clients must triple-check information before it is sent to the winning and losing firms. It is surprisingly common to find mistakes, such as arithmetical errors or typos in the scores awarded. Not only is there a risk that such errors have may a bearing on the overall result, possibly leading to a procurement challenge, but they also diminish the reputation of the client and overall confidence in the process. Similarly with firms: errors in pricing or scoping, or sloppiness such as typos, can determine whether or not you get to smell - or should that be taste? - the sweetness of success.