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How I handle a blown bid and its associated takeover?

How I handle a blown bid and its associated takeover?

How I handle a blown bid and its associated takeover?

I've taken over as the lead engineer for a project, where I have been assigned to lead the technical success of a turn key project. It's a smaller project for what my company usually handles, but I've already started to find huge mistakes, mostly on the technical side. For example, a UPS system has been missed, the building equipment was undersized/not compared to actual equipment sizes that will lead to an increase in building size, the proper testing questions were not answered and associated equipment was not accounted for, other smaller items were missed.

My previous boss and colleague were among those responsible for preparing the bid, but I recall that my colleague was thrown under the bus by my previous boss at the last minute to prepare this bid.

So far I have already discovered items that will likely contribute to significant non conformance costs and huge barriers. This is the second time this has happened in my career (the first being when I first started), and I'm unsure how to proceed politically.

I want to throw everything on the table and say:

- This "ABC" was wrong -- why would you do something like this?
- This "BCD" was wrong -- why did you agree in a clarification to this?

however, I know that I would be essentially setting up the failure/firing of the other employees or my previous boss. In my other experience, I took more of a "I'll solve this and won't point fingers", but at this point I feel like I only need to look out after myself. I don't need another political headache to fix.

Any tips on how I should proceed or handle this?

RE: How I handle a blown bid and its associated takeover?

If your outfit isn't set up for general oversight of projects which might include required meetings of staff and management. It sounds like you need better management control of jobs, perhaps with periodic reports back to management on how things are going. Communications appear to be needed that are not standard now. Do some recommending on how that might be set up. Don't be content to struggle without the higher ups knowing what is going on.

RE: How I handle a blown bid and its associated takeover?

Agree with oldestguy.

1. Prepare a project "current status" document with an item by item description of how things are now. Don't get into how or why things are the way they are.

2. Prepare a separate "proposed solutions" document. Address each item listed above with your proposed way forward. Discuss the pros and cons for each of your proposed approaches.

3. Give a formal briefing on each document. At the end of this briefing present copies of the documents to each person who attended. Ask for their comments and input.

4. Schedule a project meeting in the near future to go over the input received.

5. Schedule similar regular meetings for the duration of the project.


People don't like meetings... but you need to bring structure to an out-of-control situation to keep all focused on making progress.

Preparing two separate documents is part of the structure. Separate what is "easy" to define (current status) from what is "difficult" (what to do next).

Demonstrating that you are in control of the "recovery effort" is as important as coming up with and implementing the "recovery methods" themselves.

www.SlideRuleEra.net idea
www.VacuumTubeEra.net r2d2

RE: How I handle a blown bid and its associated takeover?

I wouldnt jump to the assumption that the oversights were simple negligence, many companies intentionally underbid projects and strategically "discover" additional needs later on or have other strategies to recoup costs later.

Edit: Much as I hate rules of thumb in engineering, I firmly subscribe to the belief that playing the blame game never helps and in many cases simply makes the person blaming look foolish.

RE: How I handle a blown bid and its associated takeover?


Welcome to the wonderful world of office politics. What is the relationship between your previous boss and your current one? What do you think of your co-workers? Are they idiots? Are they competent people who made a one-time mistake?

Are they competent people whom you respect, and who were not given adequate time to do the job properly? It logically follows that you don't have time to do the job properly, either. The sooner everybody understands this, the less trouble you are in.


RE: How I handle a blown bid and its associated takeover?

Why? questions are irrelevant, and when asked in an open forum, essentially throws anyone you ask under the bus, unless that's your intention. Doesn't solve the problem, gets people defensive, etc., etc.

The better question, to me, is, "there seems to be some items not in the original bid, how do we want to deal with the potential overrun?" And, "how are we going to prevent this from happening in the future?"

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: How I handle a blown bid and its associated takeover?

Have you talked to the people that put the bid together yet? What you assume are omissions and mistakes might have a reason, even if the reason is that they only had 4 hrs to get a quote out.

RE: How I handle a blown bid and its associated takeover?

I think it will all depend upon the "senior deputy project director" or the project manager (whoever is more influential) assigned to your project and the type of contract you are executing, more specifically lump sum vs. reimbursable.
Lets examine some variants...:

- Lump sump turn key + bad project manager: update your resume.
- Any other combinations: keep calm and carry on.

RE: How I handle a blown bid and its associated takeover?

Watched a project manager go through a similar, but perhaps to a lesser degree, situation. The PM did as IRStuff mentioned and avoided directly asking "Why" questions, but let the decision makers fill in gaps as to why somethings were done a certain way (in this case, waivers for some business systems were granted to save time) or re-think their positions. He also schedule a meeting with the site leadership team to update them on the project timeline, gap analysis, and proposed solutions; maybe not as formal as SlideRuleEra was envisioning, but to similar effect. There was consternation, but I believe that because the PM was staying focused on completing the job and not explicitly focusing on the misses, he was able to keep the ship steady and get the leadership team to make new decisions based on new information. As the technical lead, I think you should get perspective from your direct reports or whomever is doing the daily work and present your finding/proposals to the decision makers at your company.

I don't think you should immediately start acting politically, hopefully the smaller scope of this project will enable your company to propose solutions (my logic being that the smaller project hurdles would be something more people are familiar with). Letting the project decision makers fill in gaps for why some things may have been done the way they were could illuminate your perspective while avoid the impression that you are being political and only worried about CYA.

RE: How I handle a blown bid and its associated takeover?

One thing I keep hearing above is worth stating again - Stay as far away from the "why was it done this way" type question as you can. It will sound accusatory and that does no good. Simply state the facts as you see them, ask for suggestions on how to proceed, and offer a suggestion or two yourself for each situation. Do it all very briefly and quickly. Once anyone attending a meeting looks at their watch, you've lost them. Period.

RE: How I handle a blown bid and its associated takeover?

Here's what I've found, and here are potential solutions. Always provide possible solutions if you're going to bring up a problem.

Avoid the why, avoid the finger pointing.

Look for solutions where you have a potential for asking for extra payments from the client.

RE: How I handle a blown bid and its associated takeover?

I will agree with what others have posted as their suggestions lead you to professional conduct. It isn't about saving face, protecting yourself, etc. it's about getting the project on the right track for all concerned.

Given their advice, if you haven't, read the contract to determine what your company's deliverables are, if they were stated. Use the contract, management, and the Client to determine whether or not you can use Engineering Change Notices to account for what was not covered originally. Engineering companies should not be in the business of doing for the Client what the Client should be doing for itself and the Client should be paying for all activities to improve their business and they should want to do so, if they are a good company.

Use the proper forms to communicate with everyone including your client to keep everyone on the same page and for use later, if needed.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter

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