An old friend was complaining to me that his government agency released a Request for Proposal (RFP) and received no bids. None! After asking a few questions about the desired work they were requesting the problem was fairly obvious. Talk of organizational transparency is just that – talk – when RFP’s are bogged down with lofty yet useless criteria.

As someone who reviews RFP’s and Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for possible bid, early triage is always important. And if the scope of work and qualifications sections of the request contain butter knife narrow language such that it appears obvious that the selecting agency is writing for a specific audience – or more likely one specific company – why bother writing a response bid?

But that was not this agency’s problem. They did not have a specific company in mind, which actually could be illegal. They overshot their target audience by mandating a set of bidder qualifications that – when added up – even the most highly qualified company could not meet. They were requiring the bidder to be Warren Buffett with documented and overwhelming public sector engagement experience, who was willing to work for a fee that would not even cover the cost of fuel for the number of subcontractors needed.

Not only did they overthink the room, they overthought their needs.

Our tech driven era of business operations is full of highly qualified though still emergent companies. When government agencies use boilerplate RFP/RFQ language from the 1970’s to address the issues of now, they limit the field to sycophants and has-beens. Damn it, cast a wider net in requesting bids! Will it require a bit more reading and scoring on the part of evaluators? Absolutely. But it will also allow government entities to see that it is time to move away from the Business of Usual.