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Real life situations as games

edited March 2013 in Everything Else
Here's a situation from my work in the form of a simple game:

I work on a construction site where I hire companies to do work on our building until it's completed. We usually employ the lowest bidder but we also consider safety records and performance on previous contracts.

To submit a bid the company must do some tricky work, they measure materials, compile labour rates and think of practical methods to figure out how much their bid should be. They won't be paid for doing any of that unless they actually win so they include an hidden amount for that work and multiply it by their perceived odds of winning. (Or at least this last part is the expected behaviour from our point of view. They may do something else with that cost but they've got to make it back somehow.)

The companies might not be able to find immediately out how many others they are competing with but they will have found out by the time the next opportunity comes along.

Extreme strategies:

Every now and again a colleague says "We should ask as many companies as possible to bid on this work. That way we will certainly get the cheapest price on this job."

Sometimes a colleague suggests "We should form a relationship with one of them and their confidence in winning work will reduce their estimating mark up creating long term savings."

Another suggestion is to do as much of the measurement as possible ourselves to make it cheaper for them bid. Unfortunately this is harder for us as we are never as clever as they are with respect to the trade they specialise in.

In practice:

Both of the extreme plans are rather flawed but the middle ground gets endlessly debated. 4 or 5, and occasionally 3 or 6 is the rule of thumb conventionally accepted.

Just last month a manager on a tight contract sent out invitations to bid to 16 companies. I reckon this causes ripples that upsets my project.

Unfortunately the actual numbers are formed in such a nebulous way involving relationships, new technology, company cultures, markets and our own inconsitent behaviour. I don't think we can find an optimum answer by plugging in numbers and solving it. Plus the works are unique every time in scope and skill.

What real situations do you come to appreciate as a game?


  • edited March 2013
    There is also often collusion (implicit or explicit) between bidders. Playing this game involves realizing what games are going on on that platform as well. There are quality of work concern as well. If you look at Wizards of the Coast's software development process they have always gone to the lowest bidder which is often a pretty shitty brand new company that can't handle the size of the project.
    Post edited by Anthony Heman on
  • Mandatory interactions with people I don't like.
  • You are right, few years ago there was a massive scandal when collusion was exposed. There were fines everywhere.
  • My dad was the field superintendent and bidder for a reinforcing construction company for many years. You are spot on that the bidding process is far more complicated then it would seem from the outside.

    As far as paying for the bidding process man hours, his company rolled that into the general overhead that was calculated with every bid. I think typical company overhead is 6-10% in construction.
  • When I did front-end tech support, I used to imagine every incident as a turn-based RPG battle. You had a spell-list of solutions of varying effectiveness which you would determine based on incident traits. If you chose the wrong solution, Hit Points in the form of user patience would be drained. You also had administrators and more senior colleagues that you could summon. And for every problem you defeated, you would gain experience and hone your skills.
  • You should have written up character sheets and rules and handed them out to the other techs and compete for the highest level character.
  • Mandatory interactions with people I don't like.
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