Effective Teams: The Holy Grail?
Interested in learning what makes effective teams? They are not the Holy Grail! This post came out of a session at BPC Orlando in 2019, updated here with new content. It was inspired by a speaker who got the attention of the audience by opening his presentation with this observation on proposals:
Learn the 5 Factors of teamwork that can make your proposal team a success.
And we’ve all been there, haven’t we?
In sum: as proposal managers, we organize opportunities to bid on the right ones. We help subject matter experts contribute. PMs support writer efforts to create compliant and compelling content. Then there’s the job of scheduling gate reviews and coordinating with finance people for cost proposals. At the end of the day, we deliver documents to production departments for a timely response. Sleep is optional. Meals are what’s on the conference table.
The PM role works with a diverse group of people inside the organization. Add consultants from outside for a dash of complexity. Then, toss in a management team with a mandate to grow the business. Lacking the right approach, it’s a recipe for immediate disaster. Worse, long-term failure to thrive as coworkers is just one consequence. The scars of failed proposal teams litter the landscape of proposal management, leaving residual damage everywhere.
Teams: There’s a formula to capture the dimensions of success.
Successful proposals hinge on effective teams and teamwork. Through after-action reviews of bad experiences, I learned there are five key factors. Failing to address these factors undermines proposal teams, wreaks havoc on proposal managers, and results in poor scores during evaluation. Does paying attention to them guarantee success? Of course not, but it makes working together easier, more productive, and creates capacity for future collaboration.
In our experience at Strategy Horizon Consulting, these factors are:
1. Management Support
First, decide “Who’s in charge here?” The Proposal or Project Manager (PM) is an essential leadership role and the supervising manager has to back up the PM’s authority, assignments, and timeframes.
Next, ask “What are we doing?” Team structure should relate to proposal structure. That means clear assignments of activities to relevant members of the team.
3. Role Definition
At the same time, make it obvious “Who’s doing it?” Clear role definitions for all participants must distinguish their responsibilities distinct from other members of the team and their accountability to meet deadlines.
What’s happening? Frequent communication “keeps everyone on the same page” and ensures that the proposal manager identifies and addresses problems.
Finally, pay attention to the question: Where are we? Proposal plans can go wrong at a moment’s notice. Proposal managers must recognize trouble. Then, intervene with the team to get back on track.
The story below combines multiple experiences into one, worst-case scenario: What Not To Do.