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Effective Teams: The Holy Grail?

Doing the impossible with the unwilling for the ungrateful.

At APMP Bid & Proposal Con 2018, one speaker used the above phrase to describe working with proposal teams. And we’ve all been there, haven’t we?

As proposal managers we try to organize opportunities to bid on the right ones, help subject matter experts contribute, support writers to create compliant and compelling content, schedule executive gate reviews, coordinate with finance people for cost proposals, and deliver documents to production departments for a timely response. Sleep is optional. Meals are whatever we find on the conference table.

We try to work with a diverse group of people inside the organization, consultants from outside, and a management team with a mandate to grow the business. Without the right approach, it’s a recipe for immediate disaster and long-term failure to thrive as coworkers and for the business itself. The scars of failed proposal teams litter the landscape of business and leave residual damage in team members.

Teams: the Bad, the Worse, and the Ugly

Successful proposals hinge on effective teams and teamwork. After action review of bad experiences reveals five key factors that, if not addressed, undermine proposal teams, wreak havoc on proposal managers, and result in poor scores during evaluation.

In our experience at Strategy Horizon Consulting, these factors are:

1. Management Support

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.

2. Structure

What are we doing? The structure of the team should relate to the structure of the proposal, with clear assignments of activities to relevant members of the team.

3. Role Definition

Who’s doing it? Clear role definitions for all participants have to distinguish their responsibilities distinct from other members of the team and their accountability to meet deadlines.

4. Communication

What’s happening? Frequent communication “keeps everyone on the same page” and ensures that the proposal manager identifies and addresses problems.

5. Intervention

Where are we? Proposal plans can go wrong at a moment’s notice. Proposal managers have to recognize trouble and with management support, intervene with the team to get back on track.

The story below combines multiple experiences into one, worst-case scenario: what not to do.

Proposal? What Proposal?

Company X was working on a complex bid with a 30-day turnaround. It was the right Go/No Go: a fit with capabilities, solid past performance; available boilerplate and subject matter experts (SMEs).

Failed team, Failed Proposal

Guessing what went wrong? Check the 5 Success Factors.

What happened? Let’s take a look.

Finding the Holy Grail

Major proposals are not for the purpose of testing staff. Groups of people without buy-in or direction are not teams. Many companies lack the time and resources for advance team-building and need a way to create “just-in-time teams” that work well together. While that is not easy, it is not impossible. With the right oversight, structure, and support, people can come together quickly and perform effectively.

We can help

Strategy Horizon consultants have experience with all aspects of proposal management, including facilitating high performing teams. We are ready to help your team win.

Want to Do it Yourself?

We recommend the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) membership, certification, and Body of Knowledge. APMP can provide the know-how – and your company can provide the leadership to bring it all together.

Learn more about APMP here: www.apmp.com