Containing The Chaos

(Third in a series)

You want proposals that are articulate, accurate, and on time? Pick Two!

My last post talked about the chaos outside, but there are a lot of resources within your firm that you need to help you produce the best proposal you can. Not only will doing this better target the project you’re going after now, but it will improve your aim for all future ones.

Why does the ole “herding cats” cliche get thrown around whenever mobilizing other people comes up? This article is about the not-so-tricky subject of getting input from project staff.

Assuming you can find both raw writing talent and project expertise inside your office, your challenge (and indeed a cornerstone of your function) is to marry the two together – with a shotgun, if necessary! Usually, a Friday-at-3-o’clock deadline for a $1.5M proposal is all the shotgun you need.

A firm’s proposal assembly team includes resources beyond the marketing department, but the proposal manager (regardless of rank) has to provide leadership.

In finessing (or ferreting) good writing from project staff, you gotta be a provocateur. Cheryl Wanner of Lam Partners remarked that she has success with writing something knowing it would be wildly overblown, incomplete, and inaccurate, then putting it under the project manager’s nose and asking, “Is this right?” Susan Elmore echoed that it is better to give a principal or project manager something you have begun rather than make them start with a blank page. This ensures that the task gets done. The experts will likely warm to the task of correcting your errors of fact or nuance.

While feigning helplessness can work some of the time, reserve it for when you absolutely need it to help you out of a tight deadline-related jam. Use the deadline as a lever, but don’t perpetuate the culture of interruptions that you yourself must defend against.

When you lead by “going first”, you take more risks than you make them take. And whether they provide accessible writing or superior subject matter expertise, you put them in the position of “backing you up” in your efforts.

As I mentioned in my last post, primes and subcontractors must work well together to help each other meet the requirements of an RFP. This means they must band together quickly, and subcontractors usually have to jump quickly into fulfillment mode. Send your information requests and parameters to them by email (after you’ve initiated things with a phone call). This technique aids subcontractors in meeting your needs exactly.

In my next post, I’ll address another topic of great personal interest – getting and staying organized so you can Turn Back The Chaos.

Add Your Comments: What do you think? Do you feel empowered within your firm to lead non-marketing resources in proposal assembly projects?


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