Tis the season when many government consulting organisations go through some sort of ‘strategy review’ to explore the barriers to success in the years ahead and to decide which resources and structures need altering to better advance its mission.
Typically done at the C-suite or within top layers of leadership, the cascade of change in sales strategy – such as re-prioritising markets or adding new services – often trickles down into the divisions or practices and the respective business development (BD) engine rooms where opportunity qualification and bid decisions are made and where in essence the rubber meets the road.
Despite best intentions, these changes will not happen smoothly if they are not reflected in the decision-making dynamics debating which opportunities to pursue day-to-day. This is where bid professionals can form a critical alliance with the C-suite. This is also where the function will become more influential and invested in as a result.
There are three concrete steps bid teams can take to help the C-suite make its growth vision a reality:
- Tackling Path Dependency to overcome resistance to change: Path Dependency explains so much of the world we live in. Precedents set from past decisions affect how we organise our societies, exercise the rule of law, and manage our economies today. This concept applies to organisational decision making too. To shake off the shackles of the past when qualifying opportunities, emboldened bid teams can challenge decisions excessively influenced by precedent.
- The three-box solution: In his seminal book Vijay Govindarajan’s (VG) asks, ‘how do you meet the performance requirements of the current business—one that is still thriving—while dramatically reinventing it?’ He presents a three-box framework as a way forward:
Box 1: The present—Strengthen the core
Box 2: The past— Let go of the practices that fuel the core business but fail the new one
Box 3: The future—Invent a new business model
Box two (2) acknowledges the psychology at play when organisations begin to radically transform its sales strategy. It requires moving away from precedents that have brought success in the past but will not continue to do so in the future. The framework is powerful because it gives go/no go decision makers a forward-looking framework to fight any malign path dependency influences while shifting mindsets to break the heaviest of chains.
3. Mind the gap: To take calculated risks around a new sales strategy, decision makers need to check their blind spots, including cognitive bias and automatic judgments. A bid team can play devil’s advocate for the C-suite in spotting gaps between decision maker perception of the risk of failure associated with change and the corresponding evidence. Equally, the bid team can provide the toolbox and machinery to succeed –helping divisions and practices successfully embrace new strategic alignments.
Drawing a direct line between changes in an organisation’s over-arching sales strategy and day-to-day opportunity qualification decisions, especially bid decisions, creates an opening for bid teams to exert more influence and authority. Playing a critical friend as the voice of the over-arching strategy, the bid team can give decision makers confidence that moving into new markets or selling new capabilities at the behest of the C-suite is achievable through excellent BD and bidding execution.
Joe holds a Capture leadership role focused on the growth of ICF’s Europe and Asia (E&A) operations. Prior to that, he led ICF’s E&A bid team located in the UK, Belgium, India, and China. Previously, he has held senior pursuit and bid roles at Dods Group and Capita. Joe has over 10 years’ experience building and shaping work winning teams to compete, win, and deliver significant public sector projects across several market segments including public policy, international development, communications, and capacity building. Joe became APMP Professional certified and was recognised in APMP’s class of 40 under 40 in 2020.