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Proposal development without processes puts many professionals into a panic. We know the importance of process in positioning a proposal to win. We also know there are many team members who may or may not be direct reports or 100 percent dedicated to proposal development. How can we guide diverse teams to meet deadlines and position the company and solution to win? Simple—manage the process and lead the team.
Leading vs. Managing
There are some people who believe “leading” and “managing” are synonymous. However, leading is guiding a team to success and managing is ensuring processes and standards are followed.
A leader understands that each person has his or her own quirks and works to guide each person through obstacles to gain success. A leader develops a culture in which people are not afraid to make mistakes or take chances because they know their leader will help guide them when the going gets tough.
A manager sets and drives adherence to procedures based on best practices, organizational policies, and expectations of the team. A manager is more of an administrator.
Whether you are directing an entire proposal department or directing a specific opportunity team, it is vital to remember there is a time and place for both leading and managing.
Whether you are directing an entire proposal department or directing a specific opportunity team, it is vital to remember there is a time and place for both leading and managing. In the proposal development world, can you imagine creating a response without a managed process with specific deadlines and expectations? However, in the same world, can you imagine not giving your team some autonomy to ensure the varying elements of each proposal can be addressed outside of the set processes?
When to Manage
You have been through hundreds, if not thousands, of projects. You know the steps necessary to create both a compliant and responsive proposal. From capture to kick-off to color team reviews to submission and win, there are specific deadlines that need to be met. It is vital to manage each of these elements—making sure they meet the requirements of the specific opportunity.
When to Lead
Apple’s Steve Jobs once said, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” This is especially true for preparing proposals. It’s nearly impossible for one person to be the subject matter expert, writer, editor, capture/account manager, and any other number of roles on the proposal team. Every person on your team is an expert in his or her own right, seeking your guidance to ensure overall project success. It’s time to lead your team:
- Build your team with your organization’s top experts.
- Empower team members with essential tools and information.
- Open the lines of communication between everyone.
- Move any “boulders” that team members face.
- Collaborate with the team to make (sometimes difficult) decisions.
- Provide solutions to unforeseen problems.
It’s nearly impossible for one person to be the subject matter expert, writer, editor, capture/account manager, and any other number of roles on the proposal team.
Positioned for Success
A director skilled in both managing the processes and leading the team can guide his or her team and organization to proposal wins. If you know what processes to set, when to stay within those procedural lanes, and when to let your experts work autonomously with support, you are positioning your proposal, team, and organization for success.
Gina Kutsch, CF APMP, is a Saint Louis, Missouri-based director of proposal development for OnSolve, a software company. She is also Shipley certified. Kutsch can be reached at email@example.com.