Seven Deadly Proposal Sins, Part 7: Wrath

In our series covering the Seven Deadly Proposal Sins we have discussed the first six: Pride, Gluttony, Greed, Envy, Sloth and Lust. These articles cover the common mistakes we come across throughout our work as business development consultants. Committing one or more of these sins is the surest way to waste resources on a losing bid.

The seventh proposal sin, Wrath, is about being too rigid in the proposal processes, failing to encourage teamwork, and managing the proposal by cracking the proverbial whip. Wrath has taken hold when process trumps people. You see it when inflexible proposal managers crack the whip when they don’t really have to, killing motivation and stifling teamwork.

All proposals have issues; it is a matter of when, not if. Non-responsive subs, authors turning in substandard or non-compliant sections, solicitations that garble response requirements and prohibit rational responses, and game-changer Q&A are but a few examples. All proposals are difficult, and even the most ideal proposal efforts have challenges.

Wrathful management has difficulty adjusting to these inevitable curve balls, whether from the government, teammates, or key persons. Wrathful companies are often too rigid in their processes to efficiently adapt to changes. Over reliance on process generally only serves to make management feel better. Wrath clings to process for process’ sake, not recognizing the drain on people, lowered quality of proposals, and reduced Pwin.

A firm we encountered recently had a point of enlightenment when they acknowledged that they had made the process inviolate, and allowed their business development VP to rule with an iron fist. Success was trumpeted from center stage at every gathering as “look at our huge dollar value of qualified opportunities and submitted bids” because they had few actual wins to celebrate. Their unchained beasts of harshness and overbearing process shrank partnership and talent pool islands down around them, limiting choice and creativity. The tightness and over controlling mindset came through in every proposal.

Wrath rots the company from the inside out. Wrathful companies burn bridges and destroy relationships with short-sighted “win-lose” views that don’t go beyond a specific opportunity. They use protests as a win strategy, crying injustice over lost bids. One-strike-you-are-out policies are not unusual here; business developer turnover is high; lessons learned means finger-pointing; slow to hire, easy to fire is taken to the extreme.

Unhealthy staff attitudes result in “safe” decisions, scapegoating, and politicking, leading to average proposals where any creative thought is stifled. Most view working on proposals as a dreaded activity and wrathful proposals managers make it worse.

Mitigating Wrath: The key to mitigating and eliminating wrath is to align on fundamental principle (i.e. “spirit”) over rigid adherence to the “letter of the law.” Follow the spirit of the disciplines of capture and proposal management and not only the letter of the process. In some cases, a culture change is needed to create a healthier environment; often requiring senior management personnel replacement.

Proposal processes should serve us and make our lives easier, not have us serving the process. Striving for true professional excellence gets a company out of a retaliation mode and into a constructive mode. Refocusing on the customer and customer’s priorities can help recapture a company’s lost identity and why it is in its line of business in the first place. Developing and training personnel continuously on these “soft points” of proposal management raises awareness and eliminates issues. Instead of chiding someone who has made a mistake, the time and energy is better spent fixing the error and teaching that person how to do it better next time.

 

Jim Hiles
Bid & Proposal Academy Director
OST Global Solutions, Inc.
E: jhiles@ostglobalsolutions.com

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