The Five Dysfunctions of a Proposal Team

Jul 30, 2012

No doubt about it, proposals are hard. Tight deadlines, incomprehensible and inconsistent RFP requirements, lack of sleep, high carb diets. And the need to demonstrate to the government that not only is you qualified for the award, you are the best choice, hands down. These are all factors outside of our control. Unfortunately, companies also hamper themselves by staging a proposal team that is dysfunctional, and they do it to themselves.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Proposal Team:

  1. They start too late. We get calls all the time from companies wanting our support on a procurement. They inevitably call on a Saturday morning and the first words out of their mouths are "The RFP came out last night. Can you send me a team of your best people today?"
  2. They do not have the members of the proposal team chosen, alerted, and ready to deploy. Perhaps they have chosen a proposal manager, who inevitably still has 5 days left to put in on their current assignment, but there are no volume leads, writers, or subject matter experts on deck.
  3. The non-existent proposal team has not been briefed on the procurement, is not familiar with the company’s proposal process, has never worked together before, and does not understand their roles on the team. And, of course, they really don’t want to participate. After all, they all have day jobs to attend to and their own clients to satisfy.
  4. The proposal infrastructure is not ready. No space has been chosen for the proposal since the system does not allow for advanced planning. It is all first come, first served. And once the space is located, there are no computers; the collaborative software site has not been set up, log-ins have not been created, and no one seems to know who to go to when problems arise.
  5. Writing starts before proper planning is done. The team, when it trickles in, is already behind schedule and pink team is almost upon them. Naturally panic sets in. The Proposal Manager assigns sections and the writers are told to start writing. Maybe, maybe, there is a compliant outline to work from, but maybe not. But almost certainly any work that was done during capture has not been communicated effectively to the proposal team. They wing it and pink team is a disaster.

Sound familiar? Although there are exceptions, oftentimes this is what we find. It is not pretty. For this reason, we have developed our Proposal Readiness Review process to ensure that capture has been done effectively and the pre-planning for the proposal phase has been carried out. Only then can the best minds in a company collaborate to create a winning proposal.

Dr. Richard Nathan

Written by Dr. Richard Nathan

Dr. Richard Nathan, PhD, is the Chief Operating Officer of Novume, the parent company of AOC Key Solutions. He has over 45 years of corporate management and federal proposal development experience. He has served as strategic lead, capture manager, proposal manager, orals coach, and review team lead. His ability to develop and integrate effective win themes and discriminators unique to a given contract opportunity has resulted in multiple large contract wins with DOE, NASA, DHS, DoD as well as state and local governments.

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