Usually it’s the people who mess up, process is a crutch, and other harmful notions

Somebody actually said the following in our discussion group on LinkedIn:

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Most processes do work, even if you have to bend them a bit. It's usually the people who mess it up.

Both parts of this statement are so incredibly harmful to people working on proposals and have probably cost companies billions of dollars over the years. And yet, some people actually believe it. So as we worked up a good rant in response, we decided to turn it into an article where we could make it beneficial and useful.

In my experience, most business development and proposal processes are not sufficiently well defined to work consistently. In reality they are ways of doing things, which is not the same as a process. The line between management and process can be fuzzy. It gets extremely fuzzy when the process is not adequately defined. So fuzzy that many proposal managers forget there is a difference. This is something I have written about before.

Most of the commonly practiced or traditional bid "processes" contain elements that have not consistently worked anywhere I've seen them practiced. And the only time they do work is when they are bent so far they've basically redefined everything and can only be implemented by the brilliant mind who conceived how it was bent. Color team reviews are just one example. understanding what you need from the process. For example, people do not need proposal reviews. They need to validate quality. Reviews are a tool for achieving that validation. But what you need to achieve and how you go about achieving it are two different things.

In another discussion on LinkedIn, on the same day no less, someone else gave this reason for ignoring process altogether:

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Process can be a crutch.

Saying process is a crutch is like saying education is a crutch. There are definitely ineffective processes, and most processes can be subverted or weakened through lack of management endorsement or oversight. But that doesn't make all processes bad. The best processes add value. To beginners. To experts. To the executives. And to stakeholders especially.

If a process is being used as a crutch, then it needs to be reengineered because it is not guiding people to do the right things. If you had no process, do you think that the people using it as a crutch would do any better? People alone are not enough for business development.

Recognizing when it's time to reengineer your BD process, and creating one that is effective, are critical skills. Many of the people in charge of the BD process are good at doing BD but really don't know much about creating an effective process.

Individuals won't achieve their full potential without a process to inspire, guide, coordinate, validate, and improve efficiency. And companies inevitably degrade over time without processes. Perhaps that is because even if you don't have a process, you still have a process, it's just unwritten and inconsistent.

But the worst part of a lack of process comes when you hire people at multiple locations. Over time, they evolve different ways of doing things. Then when you try to make improvements, it becomes like herding cats. We've also written about this business development trap.

But process alone is not enough either. Processes won't work without skilled people. But processes are not supposed to make people irrelevant. They are supposed to make people better. Just like education. Instead of asking which is more important, it's better to ask how you can achieve both so that you can beat your competitors.

But if your process isn't consistently working, don't blame it on your people or throw it out. Instead, reengineer the process, because people alone will not be able to compete with a company that has effective people supported by an effective process.



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Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY.

The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.

In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.
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