Jump to content
PropLibrary Content

34 reasons why people don’t complete their proposal assignments on time and 18 things you can try to do something about it

The more you help them, the more you help yourself

Sometimes it seems like the proposal schedule is a work of fiction or a plan that has failed before it has even begun. Sometimes you know the moment you give a proposal assignment that it will not be met.  Sometimes you and the person getting the assignment both know it is going to be ignored and no one is going to enforce the deadline. When this happens routinely, it can make being a proposal manager discouraging and feel pointless.

The trap you should avoid falling into is to assume that if only the deadlines were better enforced, it would all be better. There is more going on than mere deadline compliance. Many of the reasons that people miss their deadlines can be mitigated. It may not be hopeless. 

Here are some of the reasons why people miss their proposal writing assignment deadlines:

See also:
Proposal Management
  1. They don't have the information they need
  2. There is a disconnect between their expectations and yours
  3. Their current work wasn’t completed or delegated before they got the assignment
  4. They have competing priorities
  5. They need an uninterrupted block of time
  6. They need someone else's input
  7. They can't make the decisions required
  8. They're not sure what you want from them
  9. They're not interested in the proposal
  10. They have no incentive to focus on it
  11. They think it's a waste of effort
  12. They don't know how 
  13. They are too important
  14. The RFP confuses them
  15. The assignment is too complicated and they are overwhelmed by it
  16. They don't understand the reader they should be writing for
  17. There are trade-offs, options, and considerations, and they don't know what to do about them
  18. They keep finding ways to make it better
  19. They can’t separate how they think things should be done from what the RFP asks for
  20. They don't know where to start
  21. No one has accounted for all of the ingredients that will go into their section
  22. They're trying to architect the solution while writing about it
  23. Many people need to have input and they don't know how to approach incorporating it
  24. They have a day job and the proposal isn’t it
  25. They don’t know the subject they’ve been asked to write about
  26. They’ve been given too much time to write it, got distracted, and ended up procrastinating
  27. Their assignment simply specified a proposal section and that’s not very inspiring
  28. They’re too busy looking for something previously written to write what’s needed now
  29. They don’t understand how much work needs to be done after they complete their assignment
  30. They see the deadline as a progress check and not a completion milestone
  31. They know there are holes they will be unable to fill, so what does a completion milestone even mean?
  32. They see their assignment as a best effort goal
  33. Nobody set any expectations for them regarding their involvement in the proposal prior to getting the assignment
  34. There is simply more that needs to be done to complete the assignments, than people assigned to do it

Most of these are solvable problems for the proposal manager. But they aren’t solved by demanding that people meet their deadlines. They are solved by delivering the right information or guidance at the right time. And the failure to deliver that information is a proposal management process failure. Some of them are cultural and depend on how the organization has set expectations. But they point to possibilities that can help get assignments completed on time. Try asking yourself what can you do to:

  1. Prepare yourself and the writers before giving assignments
  2. Help people make sense of the RFP
  3. Help people balance their priorities
  4. Ensure the information and inputs people will need are there when they need them
  5. Surface and track impediments and issues slowing down the writing
  6. Eliminate distractions for contributors
  7. Accelerate the act of writing
  8. Accelerate figuring out what to offer
  9. Separate designing the offering from writing about it
  10. Give writers the information and guidance they need in addition to their assignments
  11. Ensure that all stakeholders have the same expectations
  12. Enable proposal authors to get it right on the first draft
  13. Prevent surprises during draft reviews
  14. Change the culture
  15. Explain the importance of growth and the impact on ROI
  16. Make their job easier
  17. Demonstrate the ROI of adequate resourcing
  18. Create an objective measure of success for what they are writing

Why haven’t proposal managers already done these things? They probably have done some of them. But many of them are continuous efforts and not the kind of thing you only have to do once. 

It turns out that their reasons for not having done them are the same as the list of reasons above for why proposal writers miss their deadlines. So maybe a little empathy is called for. Instead of focusing your proposal management process on deadline pressure, try focusing it on the flow of information and guidance. Try focusing it on anticipating issues and helping each other.

Deadline enforcement will be a constant struggle that you can’t win. Deadlines can always be met by sacrificing quality. Meeting deadlines requires a process and not an assignment. That process should be built around helping each other to win the proposal.

Let's discuss your challenges with preparing proposals and winning new business...

Access to premium content items is limited to PropLIBRARY Subscribers

A subscription to PropLIBRARY unlocks hundreds of premium content items including recipes, forms, checklists, and more to make it easy to turn our recommendations into winning proposals. Subscribers can also use MustWin Now, our online proposal content planning tool.

More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

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

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

Proposal Help Desk
Contact us for assistance
In addition to PropLIBRARY's online resources, we also provide full-service consulting for when you're ready to engage one of our experts.

It all starts with a conversation. You can contact us by clicking the button to send us a message, or by calling 1-800-848-1563.

Sign up for our free newsletter and get a free 46-page eBook titled "Turning Your Proposals Into a Competitive Advantage" with selected articles from PropLIBRARY.

You'll be joining nearly a hundred thousand professionals.

Sign up
Not now
  • Create New...