Proposals usually require effort that crosses organizational boundaries. People who are used to owning things have to share. People who are impacted by decisions want to own them.
If you base your proposal staffing on titles, you are asking for trouble. You are creating territories, and people will begin to identify with them. They won’t want to leave their territories and they may want to grow them.
Using titles to define roles and responsibilities also makes it difficult to change who does what from one proposal to another based on the circumstances. And worse, it makes it easy to default to position descriptions to define who does what. Position descriptions rarely reflect the functional needs of what it takes to win a proposal.
So maybe you have to have titles. HR probably thinks so. But that doesn’t mean that you should use them to allocate effort or define roles on a proposal.
Defining proposal responsibilities functionally instead of by using titles
The list of things that need to be done to win a proposal is finite. You can and should create that list. It defines the functional requirements of proposal development.
But for each thing you put on that list, there are multiple roles. And this is what using position descriptions disrupts.
Does a proposal manager decide what words to use or draft them? Or does a subject matter expert? Or a proposal reviewer? What about the offering? Or the win strategies? There are no right answers that apply to every proposal. Instead, you need a way to define the role played for each functional requirement to win a proposal.
The good news is that these roles usually fall into just six categories. Take your list of functional requirements, and put it in a table or worksheet with six more columns. Label these columns:
In each cell, put one or more names. Your proposal manager might plan the content, with support from subject matter experts, for someone else to draft. Or the subject matter experts might plan the content for writers to draft. Or a writer might plan and draft the content. A reviewer might also decide/approve the final draft. Or the proposal manager might decide/approve what changes to make with the reviewers making suggestions.
The list of things that need to be done to win the proposal is fixed. But who does what depends on what resources are available to you.
By using a worksheet like this, you set expectations in a way that is specific to the proposal being produced. You can change it up on the next proposal. During the proposal, people don’t have to fight for control. They become free to work together and collaborate.
The fights will be over whose names go in which cells.
And that is exactly what you want. You want it out in the open before you start. You don’t want the fights to be in the middle of the proposal. That’s how you get the passive/aggressive lack of cooperation that undermines many bids.
So go ahead and fight over who gets which role. But once the worksheet is complete, everyone knows not only what to do, but who plays which role in every activity. And when availability changes or whether the next proposal is big or little, you can make assignment adjustments while keeping the clarity. It’s that clarity that will enable people to focus on winning the proposals, which will benefit every name on the worksheet.
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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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