People don’t flourish on their own. People are the most successful at winning business when they understand what is expected of them and know how to define success for their tasks. A little motivation helps, but it’s not the only thing required. Every assignment should be wrapped with guidance and tools that enable your people to know whether they are doing things correctly. And this should not simply take the form of other people. The model of people telling people what to do and then subjectively judging whether they did it right is not the best way to maximize your win rates.
Instead of building your company around people, try building it around performance support for those people. Of course, this requires institutional knowledge of what is required for success. And investment in how to do tasks well instead of just throwing people at problems. This is what building a company really is. It's not just hiring some talented folks. It's about everything you need to surround those people with in order for them to flourish. And that's more than an office, a desk, and a chair. It's also the knowledge and awareness of how to accomplish new tasks as individuals and how to best work together to perform successfully. People don't show up knowing these things. Good people will show up willing. They'll show up with ideas of their own. But they'll show up as individuals and you'll be asking them to do some things they've never done before, with people who are new to them, and no institutional knowledge about your company. They need clarity of expectations, channels for collaboration, guidance, resources and a definition of what success is and quality criteria to measure it by.
Like most proposal specialists, I was taught to obsess on implementing a solid proposal process. Process is vital for both efficiency and effectiveness. I’ve learned that it is also not enough to maximize performance. People try to supplement process with training, and mostly fail. People try to tack on some reviews at the back end of a proposal and call it “quality assurance.” And mostly fail. If you want people to mostly succeed, you need to combine process, training, and quality assurance into one thing. Every step, every task, every assignment should include all three. You should build around what is required for successful performance, and not just people or process.
It doesn’t have to be that hard:
- Build the process around goals instead of tasks.
- Make the process self-explanatory. Build in discovery where the process needs to adapt.
- Link the process to the templates, tools, and resources people need to accomplish it.
- Link the process to just-in-time training available for those who need it, at the moment of need.
- Create checklists to be used by both the people performing the process and the people reviewing the work produced.
- Make it easy to track issues, keep track of information, and get input from others.
- Make proposal assignments about fulfilling goals and quality criteria instead of simply about creating deliverables.
When we first built PropLIBRARY, we built it to expand the MustWin Process we developed for pursuing and capturing leads. Originally, we published it as a workbook. I really liked the workbook we published. But on PropLIBRARY we started linking in ways that just can’t be done on paper. We started creating online courses that were interlinked with the process documentation. And now we’re creating performance support software that makes it easier to accomplish the goals for each phase of the process, wrapping each step with guidance and quality assurance checklists.
Along the way, we’ve learned a few things. The first eye opener was discovering how much more natural it is to work in an environment where the things you need or need to do are all one click away. The process is no longer linear. It’s… available. Every task has explanation, guidance, training, and quality criteria. It fulfills the needs of the people executing the process instead of asking people to do what the process demands. Reviews are less like milestones, and more like checking your own work, or having someone check it for you. On demand. Issues and problems become something that’s itemized and can be eliminated, instead of fodder for endless meetings.
If you are clever, you may not need software to support performance like this. It does make things easier, and the software we’ve developed has opened our eyes to a different way of working. But it’s software that’s not about automation, but rather software that’s more like a concierge, a coach, and a coordinator.
If you address what people need to be able to successfully perform, they can flourish. If you hire them, task them, leave them on their own, and criticize them when they fail, they will try. But you want better than that. You want to win. Every proposal. People matter. But support for their performance matters more. That’s what you should build your company around.
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Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY
Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.