Cringe-Worthy Proposal Experiences Drive Innovation: The Plane Charter

If you caught my last blog, then you know how cringe-worthy proposal experiences connect us, and how laughter shortens our path to problem solving. That’s because cringe-worthy experiences are also shared experiences; connecting us, broadening our sense of purpose and building trust – helping us confront the norms and change behaviors for greater efficiency.

In the second in this series of blogs based on my session at APMP BPC in May, we confront managing proposal teams with conflicting priorities.

The Plane Charter

I’ll set the scene for you. It’s 11 pm and we’re in the war room working to submit. But we’re finding holes in our content so big we could drive a tractor trailer through them. We’re finding some content we can use to fill the gaps, calling and waking people up to help. We know we’re not going to make the deadline, not with the commercial flight we booked, and certainly not by driving. So, I’m on the phone with our executive. The next thing I know, I’m on the phone with the airport, chartering a private plane. Luckily, we make it and submit on time. That afternoon, the client cancels the procurement.

Our executive didn’t want to tell us. He just stood there in the door of the war room looking at us and shuffling his feet. We sat there in yesterday’s clothes, exhausted, bedraggled and feeling vulnerable. But, as it turns out, feeling vulnerable together can help us establish trust a new level of trust that builds stronger relationships. Instead of pointing fingers, we focused on what went wrong and how to minimize those vulnerabilities next time.

The Problem

So, what went wrong? When we talked with the team, they said:

  • It was too hard to find assignments and deadlines, digging through my emails, trying to keep pace with spreadsheet changes and more emails. I don’t have time for that.
  • I had to skip meetings because of other priorities so I didn’t know about the deadline changes and changes to requirements. And when it came time to write or review, no one was available to ask.
  • I wasn’t sure about my write-up, so asked I asked someone else to have a look. I thought they’d take care of it, but I guess they didn’t.

By sharing this cringe-worthy proposal experience, the team answered the big question for us. What went wrong? We left the proposal team holding the bag on a $100 million dollar opportunity.

The Innovation

By centralizing proposal tasks and deadlines, the team always has real-time access to their proposal responsibilities. No more email, no more spreadsheets, no more confusion – each task and deadline is attached to the assigned content for easy access and accountability from start to finish.

  • Stop Confusing Contributors. Each expert writing and reviewing contributor consults their personalized dashboard for the single source of truth on their tasks and deadlines.
  • Gain Visibility for Managers. Each proposal manager and coordinator consults their personalized dashboard to know exactly who is working and who is done and how content is developing – and project and address bottlenecks before they become delays.
  • Start Empowering the Team. As work flows, so do tasks – automatically keeping contributors on track and on deadline from their personalized dashboard and automated notifications, complete with links directly to their assigned content.

Time savings is a big win here, but so is accountability. Contributors know exactly what is due by when, real-time, without searching their email or consulting a spreadsheet. They can also see who else is responsible for the content, so they can reach out and collaborate on issues or questions without missing a beat, or a key requirement response. Meanwhile, proposal managers can follow the chain of content ownership from start to finish.

The moral of this cringe-worthy proposal story is this: our teams are always going to be balancing their time across competing priorities. By making it easier and less time-consuming for them to know their tasks and deadlines, contributors have more of an opportunity to take control, be accountable and achieve their responsibilities.

A Conversation with Proposal Professional: Jeremy Steward

Topic(s): Best Practices