Daily Team Management

Keeping your team moving toward delivery of an on-time, compliant, winning proposal calls for a blend of consistency, flexibility, and judgment.

Introduction

Day-to-day management of the proposal team is the engine at the center of all successful proposals. Daily check-ins are essential for identifying issues and risks, assigning and following up on actions, and updating the team on any changes to customer initiatives, bid budgets, and so on.

Rarely is it possible to compress proposal activities or skip daily management tasks for several days and then catch up. At the same time, it’s also difficult to maintain discipline and consistency on a daily basis. Carrying out the Proposal Manager role requires the ability to walk the line between injecting structure and formality where it’s needed and knowing when to allow the proposal to run on its own.

One reason daily management is critical is because proposal team members have limited budgets and time. They need to know how to prioritize activities in the near term. Most participants in the process don’t see the arc of activity, and some might not understand the strategy and the larger picture. Day-to-day management helps everyone focus on what’s important and keeps the entire team moving toward the ultimate objective: delivering a winning proposal.

Best Practices

1. Make sure that daily activities are consistent with a written proposal-management plan.

Each proposal activity must relate to the proposal-management plan. A written proposal-management plan establishes a common base of information and assumptions and eliminates the need to repeat information when new people join the team.

Day-to-day management entails making any changes to the plan, especially those that affect the schedule, proposal outline, or information about the customer and the solution. If people are spending resources on activities that appear to be unrelated, this can serve as a wake-up call to those carrying out the Bid, Proposal, and/or Opportunity/Capture Manager roles to update the plan. Those in the Bid, Proposal, and/or Opportunity/Capture Manager roles have a responsibility to make an up-to-date version of the plan available to everyone on the team.

When someone new joins the team, the plan can serve as an orientation tool, saving valuable time and energy. Adherence to a plan ensures that everyone on the team moves in the same direction.

Most important, the plan is a reference document that enables a Bid or Proposal Manager to conduct triage, establish the important activities for the day, and create interim deadlines.

The proposal-management plan should formally identify the Project Manager. In some settings, an experienced, professional Bid Manager will be identified for this key leadership role. In others, the salesperson who owns the opportunity will be responsible for leading the bid. Regardless of who is chosen, the individual should have the requisite skills and experience in leading bid of corresponding size and scope.

2. Conduct a short, daily stand-up review or call.

A daily stand-up review or teleconference is an essential element of day-to-day management and is used to check progress. The term stand-up implies that the review should be short enough that everyone can easily remain standing for its duration. Fight the tendency to let the review run on. Keeping it short has at least two advantages: It saves time, and it increases the likelihood that everyone needed will participate.

The participants in the review should include team members with accountability for proposal sections and functions, as well as the support team. This way, the Bid or Proposal and Opportunity/Capture Manager can make important announcements, explain changes to the schedule or priorities, and field questions for everyone at one time. Otherwise, the day can be eaten up by answering individual email, phone, and in-person queries. For this reason, participation in the review should be mandatory absent a business or personal emergency. If someone must miss the review, it’s his or her responsibility to find out what happened.

Conduct the stand-up at the same time every day so that people can align schedules in advance. This also increases the likelihood that everyone required will participate. Start and end the reviews on time to respect that proposal team members have obligations beyond the proposal and to drive home the importance of adhering to deadlines. Use a standard stand-up meeting agenda to keep meetings on track.

3. Identify roadblocks on the daily stand-up or call, but resolve them outside of the daily review in a smaller meeting.

A daily status review resembles a scrum in agile software-development methodology in that it focuses on the status of key proposal activities—particularly those with imminent interim deadlines, long lead times, and activities that are critical because they are prerequisites to other activities. In addition to reporting status, proposal team members should use the daily review to identify problems or roadblocks that will keep them from addressing the priorities of the day.

When problems are identified, do not try to resolve them during the review, unless they’re extremely simple or mechanical, such as a misfiled document. Instead, agree during the stand-up on who should resolve or escalate the problem and what constitutes an acceptable timeframe for resolution.

4. Track actions with imminent deadlines or long lead times on the daily stand-up and track other actions outside of the stand-up.

The proposal schedule and the proposal management plan together drive daily priorities, but day-to-day activities should be driven by near-term interim deadlines. Because it is impractical to check the status of every activity every day, use the daily stand-up to assess the progress on selected proposal sections and functions.

Ask individuals responsible for items with near-term deadlines to report on progress made since the previous day. When individuals have to report on progress daily, it increases accountability and also encourages early identification of problems or roadblocks.

Reserve part of the time during each daily stand-up to focus on activities that potentially have a long lead time, such as requests for information from teaming partners or the need for clarification about the RFP from the customer.

For smaller, embedded subtasks or action items that are not milestones in and of themselves, but are on the critical path, use a written action-item tracking matrix to document progress and close out. For activities that aren’t on a critical path, convene smaller meetings to check the status and resolve any problems. Below is an action item tracking matrix with examples of items a team might include.

ACTION PERSON ACCOUNTABLE STATUS
Follow up with the two subcontractors who have not yet submitted bid Subcontracts Manager In process; waiting to hear back from the subcontractors
Confirm vacation dates of author of Volume 2 Admin Not yet started
Find out correct spelling of product referred to in figure on page 6 Admin Not yet started
Approve design for proposal cover Proposal Manager Complete
Get details about degrees and certifications from proposed Program Manager Volume 3 Author In process; waiting for Program Manager to return from overseas trip
Set up room for proposal strategy and final document review teams Proposal Manager Complete
Find additional person to format the proposal in the week after final document review Proposal Manager In process; person identified but assignment not yet confirmed

5. Listen for potential problems that are not always articulated clearly.

The Proposal Manager’s request for a daily status update might not elicit team members’ true state of affairs. If proposal team members repeat the same status at multiple reviews or fail to identify any problems, it might be advisable to contact them in a different setting, one-on-one, to probe further. Also, if participants critical to the process are silent, it’s worth following up after to make sure that activities are still on track.

Sometimes participants are hesitant to expose potential weaknesses in the process or in their ability to meet deadlines. Ignoring them will only result in more significant proposal risks at a later date when there’s less time to recover.

6. Clarify roles and responsibilities to avoid duplication of effort and ensure complete coverage of all proposal functions.

One of the biggest risks to successful proposal completion is confusion or uncertainty about who is supposed to do what. It’s common for Bid, Proposal, and Opportunity/Capture Managers to describe roles and responsibilities at a high level and assume that the details are self-evident. Often, they’re not, or people differ in their interpretation of what’s involved.

Detailed descriptions, preferably in writing, are the best way to avoid confusion. They can be tiresome to prepare and communicate, but the investment pays off. They also help ensure that each team member formally acknowledges his or her role and responsibility.

Two danger signs to look for and correct are:

  • Indications that proposal team members aren’t aware of the extent of their role (they think it’s acceptable to write a draft but not respond to reviewer comments)
  • Team members who regularly step outside their roles without being asked to and start doing others’ jobs

Finally, there’s an important distinction between accountability and responsibility:

  • Accountability means getting something done without necessarily doing it oneself.
  • Responsibility can be delegated to the person who has the ability to get the job done.

Bid and Proposal Managers should ensure their team members understand the difference between the two.

7. Track activities enough to be able to show progress, but not in so much detail that the tracking interferes with the development of content.

Tracking the status of proposal activities in detail can consume the Proposal Manager’s—and team members’—time and energy. Early in the proposal, create a simplified method for tracking progress on major tasks and explain it to the team.

It can be as simple as a stoplight chart that shows a red, yellow, or green status for each major activity. Don’t try to capture the status of subtasks and embedded activities. Don’t try to capture all the complexity behind every task or all the possible contingencies when tracking or reporting status. Use the tracking methodology to share the status of proposal tasks so the entire proposal team is generally aware of progress as well as challenges.

8. Use appropriate techniques to keep the team motivated and productive.

Bid, Proposal, and Opportunity/Capture Managers function as supervisors for the duration of the proposal and need to understand how to lead as well as manage. It’s not enough to tell team members what to do. It’s important to publicly recognize individuals who go the extra mile to complete assignments on time in whatever way is appropriate to the organizational culture.

To maintain motivation, provide team members with the tools and information they need to complete their assignments. Whenever possible, adjust the workload among contributors to avoid burnout. Especially for proposals with a schedule of longer than 10 days, do whatever is possible to respect the need of proposal team members to attend to personal and family obligations.

Common Pitfalls and Misconceptions

Overreliance on virtual communication

Technology has made it so easy to connect virtually that proposal managers can overlook the importance of face-to-face contact. Don’t confuse virtual communication, which is sometimes necessary and almost always better than no communication, with the information you receive from facial expressions, body language, and the chemistry of being in the same room with your team.

Failure to ask questions of team members

Don’t equate a statement about progress with evidence of progress. Likewise, silence on the part of a proposal team member does not necessarily mean that everything is going according to plan. The Proposal Manager’s role and responsibility is to regularly monitor the team’s output—daily or even hourly for very short-turnaround proposals. This shouldn’t be confused with micromanagement.

Summary

  • The daily discipline of tracking progress and escalating problems is critical to completing a winning proposal on time and within budget.
  • Use and update a proposal plan to guide teams’ activities.
  • Conduct daily stand-up reviews to assess team members’ progress against assigned tasks.
  • Adjust the specifics to suit the particulars of the environment and the proposal, but maintain consistency and transparency.
  • Day-to-day team management entails not just tracking the status of tasks but also prioritization based on an understanding of the big picture.

Terms to Know

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