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The Art of Proposal Management

Yesterday, I was talking with a colleague, who is learning to execute the first step of a stage-gate process for the purposes of proposal management.  Currently, her role is to filter the results of specific FedBidOps automated searches, and to elevate those opportunities that align most with stated initiatives – she is the first of five defined gates within the proposal management process. (Figure 1).

Figure 1: BD Flow within Operating Picture

In describing the decision-making objective for this gate, I was suddenly reminded of an image that I saw in my mind as I was listening to an audiobook based on Sun Tsu’s “Art of War”.  In the first chapter, “Laying Plans”, Sun Tsu describes five factors to consider when seeking to obtain the field: (1) moral standing (2) timing; (3) terrain; (4) leadership; and (5) management.

Figure 2: The Five Considerations

Earlier this summer, I developed this mental image into a model (Figure 2), hypothesizing that considering a project in terms of the five consideration helps a team to assure its quality and performance through the alignment of right purpose, timing, resources, frameworks and attitudes, and execution.  Further, these five considerations may also lend themselves as factors within a listening framework for capturing and defining a comprehensive understanding of a client’s emerging needs.

I pulled out my sketchbook and showed her an early draft of this model (Figure 3):

“Your goal is to assess both purpose and timing.  ‘Right Purpose’ is answering the question: Does this opportunity align to an initiative? ‘Right Timing’ is answering the question: is there enough time to respond?”

This model proved a surprisingly effective tool for outlining a simple context for where this initial gate fits within the entire proposal management process.

Figure 3: Initial Draft

The goal of next phase – qualifying opportunities – is to determine: do we have/ what do we need to do to have the “Right Resources”?   We approach this determination by researching the requirements against business capabilities and past performances, by assessing feasibility, and by determining a partnering strategy.

Continuing clock-wise around the wheel, the purpose of the pre-proposal development phase can be understood in terms of assessing, defining, and refining the “Right Leadership” of our stated solution.  I call this “mentality” in the model because Leadership may be understood both in terms of the empowerment of and alignment to specific people, and as a team or individual’s ability to bring forward the right mentality/approach/framework to problem resolution (i.e. the battlefield of the mind).

Finally, within the proposal development phase, the cost and optimization engineer must determine and structure the cost-volume well enough to support the “right management” both of the awarded contract and of the future-project’s execution so that both the organization and the client profit, while also remaining price/value competitive.

Brilliant!  I just love when frameworks coalesce.


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