Productivity is getting maximum results for time and effort expended. For business development, capture, and proposal professionals, maximum results provide a greater number of qualified bids and/or bid-related activities, increased quality, and decreased error (non-compliance)—all resulting in more wins. Yet most companies are content with a win rate of no more than 50%.
On one of my favorite Mad Men episodes, aptly named Commissions and Fees, Don Draper says “You’re happy with 50%? …I won’t settle for 50% of anything. I want 100%.” Clearly, we can’t achieve a 100% win rate except perhaps in our dreams, but we can expect and demand 100% productivity.
Everyone is facing tight budgets and more and more competition. We simply cannot afford unproductive teams that decrease our win probability, waste time and money, and result in proposal losses. Educator and psychologist Bruce Tuckman defined the 5 stages that all teams experience: Forming, Storming, Norming. Performing, and Adjourning.
Yet, there is no guarantee that you will ever reach the performing (productive) stage. Research shows that at least 3/5 of team time is spent forming and storming. So in a relatively short amount of time (most proposal turnaround times are 10 to 60 days), we spend most of the time getting to know each other and fighting before we get around to working well and performing. In response, I have developed five strategies to move my teams more rapidly from forming and storming to the performing stage.
- Extreme Clarity: Define success in clear terms. Success equals winning. Confront difficult issues by focusing on clarity. Agree on meaningful objectives.
- Continuous Communications: Continuously take the pulse of the team. Ask and answer questions in a group setting as well as one-on-one.
- Coaching, Coaching, Coaching: Ask what have you done (NOT what will you do). Use well-timed praise and criticisms. Evaluate work in progress and make continuous corrections. Meet one-on-one to coach on constructive team behavior.
- Agility – borrowed from Agile iterations in software development. Resolve conflicts as they emerge; do not let them linger. Review work in smaller chunks to proactively address problems or to distribute good work as an example.
- Circumvention of the team where and when necessary. Avoid being defensive or blaming. However, some people are not meant to be team members; circumvent by either having them work alone or dismissing them from the team.
These five strategies will help you avoid common pitfalls that disrupt team productivity and encourage your team to want and win more than 50%.
By Lisa Pafe, Lohfeld Consulting Group Principal Consultant