Agile proposal management—team values

I was recently asked if I have used agile for proposal management on a bid to the Federal Government. This individual was working on a proposal where the targeted contract provides agile software engineering services for a major Federal Agency’s mission support systems. The individual was considering the application of agile principles to the proposal process itself—a great way to demonstrate corporate commitment to agile philosophies!

This is an idea I have considered for almost 4 years but have yet to find the right environment/opportunity to put completely into practice. I am a Certified Scrum Master and work on many bids that involve agile methodologies as part of the solution. I suggest the principles of agile and scrum provide opportunities to improve our processes and the outcome of our proposals—that is, improve our win rates.

The Five Scrum Valuesapplied to proposal management

In this and future articles, I’ll explore the agile principles to see how we as proposal managers can behave more like Scrum Masters and move our approach in an agile direction.

Of utmost importance to successful proposal management is the ability to build and lead our proposal teams to produce compliant, compelling, winning proposals—to reach what the agile world calls Done. Teamwork is one of the agile principles, and the concept of the team is essential to an agile approach.

Let’s consider how agile principles may affect the team dynamics for your proposal group. As you lead your proposal team, work to apply these five Scrum Values.

1. Focus

Alexander Graham Bell said, “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” Team focus is the domain of the Scrum Master. As proposal managers, it is our job to remove work impediments and shield the team from external influences that affect their availability, productivity, creativity, and effectiveness. Since many SMEs have day jobs, consider how you can minimize disruptions, provide both quiet and collaboration space for the team to work, diffuse internal politics, and clarify expectations for hours needed to complete the task with both the SME and their real manager.

2. Respect

In Scrum, roles are transparent; everyone is equal. I think this is one of the most important Scrum Values and a place where many teams struggle. In Scrum, limits and boundaries must be respected. Treat everyone with the same level of respect. Respect leads to trust, which leads to highly effective team dynamics. As the proposal manager, demonstrate you trust the team to get the job done. Maintain a positive attitude. Respect and seek out differences—the best solutions come from diverse opinions.

3. Courage

The proposal manager must have the courage to protect and guide the team; courage to protect the process and the solution. We face challenges, resistance to change, and competing priorities and agendas. Take on each challenge with courage—always tempered with respect—to move the project forward.

4. Openness

Secrets have no place in an agile team. Ensure everyone has access to the same information. Encourage freedom of expression. Encourage team members to be open to new ideas. Foster innovation, awareness, and full disclosure of the competition and customer needs. Maintain an open door for all questions, suggestions, criticism, and discussion. Have face-to-face communications whenever possible, and collocate staff in a war room for the most effective interaction. Have spontaneous discussions. Encourage the team to be open during the lessons learned (Retrospective Meeting, in agile terms), where problems are brought to light and dealt with without repercussions or blame. Turn lessons learned to process improvements on the next bid.

5. Commitment

Scrum teams pledge their dedication to the effort. Gunther Verheyen, author of Scrum – A Pocket Guide, suggests we must commit to the team. Commit to quality. Commit to collaborate. Commit to learn. Commit to do the best we can, every day. Commit to the goal. Commit to be professional. Commit to self-organize. Commit to excellence. Commit to seek improvements. Commit to focus on value. Commit to finish work. Commit to inspect and adapt. Commit to transparency. And commit to challenge the status-quo.

As the proposal manager, establish project goals and expectations at the kickoff, and ask the team to commit to achieving them. Frequently remind the team of the objectives, and applaud their progress and success.

Adopting an agile process is a commitment to a new way of working, to being more adaptable. The team commits to what they will do, and they also commit to how the work will be done in the Definition of Done. This means doing whatever is necessary to meet their goals. The proposal manager commits to actively guiding the team and takes a weight of responsibility in making the team adhere to the process and established team values.

Final thoughts

The Five Scrum Values provide a framework for how to interact effectively as a team. Scrum teams have found that when a team is aware and actively adhering to the Five Values, interpersonal problems are easily identified and resolved. The entire proposal team must be committed to the goals and the process. Have courage to try new things and to make mistakes. Stay focused and open to new thoughts, opinions, and criticism—always having full respect for each other.

Scrum is a brilliant value-driven framework that allows us to deliver prioritized value to the customer in the products (proposals) produced, but it also provides value in that it gives us the opportunity and tools to improve how we work together. The benefits of effective teamwork brought about by this model include improved productivity, better morale, and increased proposal quality brought about by collaboration, respect, and ownership in the process.

I welcome your thoughts and experience with this topic!

by Maryann Lesnick, Managing Director at Lohfeld Consulting Group, CP.APMP, PMP.

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.

As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $135B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.