The Agile Manifesto talks about people, communications, the product, and flexibility. With respect to people, Agile practitioners value individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
It takes a team to produce a winning proposal, and they must work together effectively through productive interactions. This does not mean that processes and tools are not important, but simply that the interaction between people on the team is more important. Team efforts to explore the requirements, work through solutioning, ghost the competition, and clearly identify corporate strengths is better accomplished through personal communication, brainstorming, and collaboration than by email, spreadsheets, documents, or automated analysis tools.
Consider today’s tools that can generate the compliance matrix for you. When I use one, I still prepare my own compliance matrix, and often have another person do the same to compare our interpretations, cross-check each other, and to ensure complete comprehension.
As you adopt an agile, Scrum approach for your proposal management activities, consider these defined Scrum roles and how they relate to typical proposal team members.
The Product Owner / Capture Manager
The Product Owner on a Scrum Team is the customer representative, who, on a proposal team, is the Capture Manager. The Capture Manager spends up to a year or more working to understand the customer’s requirements. By proposal time, he is the one individual who firmly understands the company’s strategy, the needs of the customer, and how the company can deliver a solution that demonstrates greater strengths than the competition.
The Capture Manager knows customer hot buttons, and those requirements that are most important to the customer. Using this knowledge and the RFP Evaluation Criteria in Section M, he clarifies requirements, prioritizes the key features of the solution to be developed first, resolves conflict, and helps quantify the benefits of each feature for the customer in the proposal.
The Capture Manager vets proposed features with the customer during the pre-RFP phase.
The Capture Manager, like the Scrum Product Owner, is characterized by decisiveness, and is empowered by the organization to make decisions, set priorities, and accept or reject completed writing during each sprint.
Scrum Master / Proposal Manager
The Proposal Manager fills the role of the Scrum Master in an Agile proposal management model. The Proposal Manager is the project facilitator, coaches the proposal team, removes impediments, facilitates consensus building/solutioning, and prevents distractions from the proposal team’s work. He has organizational clout and can resolve issues quickly. He must be articulate, diplomatic, and professional. He must also be a good communicator and ensure the proposal team has what they need to accomplish their work. As the agile team is forming and adjusting to an Agile philosophy, the Proposal Manager function as a manager – a role that shifts more to leadership as the team dynamic matures. He helps the team prepare responses to priority sections of the proposal, leads reviews of each iteration, and guides the team to completion. As the proposal team matures in it’s adoption of agile principles, the team becomes more self-directed in accomplishing the work of each sprint, bringing each proposal section to the definition of Done.
Development Team / Proposal Team
In Scrum, the development team is a cross-functional group which develops the product. For a proposal team, this includes the writers, SMEs, graphic artists, editors, desktop publishers, reviewers, etc. This team is responsible for producing the proposal “deliverables” or products.
The team model in Scrum is designed to optimize flexibility, creativity, and productivity. The Proposal Team delivers proposal sections iteratively and incrementally, maximizing opportunities for feedback. Incremental deliveries of “Done” sections provide potentially deliverable versions of proposal sections, until the entire proposal is completed. Higher scoring elements are given the most attention. Guided by the Capture Manager to set priorities and the Proposal Manager to coach the proposal team creates a positive, adaptive structure that produces a compliant and compelling proposal in shorter time and with an increased probability of win.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) suggests that the Agile concept of cross-functional teams is easily transferable to other types of projects. Rather than pulling resources in from other departments or groups at required milestones, a cross-functional team drops the barriers between silos and brings all functional experts together. A cross-functional team operates with increased efficiency and has a more singular focus.
Regardless the titles, proposal teams can adopt the principles of Agile and Scrum to manage their work. Keep your titles, but adopt Agile principles by putting individuals and interactions over processes and tools. By promoting individual accountability and interaction, supporting collaboration, and encouraging repetition and review, Agile project management provides an adaptive framework that shortens the time to get to Done, and improves the quality of the final proposal.
“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” – George S. Patton
I welcome your thoughts and experience with this topic!
by Maryann Lesnick, Managing Director at Lohfeld Consulting Group, CP APMP, PMP, CSM, MOS
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 www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.