During the days when I had time to personally write proposals, I was often elected to prepare the management plan. During the past 20 years, I have probably written at least 150. I will never forget the first management plans I wrote. I was a Vice President at Computer Dynamics, a progressive small business in Virginia Beach. The year was 1983; and this was my first experience writing a management plan. If I had had an MBA degree, the work would have been fairly straightforward. However, my degrees were in English, History, and Education, so there was a learning requirement.
In order to get over the learning curve and prepare responsive management plans, I found several tools or aids available that would help. First, there were some basic management plans in past proposals. Although these materials were brief and not very strong, they did offer a starting point that could be expanded as time passed. Second, there were employees sitting just down the hall who had a wealth of knowledge on management techniques and who could be consulted. Third, I found that the bookstores had dozens of good college and professional management books, and some of these texts had useful materials. Fourth, we frequently teamed with other companies in bidding, and it was nearly always possible to pick up useful management proposal paragraphs from the teaming partners as time passed.
The problem with the approach mentioned above -- teaching yourself on the job -- is that it is slow. It took more than 5 years of experience before writing a management plan became second nature. If your company does not have good management plan materials that address your different products and services, it is probably worth investing in a little consultant time -- to bring in someone who can prepare management plans appropriate to your needs. Depending on the complexity of the requirements, most companies can have significant management plan "boilerplate" prepared based on an investment of between two weeks and two months of time. The consultant could also train your personnel in preparing management plans.
A starting point in preparing any management plan is to define the higher-level categories that will be addressed. The requirements of the RFP usually spell out some of the categories. For example, nearly all solicitations require you to describe your proposed program organization and your subcontracting plan. Content of the management plan will vary widely depending on the company, the program, and the circumstances. However, a majority of management plans have in common certain sections. The management plan categories that usually need to be addressed in a proposal include the following:
- Program Organization - includes an organization chart showing reporting relationships and describes how the proposed program organization functions.
- Program Management - describes how the overall program is directed by the program management group.
- Project Management - describes the techniques used to plan, schedule, track, and direct project activities that may take place within the program.
- Problem management / escalation - provides a concrete means for identifying and handling problems in a reliable, repeatable, and timely manner.
- Personnel management - contains a description of how personnel-related affairs such as recruiting, retention, time keeping, and benefits are handled.
- Financial management - describes what financial systems, processes, and safeguards are used to ensure the reliable management of program finances.
- Quality management - provides a systematic QA/QC approach capable of ensuring that products and services consistently meet quality goals.
- Risk management - demonstrates a clear understanding of program risks and provides a description of the plans and capabilities you have developed to ensure that risks are held to an acceptable level.
- Schedule management - provides an overview of the systems and processes your company utilizes to ensure that the program team consistently maintains schedule.
- Executive management - describes what methods you propose to use for the executive leadership to provide oversight and control over the program to ensure the program team successfully meets challenges and delivers quality performance.
- Interface between customer and contractor at all levels - typically using a vertical organizational chart of both the contractor and the customer side by side, the bidder draws lines on the chart and describes how he proposes to interface his organization to the customer organization at various levels including the executive, program, project, financial, contractual, and other levels.
- Contract management - describes the processes, procedures, and systems that you propose to use to ensure that the program team delivers services / products consistently in accordance with both the letter and spirit of the contract.
- Subcontract management - describes the processes, procedures, systems, and contractual terms you propose to use to ensure that subcontractors are managed in a way that supports program goals and requirements.
There is no magic answer to the problem of writing a fine management plan. The basic requirement is to have a word processor and several years of experience. Although the techniques used in a management approach can vary widely, the desired end result is the same - to present a plan the customer can easily see is reliable and sound. It will strengthen your case if you can give concrete examples showing how you have successfully managed similar programs in the past. Assuming your marketers have done their customer research well, you will know what areas of management need the greatest emphasis. If the customer has had recent problems with schedule, for example, then he will expect to see a strong schedule management approach. Likewise, knowledge of the customer situation will help you write highly responsive approaches to the other management areas.