Does this sound familiar?
Have you ever noticed that while everyone says they have a process, no one actually follows it during a pursuit? When people are given assignments they often go off and do what they think should be done, regardless of what's actually in the assignment. Reviews are usually based on subjective opinions instead of any meaningful criteria. When changes are requested, people often try to run out the clock so they don’t have to bother with them and can do what they planned to do in the first place.
Successful process documentation doesn’t just sit on a shelf. It gets used because it makes things easier. Not in some hypothetical time “down the road,” but right now and at every step. If your process isn’t written, ready to distribute immediately, followed by everyone, and if it doesn’t address pre-RFP as well as post-RFP activity, you need to replace it. When the people working on your proposal view the process documentation as an indispensable aid, then they will refer to it at every step and thank you for providing it. Here is what you need if you want people to follow your process:
- Create a workbook instead of a process manual. Build your process around forms and checklists. Instead of thinking about policies and procedures, think about the issues that people face, and what you can put on paper to help them solve those issues.
- Think in terms of evolving your process instead of writing it. If you don’t have time to write it all down, then just assemble something helpful and add to it every chance you get. Grow it over time. Experiment with it. Watch it get better with each proposal. Each time you experience pain, write in a cure.
- Create something that can survive reality. Instead of flow charts, provide guidance for making decisions. Instead of trying to control how they do everything, try to help them achieve their goals. Think about the flow of information, and help them collect the right information at the right time and in the right format to accomplish the tasks.
- Make it easier to use the workbook than it is to wing it. Keep it short. Identify who needs to read what and encourage them to skip to the parts that matter to them. Collect only the information you need, and put it in a format that is re-useable. Instead of begging people to follow the process, you want them thinking why on earth they would try to figure things out by themselves when all they have to do is turn the page to find out what to do next.
Give them a chance to opt-out. Give the Executive Sponsor of a proposal a chance to opt-out of your process. Put a copy of the process in their hands and
encouragerequire them to read it before consenting. If they can’t commit to the time required for informed consent, then they are not capable of meeting the process requirements. For any process. If they don’t commit, all you can do is offer to facilitate production, but you can’t manage the proposal or ensure its quality. Opting in should be an all or nothing consideration. An Executive Sponsor wants, more than anything, to know what they can expect. Turn your process into expectations that you can commit to. For example, you can provide clarity of assignments, progress monitoring, expectation management, and quality validation. If they want those things, they have to pay the price. The price is their support in implementing the process. Think of your relationship with the Executive Sponsor like a contract. Both parties commit to certain things. Neither is forced to sign. However, both parties want things that motivate them to agree to the terms. Not only will most opt-in, but they’ll seek you out in order to get their expectations met reliably. When the Executive Sponsor feels he or she can rely on you, they will support you. It’s much more satisfying than waiting until you have a problem and begging for an audience.