Redefining Proposal Professionals as a Warrior Class?

A few members of our team are at the APMP Conference in Dallas, TX, brushing up on the latest professional knowledge and networking with 650 colleagues. This event started like a rock concert, and it’s still going strong. Until I run out of energy or time, I am going to report back to you on everything that I’m learning here. The article below is more of a discussion point, stirred by a controversial keynote address by Eric Gregory from CACI – please, let me know your thoughts.

In the meantime, a couple of short announcements:

  • If you are you are a small business or mid-tier company owner, CEO, or an executive responsible for growing your company in the government market, you may be interested in an upcoming webinar  I am teaching: Six Strategies to Grow Aggressively in the Federal Market. It examines reasons why certain government contractors make it to the Washington Technology’s Fast 50 list (and why others don’t), and shares detailed formulas, strategies, and metrics you can apply to your business to accelerate your success. It will take place on June 14, 2012 at 1 PM (recording will be available). Find out more at http://bit.ly/KXlkww.
  • I will also be teaching an Advanced Capture Management class on June 19-20, 2012, and Advanced Proposal Management on June 21-22, 2012. Go to www.ostglobalsolutions.com/training/schedule to learn more.

Now to Eric’s address…

Redefining Proposal Professionals as a Warrior Class

 

Should proposal professionals redefine the way they think about themselves? Eric Gregory of CACI, Inc., delivered a keynote address at the APMP International Conference that caused some serious audience buzz at the follow-on networking session. He somberly stated that proposal professionals are different from the “normal” folk: we are warriors, the vanguard, the point of the spear, pioneers, adventurers, the legion, the cavalry…

According to him, what we do is a downright war. The true proposal professionals are a warrior class in our organizations – to think anything less is to diminish who we are and what we do. Some folks focused on civilian agencies and commercial proposals in the audience didn’t take to the message too kindly. They complained that Eric’s speech was too full of paramilitary talk, especially as Eric referred to us doing it all as a duty without expecting much rewards or even recognition of our value to the organization.

Defining ourselves functionally as capture managers, proposal managers, business developers, proposal coordinators, writers, and so on, doesn’t tell the whole story, according to Eric. Many can fill a function, but far fewer can become a proposal professional, which according to him is “a state of being.” He rocked the Association’s boat a bit, as he asserted that achieving accreditation doesn’t create or endorse a proposal professional. It was a surprising thing for the keynote speaker to say, for an organization that is trying as hard as APMP is to get everyone accredited. He continued by asserting that skill and competency are necessary but insufficient for the proposal profession. He argued that a proposal professional can only be represented by who we are. It is not a skill – it is an attribute.

Warriors are those who protect society from internal and external threats through defensive and offensive means. Tools of politicians and strategists, they don’t control much of the decisions but deliver victories. They are ready, willing, and able to deliver sacrifice for continued existence of the organization – just the way that proposal professionals have to bid on a proposal they know is a bluebird and that they have no chance of winning. They recognize that they are responsible for the livelihood of 3-4 times the people our organizations employ. Their work directly affects thousands of people – not only the employees, but their wives, children, aging parents, and those others depending on the employees. If they cannot make this critical emotional connection – they should be in another field. It all boils down to a hefty sense of responsibility: “When I fail and lose – people suffer; when I succeed and win – people prosper.”

I personally think that Eric is correct but there is more to the story. The projects that we work on, especially in the Federal arena, affect even more lives. Depending on the nature of the project, the impact of our team executing the work well versus another team doing a poor job may mean much heftier consequences that have to do with our nation’s (or even world’s) livelihood. After all, good capture and proposal mean a project plan well done, which enables better delivery – and better outcome of the project.

According to Eric, there are 10 essential attributes of a proposal warrior:

  1. Courageous – performs under criticism and doubt, abandons consensus (oh, that didn’t sit well with the civilian agency folks either), endures anger, criticizes honestly and directly, confronts senior management, and gets rid of underperformers.
  2. Committed – selflessly sacrifices what’s necessary to achieve success; keeps ego in check, and is team-focused.
  3. Leader – becomes an example; doesn’t ask anyone to do anything he or she won’t do; takes criticism well; doesn’t eat till the team eats; doesn’t rest till team rests; builds up the depressed team; speaks the truth; demands excellence by example; and reminds the team how easy it is to make changes if we step back and regain perspective. Most importantly, makes it fun and rules by cheer.
  4. Decisive – demands action when action is required; never apologizes for choosing action over inaction; promotes discussion but destroys committee in favor of action and decisions (again, this statement angered many folks from organizations where consensus is a value).
  5. Agile – reacts quickly and embraces momentary change.
  6. Creative – overwhelms competitors with surprise, coming up with solutions that can bring down a mighty giant with a stone.
  7. Disciplined – achieves much with little, and is relentless in taking actions to reach victory against superior force; requires more than process because process requires artifacts, while discipline requires attitude.
  8. Compassionate – manages the fight without destroying the team; works hard but knows that warriors must replenish their energy before they keep marching on.
  9. Intelligent – defines capture and proposal strategies and leads to victories; uses intelligence of others to win victories and counter the defeats. Intelligence doesn’t make a warrior but can make a warrior more successful.
  10. Resilient – has the will to carry on under the most adverse conditions that defeat the average human – and true proposal professionals are not average. Will work as hard and as long as necessary.

Eric said that we cannot expect our colleagues, managers, or executives to see what we do and how we do it and see the absolute value we bring every day. To some degree it’s our burden and we should accept our station gladly without special acknowledgement. But, we have to develop ways to convey the value we deliver as proposal warriors and make the case for ourselves to those who don’t understand.

He asserted that the value we deliver cannot be more tangible than continued prosperity of our organizations, people who work there, and those who are supported by the organizations.

He called us to recount our deeds for the good of the company. When each battle is done and the war is over, we should celebrate our stories at special events to remind those who prosper of what we did for them. They owe us nothing other than respect we deserve as a warrior class. (In my mind, a big bonus would do very nicely as well.) We deserve to be examples to be emulated. We become the culture of our organizations. We become the legends as we create the story – it might be our greatest reward and greatest value; culture to survive the recessions and continue to evolve with rampant ferocity.

Eric said that as warriors, we can lead into the most difficult competitive situations. We will defend people and territories and as an offensive, we will take from the competition what they prize the most – their market share. I almost at that point finished his sentence with “their women and children.” This may have been the point when half the audience was ready for a war cry, and another half was ticked. In the break, the buzzing continued – as Eric was pleased that he reached his goal – to get us to talk and stir a nice controversy.

So, what do you think – are we proposal warriors, often under-appreciated but clear in our sense of duty to fight an exhausting battle that makes a difference between our companies’ life and death? (It made perfect sense to me personally and rang true). Are we peaceful writers, artists, managers, process gurus, or are we soldiers in a battlefield? Are there more ways to define ourselves than warriors? How do you feel as a proposal professional deep inside? Are you part of a warrior class?

Best,

Olessia Smotrova-Taylor
CEO/President

OST Global Solutions, Inc.
www.ostglobalsolutions.com.


Capture and Proposal Workshops and Seminars

Don’t miss early bird registration pricing – it ends 3 weeks before each class. Register at www.ostglobalsolutions.com/training/schedule

Date, 2012 Class Name
June 19-20 Advanced Capture Management
June 21-22 Advanced Proposal Management
July 19 Proposal Win Themes Development Workshop
July 20 Executive Summaries For Winning Proposals Workshop

If you don’t find a class that suits your schedule, consider us for on-site corporate training at your company, or for a webinar for your dispersed workforce if you have multiple locations.


Professional Proposal Tools and Self-Study Training

(order at www.ostglobalsolutions.com/training/self-study-courses)

  • Blueprint for Winning Government Contracts – Find opportunities, write winning proposals, and win multimillion dollar contracts to grow your small business in the federal market.
  • Task Order Manual Template – Reusable professional toolset (electronic Word template) – instant download.
  • Executive Summary Secrets – Self-study course (workbook and audio CD) to persuade evaluators to award the contract to you.
  • How to Succeed as a Proposal Consultant – Get more work, higher pay, and better clients – instant download!
  • A Proposal Manager’s Essential Checklists – Reusable toolset for consistently successful proposal management and coordination.
  • Proposal Resources Estimating Guide – Guide for determining required manpower and hours to calculate how much a proposal should cost

P.P.S.: Feel free to forward this newsletter to others who may find it useful. If you have received this from a colleague and would like to sign up yourself, here is where you can do it: http://www.ostglobalsolutions.com/eZine-signup.htm.

Written by Olessia Smotrova-Taylor, AF. APMP, President ad CEO of OST Global Solutions, Inc., a business development, capture, and proposal management company that helps businesses grow in the federal market. Olessia has won more than $18 billion for her clients, and helped many small businesses acquire game-changing opportunities. She started working on IDIQs 11 years ago, including working on Task Orders exclusively for 5 years managing a $450 million/year IDIQ. She has won a few dozen IDIQs and Task Orders over the course of her career. She is the President of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) National Capital Area (NCA) chapter, and a well-known speaker and author. She has developed and taught a graduate course in proposal development at NASA for the Stevens Institute of Technology. Prior to founding OST, she won business for Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, and wrote for the Financial Times of London. Olessia can be reached at otaylor@ostglobalsolutions.com or at 301-384-3350.
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One Response to “Redefining Proposal Professionals as a Warrior Class?”

  1. SLH says:

    When I managed a proposal development team (20 years ago), HR would ask me after interviews, “What are you saying to these people?” because they would be excited or “thanks, no thanks.” As a department, we weren’t well understood or supported at the time, and I told them we were going to war. It is part of what worked: my department had one of the lowest turnovers in the company and we increased the win ratio from 7% to over 40% at that time. I think understanding and communicating to new hires the sense of urgency and handle the stress levels that we managed, helped a great deal in hiring people who fit the culture as well as had the skills.

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