The Person With a Clear Head

At the end of an intense proposal project – or any intense project – everyone on the team is spent. Sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, no fresh air, and lack of exercise conspire to create fatigued team members. Who, while interested in doing a good job, are not thinking clearly.

This leads to mistakes. Team members miss required elements, or they make decisions because of expedience or because the chosen path makes perfect sense in a muddled brain. Or, they just plain overlook incorrect information.

Unfortunately, in a proposal, these errors might cost you the contract. If it is another kind of project – for example, an information system – these errors might lead to an outright failure, or simply an operational issue that will require lots of cleanup work.

What is needed? The person with a clear head. Someone who can look at the product, or the issue at hand, and make a sane, objective decision.

Who is that person? They must have extensive subject matter expertise and experience. So – if it’s a healthcare proposal – you’re looking for another experienced, capable proposal manager who is not involved in this proposal – and is not involved in a mad stampede on another proposal project. If it is an information system – you need another experienced project manager, or perhaps a systems engineer, with knowledge of this kind of project.

For a proposal, of course, your “designated thinker” will need to review the existing Request for Proposal (RFP) and probably some other project documentation (decision lists, assembly sheets, style guides, whatever) to orient them to the project. For an information system, your  chosen individual will need to review requirements, project plans, and other documents as needed to achieve familiarity.

Then – the proposal or project manager can ask this person to review selected problems or decisions:

  • “Here’s what I’m thinking – does this seem right to you?”
  • “We put all the materials for the proposal in a folder on the network – would you check and make sure that we included everything that is required?”
  • “Someone just found this error on page 372, but it will take two days to get the right information. What should we do?”
  • “This screen used to work but doesn’t now. How critical do you think it will be for go-live?”

Find some candidates for this role early in the project, and make sure they are aware of your expectations and are committed.

2 thoughts on “The Person With a Clear Head

  1. Dave,
    Excellent post. When would you recommend bringing that person on to ensure they have enough time to get up to speed to make informed assessments? Should this person ideally be an internal person?

  2. In response to the first question – it depends. Sometimes we’ll use a team member who has a peripheral association with the project from the beginning, but doesn’t have so many responsibilities that they are exhausted. For example, they have only to write answers to one or two proposal questions, or are asked to help contribute to the initial strategy. Failing that – for a proposal, they probably need to know at least one week in advance of crunch time, so they can come up to speed.

    In response to the second – either internal or external can work. However, an external person ought to ideally have an existing relationship with the organization, perhaps through other consulting engagements, so they can contribute effectively. Without that relationship, any comments or decisions they make at this critical endpoint will likely be ignored.

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