Anyone who’s taken on the role as Bid Manager on a large tender would know that managing the subject matter experts (SMEs) responsible for providing content can be difficult. As a Bid / Tender / Submission Manager managing multiple authors and contributors while pulling together all aspects of the tender response (graphics, reviews, meetings, editing – just to name a few) is hard work.
What can make the task of managing SMEs easier is understanding some of the reasons why individuals struggle to deliver to expectations.
Conflicting workloads / priorities
Not all SMEs are allocated 100 percent to the tender team. Many have full time roles (or tenders) to attend to on top of the management plan templates / tender responses you’ve just asked them to complete. As Bid Manager you need to be aware of these conflicting priorities and adjust your expectations, team support and delivery schedules accordingly.
SMEs with differing writing styles and skill levels
Every SME will have differing writing styles and skill levels – some will provide ready-to-go content that will just need simple formatting and editing, while others will provide a response requiring a full review, rewrite and edit. It’s well worth your time to find out early on the skill level of each SME – either through direct questioning or via another team member who is aware of an SMEs previous work. In some cases, based on skill levels you will need to provide SMEs with additional time to complete their sections, or provide additional support including another writing resource, or more detailed templates / response guidelines.
Ever tried working with an SME who was volunteered for the role – and has zero interest in being part of the team? This is one of the hardest individuals to work with. These are the ones who don’t attend meetings, are always late for reviews and deadlines, and are the ones who tend to hold others back by not providing information or content required to complete a tender. At worst, these individuals can be toxic to the bid process, always negative, never part of the team and actively sabotaging the efforts of others.
As Bid Manager it’s imperative that these types of people are identified as early as possible to allow for ongoing monitoring, and if required – implementing control measures. If possible, try to replace the volunteer asap. If not, ensure that the tender senior management team are aware of the issue, and continually monitor the volunteer to allow for immediate intervention if (or most likely when) required.
Tender burn out
Unfortunately, extreme workloads due to a large quantity of live tenders and the lack of available tender resources can lead to tender burn out and anxiety. In these cases, those SMEs with tender burn out have little or no energy, or drive, to commit to the process and are only interested in putting in the fastest response with the least amount of effort.
These SMEs need additional support and understanding. Where possible, reduce their workload by reallocating tasks or components of their work to others. Only invite these team members to compulsory or key meetings and try not to allocate them vital tasks, such as content reviews, as you need active, focused team members to complete this vital task. This approach and active support will provide your team member with confidence that they can successfully complete the tasks allocated to them.
Understanding how different people work allows the Bid Manager (or any manager) to mould their management approach to the individual. Some SMEs need constant feedback or advice during process, while others simply need a deadline and they’ll deliver the goods. Getting to know each team member in the initial phase of the tender process allows you to build a clear picture of the type of individuals you are dealing with, which then dictates the management approach to utilise for each team member moving forward. This relationship building / data gathering task is well worth the time. It allows for the effective management of the tender team while adding a relationship ‘buffer’ when the stress is on closer to the tender submission date.
Sun Tzu would have made an awesome Bid Manager.
Master Tzu knew the importance of planning a battle (tender response). He wrote “Now, the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought.” and “The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.”
That’s right, planning is everything.
Allocating time, resources and budget to the planning phase of the bid process is often overlooked to the detriment of the bid team, the final result and the win rate. Effective, structured bid planning (including pre-tender works and work undertaken by the business development team) is often the difference between a well-run bid process with a win at end, compared to a leaderless, erratic bid process with no plan or strategy and ultimately little chance of success.
Effective planning incorporates:
- The Bid Team – Senior management support, Bid Managers, Writers, Estimators, Graphic Designers and Review Teams
- Authorising bid budgets
- Allocation of facilities including a ‘war room’
- Implementation of the bid systems and processes
- Development of the bid response templates – bid management plan, bid response schedules and terminology sheets
- Organising and structuring kick-off meetings, win theme development and progress meetings
- Agreement on bid collation, editing and the printing process.
Bid Manager Sun Tzu also understood the importance of having a well-established bid strategy… “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat” … and the need for a robust tender process “strategy without tactics is the slowest route to defeat.”
And finally, Sun Tzu noted that even well-planned bid strategies must remain flexible to changing requirements when he reminds us that “those who are victorious plan effectively and change decisively.”
How would your bid planning process stack up against Sun Tzu?