The hierarchy in place in many construction companies places both the Proposal Managers (PM) and the firm itself, at a competitive disadvantage. This hierarchy is mainly reflected in job titles as well as pay scales and works against to overall effectiveness of the firm’s pursuit strategy.
Cultural hierarchies can be reflected in the firm’s management organizational chart and most often originates from dated management theory. Such firms are run, not by trained business professionals, but by construction personnel who take on business management roles as they are promoted upward by other like-minded personnel, a practice that illustrates The Peter Principle and the results can place the firm at a competitive disadvantage.
The Peter Principle is a concept in management theory in which the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in his or her current role rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, “managers rise to the level of their incompetence.”
How This Lowers Performance and Proposal Scores
A firm can’t belittle, subjugate, or overwork proposal staff and still expect consistent results. But some large construction firms don’t learn this lesson and resist any movement to reverse entrenched thinking.
Show me a construction organization that’s run by individuals with limited experience outside their own area of specialty, that isn’t open to learning how to improve their competitiveness, and I’ll show you an organization with weak proposal efforts.
Firms that are entrenched in outdated organizational hierarchies will experience employee dissatisfaction as well as lower productivity and lower proposal scores…and the cycle is perpetuated.
The 5 Most Inaccurate Assumptions About Proposal Managers
The following are five assumptions I’ve heard verbalized about my role as a PM in a large construction firm as expressed by construction management personnel:
- PM’s exist to make the document pretty
- PM’s don’t understand construction
- PM’s are administrative staff, not construction professionals
- PM’s should make the changes to the proposal as directed
- PM’s are to blame when a proposal score is low
Not only are these assumptions inaccurate, they lead to weak, low-scoring proposal results. That’s because all of these assumptions result in the PM and her team feeling disrespected, undervalued, and disempowered.
What employee can do their best work when they know this is how their contributions are perceived?
Re-engineered Assumptions That Lead to Better Results
- Proposal Managers are on the team to partner with construction staff and engineers to help shape the technical presentation of the firm’s approach to effectively educate and sell the owner on your firm’s ability to complete the project.
- Proposal Managers, throughout the proposal phase, acquire the necessary understanding of both the engineering and construction solutions that will result in a successful project completion in order to effectively present the message to the owner.
- Proposal Managers are, indeed, construction professionals with additional skills in document planning, writing, editing, graphic design, and presentation.
- Proposal Managers have the responsibility to make the changes in proposal content that further reinforce the winning strategy and are empowered to reject those that don’t.
- Proposal Managers share the responsibility for all proposal results.
Proposal Teams: Step Up Your Game or Move On
This article is focused on the five most inaccurate and counterproductive assumptions made about proposal professionals within construction organizations. As a proposal professional, the assumptions won’t change until you step up your game and acquire, through dedication, work habits, and results, the respect that you deserve. There is no shortcut to earning your reputation, however, if the value your team brings to the firm isn’t acknowledged, it’s time to move to a firm with a more evolved management style.