[AEC] – The 5 Most Inaccurate Assumptions About Proposal Managers

The 5 Most Inaccurate Assumptions About Proposal Managers

The hierarchy in place in many construction companies places both the Proposal Managers (PM), and the firm itself, at a competitive disadvantage. The hierarchy is mainly reflected in job titles as well as pay scales.

This hierarchy, as reflected in the firm’s own organization chart, most often results from old-school 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.

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, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and “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 aren’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Firms that are entrenched in outdated organizational hierarchies will experience employee dissatisfaction as well as lower productivity and lower proposal scores…and the cycle is perpetuated.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:

  1. PM’s exist to make the document pretty
  2. PM’s don’t understand construction
  3. PM’s are administrative staff, not construction professionals
  4. PM’s should make the changes to the proposal as directed
  5. PM’s are to blame when a proposal score is low

Not only are these assumptions inaccurate, they lead to weak proposal results. That’s because all of these assumptions result in the PM and his team feeling disrespected, undervalued, and disempowered.

What employee can do their best work when they know this is how their contributions are perceived?

Reengineered Assumptions That Lead to Better Results

  • Proposal Managers are on the team to work 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 those changes in proposal content that further reinforce the win 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 me and my former team.  The assumptions didn’t change for us until we stepped up our game and acquired, through dedication, work habits, and results, the respect that we deserved.

As a proposal team, you have a responsibility, even amidst outdated management thinking, to rise above such a counterproductive culture, and prove your value.

Over time, 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.