Separating “Doing” and “Supervising” for Best Results

Do or supervise: There is no both.
Yoda

OK, as far as I know, Yoda didn’t ever say that, but I wish he had!  Maybe then people would listen. 

It’s an old truism of supervision that you can’t do something and supervise it at the same time.  Yet folks keep trying to combine these functions on RFP responses:

  • Proposal managers and volume leads also write.
  • Chief editors also edit.
  • Production leads also format documents.

Why it Happens

The reasons vary:

  • Sometimes that’s the plan – to save money by double-hatting folks, or because a supervisor thinks that they’re the best person on the proposal team for the specific task (and they may even be).
  • Sometimes people default to their comfort zone, picking up tasks where they feel more competent than in their assigned role (and they may even be).
  • Sometimes people jump in to help meet a deadline, judging that more hands are needed on task (and they may even be).

The Result

But where supervising pre-empts doing, the schedule falls apart as those tasked with both roles miss their deadlines for deliverables.

Conversely, where doing pre-empts supervising, other team members flounder:

  • Needed decisions aren’t taken, aren’t taken in a timely way, or aren’t taken with sufficient thought.
  • Reviews are skimped or missed altogether, reducing the quality of the work.
  • Performance issues with proposal team members aren’t addressed, damaging morale and productivity all round.
  • Control mechanisms break down, leading to version and consistency problems.

The Fix

Proposal success demands a staffing plan that provides enough qualified doers (solution developers, writers, editors, formatters, costers) and enough qualified supervisors, as well as the discipline not to muddle the assigned roles.

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