How to Foster Teamwork: Rule #8

Invert everything. (See the world through the client’s/user’s eyes.)
Rhys Newman and Luke Johnson

Seeing the world, or, at least, our service or product through the client’s/user’s eyes is obviously good for design, helping us give them what they want, not what we think they need.  That applies to proposal teams, too, which are (whether they realize it or not) designing a solution for the client and the eventual users.

But why is it good for proposal teamwork?

General Rules of Teamwork

Most teams go through standard stages, neatly if somewhat cutely named as follows:

  • Forming – coming together
  • Storming – fighting for power and over differences of opinion, style, and values
  • Norming – agreeing, at least implicitly, on how the team will function
  • Performing – doing the work assigned

How It Works on Proposal Teams

Limited by the hard deadline, proposal teams must go straight from forming to performing – but conflict doesn’t disappear magically just because the team is on the clock.  Instead, it emerges in other ways:

  • Interpersonal conflicts, as unacknowledged issues fuel snippiness
  • Professional conflicts, as undoubted experts dig in their heels on their approach/solution

How It Can Work Better

An external focus – trying to see our proposed solution through the client’s/user’s eyes – fosters proposal teamwork in two ways:

  • By fostering an overarching us/them mentality, increasing team cohesion and derailing the natural impulse to splinter into small, like-minded, and ultimately ineffective sub-groups
  • By establishing an objective and blessedly impersonal norm for resolving disagreements; to wit, “How would the client/user see this?”

 



Proposals are schedule-driven projects that require a strict project management discipline. Right? Partly right. In proposal terminology, I’d call that answer incomplete.  Proposals are projects, for sure, but they’re also the output of teamwork. I’ve recently been learning how much the design business has in common with proposals.

This post is one of a series on proposal teamwork, inspired by a fabulous article on Medium on design teams:
“No Dickheads! A Guide to Building Happy, Healthy, and Creative Teams.”

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