Proposal management is a subset of project management, with that classic triangle whose three corners represent these aspects:

  • Cost
  • Schedule
  • Performance

Push on any corner and the other two move, yeah?  In Proposal Land, the immovable corner is schedule. Everything is affected by having to meet a hard deadline.  In that environment, it’s easy for costs to escalate and standards to slide.  The management task is to prevent that — to control cost and to maintain standards — while holding to schedule.

Managing the proposal team

It’s not enough to manage just the pursuit — the sales activity — and the production work.  Between those two ends of the process, there’s a whack of work to be done to develop a solution tailored for the client and then to create a compliant, compelling, and on-time proposal, and it takes all the management skill available.  And then some.  Start by looking at the tasks to be completed.

Then consider that the management structures and implicit understandings that get most of us through a work day aren’t usually in place for a proposal team, and must be developed and communicated:

  • Organizational structure
  • Responsibilities
  • Work hours
  • Workflow
  • Group norms

Managing submission mandatories


Managing the writers or managing a volume


Managing the subcontractors


Managing the graphics


Managing the proposal schedule

Every RFP sets its own response schedule, but six weeks isn’t unusual for a large but not humongous government contract, so there’s a sample six-week schedule here.  Go ahead and make it your own.

And a final check . . .

On a six-week proposal, how will you know you’re in schedule trouble?

At this time… You’re in trouble if….
When the RFP is issued
  • You don’t have a clear idea of the scope of work
  • You don’t know if you need partners, or you know you need them but you don’t have them
  • You can’t find enough of the right kind of people to work on the proposal
  • You’ve never done this before
At the end of week 2
  • You need partners but don’t have them
  • You don’t have detailed writing outlines
  • You don’t have executive approval for your plan
At the end of week 4
  • You haven’t seen something written under every major heading
  • People are still arguing over how to do the work
  • The organization chart isn’t clear
  • Production details are still being discussed (binders, tabs, formatting)
  • People are putting in more hours and working through both Saturday & Sunday
At the end of week 5
  • Some sections are really badly written
  • There are major disagreements between sections
  • The business risks come as a surprise to the executives
  • The executives want to revise your plan of operations or change your organization chart
  • You don’t have a day free for management reserve in the upcoming final week