Proposal Land

Term: Services Contracting

The process of procuring services, with or without the provision of equipment, tools, and systems required to deliver said services.

Usually distinguished from acquisition contracting (which is the process of buying stuff, from office furniture to frigates, whether off-the-shelf or built to order) in requiring much lower levels of capital investment.

In the project management world of cost, schedule, and performance, schedule is less relevant in services contracting with these management exceptions:

  • start-ups (for newly provided services)
  • transitions (for services being transferred from an incumbent or a client’s in-house group).

A Different Sort of Teamwork

As each technical writer submitted their final versions of their assigned sections, they peeled off homeward, wherever home was. Without a backward glance, I have to say.


The core team — the proposal manager, me as editor, the production staff, the coster/pricer — stayed put. I can’t speak for the others, but I watched in some resentment as the writers left. Not one asked if they could help with any of the remaining work. If it would help if they delayed their departure by just a few days.

Work and personal boundaries are good. Not interfering in other people’s responsibility areas is good. Abandoning ship feels bad, at least on the abandonee side.

In truth, I wouldn’t have wanted all of them to stay. But there were a few who could actually have been a help with the final push.

In Seth’s terms, the issue is distinguishing task from initiative work.

But in many pockets of our economy, the new jobs and the best jobs aren’t task jobs. They are jobs of initiative. Work that’s taken, not simply assigned. Work that can’t be easily forecast, and work that thrives with a different sort of teamwork.

These jobs often have a lot of task work mixed in, which is really confusing for everyone involved. Because reverting to task work feels safe and hiring for task work is easier. Apparently, people are supposed to learn how to do initiative work on their own and do it in their spare time.

Proposals need task-oriented fiends. They also need folks who will step up, lean in, and take the initiative, whether that means helping with sections outside their technical specialty or staying a few days past the first date at which they can possibly bolt.

On your next proposal, take a look around (physically or virtually) on the weekend before a Monday submission, or at 9 PM before an any-day-of-the-week submission. The people who are there when they don’t strictly need to be — whether it’s doing work for which they’re over-qualified, or completing tasks that don’t fit neatly under one technical discipline, or being available to answer after-hours emergency questions, or providing management top cover or extra hands on deck just in case of an in-case-of — those are the people who “get” initiative in this environment. Hang onto them, and use them to model the behaviour you want from everyone.

And say, “Thank you.” Because proposals need a different sort of teamwork.


Show & Tell

Writers are often enjoined to “show” not to “tell.” I often enjoined proposal writers to do both: Make it easy to “see” or grok your point, but don’t hesitate to also make it explicit in words. That was a result of being smacked up-the-head by marketers on Red Teams, insisting that all points be hammered home.

Checking in for a flight recently (remember flying?), I encountered a new-to-me user interface. One aspect addressed a complaint I’ve long had about airline communication around what’s OK to pack or to carry onto an airplane: A communication approach that requires way too much of the reader, IMO. Here’s the latest approach, at least in Canada.



Drat! Now I have to remember not to pack my avalanche-rescue pack. Anyway, I know this approach takes up valuable real estate in a page-limited proposal, but it’s worth using selectively.

Another aspect offered me a visual summary of my upcoming airport experience: What should/would happen when.  Nice, eh?


Now, this would have been more effective if it didn’t contradict instructions/information already given in text about how early to arrive at the airport during COVID-19 (2 hours before the flight, not 1.5 hours), or the departure time (now 7:15, not 7:00).

So that’s the last thing to remember: Keep your words and visuals consistent.



Life-long Learning

On my last, last-ever proposal, I learned how to use Mural, Loom, and Microsoft’s snipping tool. With no ongoing need to herd cats, I’ll probably never use Mural again, but Loom has other possible applications, and I’ve already been snipping up a storm.

Learning new things is a benefit that at least partially offsets the cost of working with other people. In an ideal world, employers would formalize or at least foster this process. In the world we’re in, each of us can consciously seek out new skills when we’re in unavoidable groups.

I mean, snipping: Too cool.

Seth and Me

Yup.  We’re like that <<insert image of two side-by-each fingers>>.

Seth:  Write Something.

Then improve it.
Then write something else.
Repeat this process until you have a post.
Then post it.
Then repeat this process.
There’s no such thing as writer’s block. There’s simply a fear of bad writing. Do enough bad writing and some good writing is bound to show up.
And along the way, you will clarify your thinking and strengthen your point of view.
But it begins by simply writing something.

Me: Buddy & Me – I have writer’s block.

Introducing Buddy & Me