Better RFP Responses & Management
How to Foster Teamwork: Rule #2

How to Foster Teamwork: Rule #2

“Be optimistic, embrace failure, and laugh more.”
Rhys Newman and Luke Johnson

Be Optimistic

No one actually likes losing, but people who work on RFP responses really hate it.  Proposal people tend to be competitive, task-oriented, and hard workers, so losing really bites. Given their personalities and the time pressure they’re under, team members can easily go negative:

  • Impatient with delays
  • Accusatory about the deficiencies of others’ contributions
  • Defensive about their own contributions

Being optimistic is key to preventing these dysfunctional responses and to getting the best out of the team.

Embrace Failure

There just isn’t time for anyone to perfect their own work on a proposal.  Success requires using joint reviews before anyone is truly ready to expose their work to others,  and improving the solution, the written document, and the costing through successive iterations.

“Fail fast.”
Various attributions

Embracing failure may seem counter-productive, but it’s failure in the sense of getting on with figuring out what will work.

Laugh More

Laughter defuses tension in an environment with altogether too much tension.

Laughter connects people in an environment where they can easily feel isolated.

Laughter reminds us that there is more to life than work, and more to work than misery.

Encouraging laughter fosters teamwork.



RFP responses are schedule-driven projects that require a strict project management discipline. Right? Partly right. In proposal terminology, I’d call that answer incomplete. RFP responses are projects, sure, but they’re also team efforts. I’ve recently been learning how much design teams are like proposal teams.

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.”