Better RFP Responses & Management
How to Foster Teamwork: Rule #6

How to Foster Teamwork: Rule #6

Meet out in the open.
Rhys Newman and Luke Johnson

Shared secrets instill a sense of us-and-them like nobody’s business: ask any grade-school kids giggling together on the playground.  But like the Force in Star Wars, that sense has both a good side and a dark side to it in Proposal Land.

The Good Side of the Force

Proposals demand exceptional effort: an effort that is often fueled by a sense of belonging to the team.  A sense of being in on things helps to build that cohesion. (A little trash-talking of the competition doesn’t hurt either!)

Actually being in on things – the strategy, solution/plan for doing the work, sales themes – helps to build coherence in the response and helps people align their efforts more easily, without even being aware of it.

The Dark Side

Meetings behind closed doors, by contrast, fairly shriek that there is information you’re not privy to, and maybe can’t be trusted with.  The former builds insecurity; the latter, resentment.  Neither feeling motivates people to do their best or to make that extra effort.

Rules for Meetings

Newman and Johnson suggest just one rule: “Meet in the open.”  I’d add just one caveat: “. . . as the default.”

From my experience, there are exceptions that warrant a closed-door meeting:

  • When discussing information that is so competitively sensitive that it must be closely held: pricing and mark-up discussions fall into this category.  Costing discussions, by contrast, should be open – someone might know of a cheaper way to acquire some needed good or service.
  • When discussing information that is personnel sensitive; for example:
    • Candidates for positions after contract award
    • Performance problems on the proposal team itself

Otherwise, daily stand-ups (status checks involving the whole team) and meetings held in open areas build both the sense of belonging and the common understanding that are essential for success.


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.”