A Man Walks into a Bar: Riff #10

A malapropism walks into a bar,
looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing,
muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other,
who takes him for granite.

Like the person I my-own-self heard refer to “the cold face” (vice “the coal face,” meaning “at the point of the (hard) work”), many of us know words and expressions that we’ve only ever heard, never read, and that we can scramble ever so slightly as a result.

Add that to the ever-so-helpful auto-completions from word-processing software and, for all intensive purposes, you can generate malapropisms that spelling check will never find.

Never take a good copy editor for granite, but do stand well back if they start muttering epitaphs.

The Class of the League

If there were league tables of culture, Britain would be mid table at best when it comes to philosophy, music, literature, art, physics and chemistry. But it is the Man U or Liverpool of biology and always has been: the circulation of the blood, evolution by natural selection, the structure of DNA, genome sequencing, in-vitro fertilisation, DNA fingerprinting, cloning: the list is extraordinary for a country with 1 per cent of the world’s population. Go Bio-Britain.

– Matt Ridley, Bio-Britain is leading the world in Covid science

OK, British references. “League tables” are rankings of something, from football leagues to universities. But you likely got the point without me ‘splaining. In Matt Ridley’s view, Britain is only OK at philosophy, music, literature, art, physics and chemistry, but it’s extraordinary — the class of the league — at the biological sciences and the technology arising therefrom.

Maybe we personally aren’t extraordinary at anything. Maybe we corporately aren’t either. But we all at least have something we do better than anything else, if not than anyone else.

Find that thing, articulate it, use it to choose business opportunities, make a note of examples of it in your day-to-day operations, write about it in your proposals. In the short term, play to your strengths.

And in the long term? Get better at that thing and maybe one day you *will* be better at that thing than anyone else is. Maybe one day you’ll be extraordinary.

Go You.


HBR and Me

We’re like that. (Here, imagine a forefinger and middle finger held together and held up.)

We’re on the same wavelength. We’re like totally totally in sync/synch.  There’s no daylight between us.

Well, no, but the Harvard Business Review and I do agree on the importance of systems to your productivity, even, if I may say so, to your very survival in Proposal Land. So let’s look at their recommendations for improving productivity at the systems level.

Tier your huddles. In Proposal Land this means having stand-ups with the whole team, operations-concept planning sessions with just the technical experts, and pricing-strategy sessions with the proposal manager, coster(s), and executives.

Make work visible. In Proposal Land this means using flipchart paper on the wall, initially for the schedule, later for the selling themes, and later still for tracking the status of sections.

Define the “bat signal.” In Proposal Land this means giving people guidance about which medium to use for which communication. I can’t say it any better than HBR did (go figure), so it’s worth checking out. I used to hate getting an email invitation to a critical meeting that I only saw hours after said meeting because I had my head down working to some deadline (again, go figure). If it’s time-critical, pick up the phone or swing by my desk, dagnab it.

Align responsibility with authority. OMG yes. Don’t make the production lead get every formatting decision vetted by a senior manager who’s never actually done that work. Don’t hobble the proposal manager with having to get every decision about how the work will be done approved by a team of executives. Will your team make some mistakes? Sure. Will they, even more frequently, just do things differently than you would? Yes. Give them your objectives and constraints, and then let the people charged with a task actually do it.