Proposal Land

Don’t Apologize: Fix It

Today, Seth’s Blog talks about the gig of Chief Apology Officer. (To be clear for Canadians, he wasn’t referring to our current Prime Minister.) Their job, he says, is “to mollify critics and disappointed customers” without having their hands on any of the organizational levers, strategic or operational, that would enable change.

Most companies I’ve seen in Proposal Land have an informal Chief Apology Officer. There’s often an executive who sympathizes with undeniably overworked employees but who does nothing to correct the company’s actions and decisions that led to that overwork:

  • Assigning too few people, or too few capable people
  • Participating in too many simultaneous or back-to-back proposals
  • Failing to prepare (data gathering and resource development) either between proposals or using other staff
  • Failing to commit in a timely way, leading to key decisions being made way late to need, driving both re-work and last-minute work
  • Using processes that see executive input arrive too near the submission deadline

Executives often focus on what they see as the outcome: Did we win? And if they didn’t win: What feedback can we get from the client?

Fair enough: That matters. Insulation from market feedback is a recipe for quick disaster. But to Seth’s point, the insulation of proposal processes from any kind of feedback loop from workers is also a recipe for disaster: a slow-moving one, maybe, but just as sure.

By insulating the industrial [Ed: or proposal] system
from the feedback loop that would improve it,
these organizations doom themselves to a slow fade.

This time, Buddy, it’s OK to say you’re sorry. Next time, you’d better fix it.


Better Signs #1


Due to the requirements of the International Ship and Port Security Code (ISPS Code), access to pedestrians and vehicles may be restricted while cruise ships are berthing, moored alongside, and unberthing at Cobh Cruise Terminal.  We apologize for inconvenience caused.  Thank-you for your cooperation and understanding.

A modest Proposal

Stay Out

No Pedestrians Allowed                             No Vehicles Allowed

For safety and security reasons,
we restrict access when cruise ships are here.

Posted by: Authority responsible for Cobh Cruise Terminal
In compliance with: International Ship and Port Security Code

Want to report a violation? Call 999.
Have a question?  Call Joe at 27.374.9207


Don’t thank people for their cooperation and understanding when it’s their compliance that you require.

Don’t apologize for causing inconvenience when you have a legal obligation to prevent unsafe/insecure behaviour.

Don’t beat around the bush: not on signs for people with varying and unknown reading skills, and not in RFPs. Clarity trumps politesse. First, get the behaviour you require, then explain, justify, and/or play nice-nice as seems reasonable/politic in the circumstances. But first, get the behaviour.


Term: Out of Scope

Refers to products or services not in the Work, usually because the client is retaining it, or another contractor is responsible for it.

Useful primarily for identifying products and services that you might reasonably have assumed would be part of this Work, based on industry norms. Knowing you don’t have to do it allows you to reduce your price; conversely, not realizing something is out of scope drives your price up, making you less competitive.

See scope of work and scope creep.

One Genius Tip

Ready for the one genius tip
that will make you a better winter driver?
Here it is:
Look where you want to go.

This Popular Mechanics article goes on to explain why we drive into the very thing we want to avoid: the thing we’re staring at. Apparently this phenomenon even has a name: target fixation.

The road tests to get your motorcycle license in the United States requires that you make tight, low-speed turns without touching your foot on the ground. In my group, the people who passed this portion of the test did what the instructors said: point your chin in the desired direction, and look a couple seconds into the future. The students who watched their front wheel and tried to avoid the closest cone didn’t pass.

In Proposal Land, keep your focus on the deadline. Look a few days or weeks or months into the future instead of the few seconds that applies in cars and motorcycles, and you will automatically adjust your standards, expectations, and priorities so that you make it. Well, maybe not quite automatically, but at least you won’t be staring at the snake/pit/snake-pit at your feet.

Excerpt: Buddy & Me - scheduling


Your Choice

Leadership is a choice: It’s such an odd thing to say.
The benefit of the doubt is withheld from many of us, options are unevenly distributed, and indoctrination is real.
And yet… no matter where we begin, we each get the choice, every day, to choose to lead.

Today Seth is selling courses as well as making a valid point: We can all lead.

It’s tragic that the brainwashing runs so deep that we’ve hidden that choice from many people. But it’s there, in areas big and small.
The world is changing faster than it ever has before, and we can choose to lead those changes or simply follow them.

In Proposal Land, we can choose:

  • To learn and use new apps, new techniques
  • To communicate openly
  • To be cheery, even when we’re tired
  • To speak up when we think the consensus is wrong
  • To respect someone else’s dissent when they think we’re wrong
  • To appreciate others’ contributions generously
  • To look for our point of maximum leverage
  • To accept imperfection
  • To work hard but not stupidly so

Or we can choose to follow the existing path in our organizations, whatever it is.

We can all lead. By example if not by fiat. No matter where we begin.