Issue 14 - Good Practice v Best Practice

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What does good practice or best practice mean to you? This was the question I posed to the BQ panel of global experts and guest writers for this issue. It’s a question I have grappled with for many years and yet, having read the 19 brilliant contributions that make up BQ14, I’m left with more unanswered questions than the one I started with.

When you think of best practice, do you think of a tried and tested process? Is it a set of standards everyone in your business or profession adheres to? Is it a system, a set of guidelines, or maybe the application of specific skills? Perhaps it is an external benchmark such as the Shipley Guide or the APMP Body of Knowledge? Is best practice something you observe, aspire to, or envy in your competition? Our authors raise (and answer) these questions, and many more.

If I can encourage you to read any BQ edition from cover to cover, this is the one.

Jon Darby makes a strong case for why the British Standard being funded and developed by APMP UK will positively change the bidding landscape. The standard may eventually be adopted globally – will this become your ultimate standard and best practice?

Rick Harris talks passionately in his article about the importance of research in the process of developing standards and best practice.

Nigel Dennis’s brilliant article introduces ‘Maximum Possible Product’ as one form of best practice and emphasises how the right behaviours must be front and centre of any approach.

Holger Garden talks about the essential ingredients for creating an ‘impact’ with your proposal writing, something our BQ procurement specialist Beth Wallace confirms is often the differentiator when selecting the winning bid. Beth’s own article explains that best practice can be as simple as saying no, and why she respects organisations more for not wasting her time.

Even international dictionaries don’t agree on an official definition of best practice. Rita Mascia introduces her concept of ‘next practice’ – turning the status quo on its head.

One common theme running through this edition is the level of constraint people feel standards and best practice impose on them. Some feel almost suffocated by them and believe they are the nemesis of creative thinking. Pippa Birch’s fantastic article talks about the challenges of adopting ‘accepted’ best practice in smaller companies with limited resources and how you can be successful by actively escaping its shackles.

Many successful salespeople I’ve worked with don’t follow a specific standard, process, or set of guidelines. The best I’ve worked with often struggle to update their pipeline on Salesforce. So is best practice about adapting to our clients’ needs and ultimately solving their problems? Will having a set of best practices and standards in bidding endear us to our sales colleagues (our most important customer in my opinion) or ultimately just create more of a ‘them’ and ‘us’ culture? Joe Riley’s article highlights the importance of ‘strategic capture’ as part of the bidding process.

Best practice typically requires everyone involved to perform at a 100% – any weak link or overworked person will dilute the outcome. Carl Dickson superbly points out how ‘proposal friction’ will result if the team doesn’t share the same goals or priorities regardless of process or standards. This is echoed by Chris Kaelin who emphasises the importance of assigned roles within every team.

Perhaps your organisation (and maybe even you) only ever follows ‘good practice’? Why expend extra effort when good is good enough? Jon Williams talks about the evolution of our profession, how we have reached ‘Bids 2.0’, but also about how our journey is far from done.

The secondary theme of this issue is “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. I ask every new client for an example of ‘The Good’ – a proposal they are really proud of and which showcases their approach to winning business. Then I ask for an example of ‘The ‘Bad’ – a proposal that was so poor it should never have left the building. Finally I ask for an example of ‘The Ugly’ – proposals which, in my experience, make up the largest share of an organisation’s responses. They are frequently the last-minute ones where something, anything, has to be submitted to the client. I know all of you will have experience of working on good, bad, and ugly deals, as related in articles by Alison Zalecki, Nora Navin and Mike Reader.

With finite bid team resources, it’s impossible to apply best practice to every deal. How do you decide which deals receive the best practice approach, versus those where perhaps ‘good practice’ is good enough? Hence, when do you roll the dice? The ‘when’ could easily be substituted with ‘how’ or ‘if’, and of course there is a big question about ‘who’ has responsibility for rolling them. Andy Haigh and Anna Maysey-Wells address these questions in their articles.

Standards and best practice feel like an obsession across our profession right now. The exponential growth of our profession in the past five years is testament to the strategic importance companies now place on bid and proposal management. Ceri Mescall rightly points out that each one of us has a part to play in evolving our profession. Tony Birch – one of the world’s leading authorities on best practice and standards in bidding – offers 20 brilliant approaches you can put into practice today.

However, what we think about good or best practice should always be secondary to what the recipients of our proposals think of our work. Mike Parkinson explains how client biases and preconceptions about us can be successfully overcome.

For me, best practice in bidding is often as simple as following a common sense approach. It is always implied that best practice standards will lead to improved performance, but where is the independent research?

Ultimately, everyone has their own beliefs about what best practice is or should be – as demonstrated in this issue of BQ. Which articles align with your beliefs? Which articles make you question what you thought you knew about best practice? Please do let me know your thoughts.

In this issue

  • It’s About Time Bidding Had Standards

    Jon Darby

    Jon Darby explains the need for a global, consensus-based standard for our profession. He details how the goal of creating a British Standard (BS) that has potential for international acceptance will be achieved. Jon has more than 25 years of UK and international bid and capture experience.

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  • Bids versus Procurement: A Gunfight Worth Winning?

    Beth Wallace

    Beth Wallace offers a valued perspective as BQ’s procurement specialist. She delves into differentiators, why you should include Procurement in your bid process and when ‘no’ may be the best answer to an opportunity. Beth’s extensive experience in negotiation and supplier relationship management spans a wide range of service sectors.

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  • Best Practice Defined (Because We Need to Be Reminded)

    Rick Harris

    Rick Harris explains why procedure, research and experience are the key components of best practice. He discusses why verifiable research is vital and explains how best practice without research is just an opinion. Rick is CEO of APMP and has more than 32 years’ experience in our profession.

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  • The Rise and Democratisation of Leading Practices

    Ceri Mescall

    Ceri Mescall presents examples of how to access leading practices through content, community, and coaching and mentoring – wherever you are in the world – and highlights how we can all help to improve our profession. Ceri has more than 15 years’ experience in the UK, Canada, the US and Asia-Pacific regions.

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  • True Bidding Professionals are Stackers, Not Rollers

    Nigel Dennis

    For Nigel Dennis, the client is the arbiter of our efforts. He introduces the Maximum Possible Product (MPP) concept and explains how this can stack the dice in your favour. Nigel founded the APMP Australia New Zealand chapter and has more than 30 years’ experience in our profession.

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  • Best Practice or Dare to Be Different!

    Rita Mascia

    Rita Mascia explores ‘next practice’ as an alternative to best practice. She explains how strict adherence to process can obscure differentiators and suggests innovative ways to shift focus from ‘how to win’ to ‘how not to lose’. Rita’s expertise includes business development, capture, bid management, bid writing, and contract negotiations.

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  • Best Practice: Sculpting the Written Word

    Holger Garden

    Holger Garden focuses on the clear, concise use of informative (rather than empty) words in bids. His ‘impact equation’ offers seven tips to chisel your writing to ensure easy readability and understanding. Holger is an experienced bid manager and writer, as well as a personal and team performance coach.

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  • Changing the Status Quo

    Carl Dickson

    Carl Dickson recommends five approaches to go beyond the proposal management status quo and suggests ways to replace red team reviews with more meaningful quality assessments. Carl founded and PropLIBRARY to help organisations capture contracts and win proposals. He works as a proposal consultant, professional speaker and corporate trainer.

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  • Here is the Dilemma

    Andy Haigh

    Andy Haigh addresses the perils of reusing high scoring bid content (even when your client tells you to) and offers good, bad and ugly solutions to this problem. Andy is a bidding and tendering expert in commercial and public sector projects and an advisor to local authorities and government departments.

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  • ‘We Have a Process in Place!’

    Chris Kaelin

    Chris Kaelin emphasises how defining individual roles in the bid team must support established processes to ensure flexibility and adaptability – and how proper training provides the necessary skills for success. Chris is a global authority on bid and proposal management and an expert in process improvement and benchmarking.

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  • Automatic Winning

    Mike Parkinson

    Mike Parkinson focuses on how the ‘automatic brain’ of evaluators, reviewers and decision makers can create expectations – and how these can form biases and preconceptions about companies and the proposals they submit. Mike is an APMP Fellow specialising in process development and improvement, and training, marketing and visual communication.

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  • The Dreaded Question – Musings on Meaning

    Anna Maysey-Wells

    Anna Maysey-Wells focuses on the difficulty of providing a definitive example of best practice when asked. She explains how best practice itself is subjective and can’t be narrowed to a single standard. Anna is an experienced Senior Bids and Operations Manager specialising in legal professional services.

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  • Good is the New Normal

    Jon Williams

    Jon Williams reflects on the journey of our profession beyond ‘good’, highlighting a range of improvements, and discusses how bid team influence at the top table will help best practice continue to evolve. Jon is an award-winning leader in the proposals profession who has worked in more than 35 countries.

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  • Best Practice Ideas That You Can Put Into Practice Today

    Tony Birch

    Tony Birch lists 20 ideas which can influence the evaluator’s reaction to your submission. These include how to ensure you meet client requirements and facilitate easy evaluation. Tony is the founder and current Chairman of Shipley Limited in the UK and is an APMP Fellow.

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  • There is More Than One Way to Shoe a Horse…

    Pippa Birch

    Pippa Birch highlights the difficulties of smaller companies applying accepted best practice standards. She explains the importance of tailoring best practice to each company’s own successful methods, particularly in the UK market. Pippa has more than 20 years’ experience and is the founder of Pipster Solutions.

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  • Everyone Makes Mistakes

    Mike Reader

    Mike Reader notes how clients can sometimes make perceived mistakes in assessing our submissions. He explores how luck factors into bidding success, whether the submission is good, bad or ugly. Mike leads a specialist team at Mace who work across all continents pursuing mega built environment and infrastructure projects.

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  • Is There a ‘Good’, ‘Bad’ or ‘Ugly’ Method to Bidding, or Just a Difference in Focus?

    Alison Zalecki

    Alison Zalecki explores the differences between in-house bidding teams and outsourced freelancers/consultants. She compares various processes and lists the top three ways to improve them. Alison has been a bid specialist since 2009, successfully leading deals from £50k to over £1b across both public and private sectors.

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  • Creating Fertile Soil for Your “Eureka! Eureka!” Moment

    Joe Riley

    Joe Riley writes about how best practice determines best thinking. He offers two examples of “Eureka!” inspiring best practices to help companies outthink and adapt better than their rivals in a forever evolving market. Joe has worked in capture leadership, client engagement management and team building for over a decade.

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  • Can We Eliminate the Bad and the Ugly?

    Nora Navin

    Nora Navin shines a light on the use of technology (specifically pitch automation software) to increase submission quality. She encompasses the creation and use of approved pitch materials, improved templates, and the ways automation can decrease training time and increase productivity. Nora has extensive experience leading pitch and proposal teams.

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