Andy Haigh, Director, and Consultant at Sixfold explores what motivates a bid team to go the extra mile:
As a Bid Director, I have been interested for a long time in what it is that motivates bid team members to work extended hours (sometimes 24 hours and longer without a break). Despite being under high pressure they perform willingly, enthusiastically and usually for no financial reward above their normal salary. Of course this does not occur in every case, however as any Bid Manager knows, it happens surprisingly often. It can be accompanied by some grumbling about the poor performance of others who have created the “situation” – but it is usually not as a result of poor performance on their own part. It seems that the individual feels that he or she has a personal responsibility to put the situation right and get the bid completed, no matter what level of effort is needed from them.
Representatives of partner and sub-contractor companies, seconded into the bid team, can show this characteristic as well. They will “go the extra mile” to make sure their element of the bid response is as good as they can get it. Their contribution will often contrast with the minimalist response of some staff within your own company who are required to provide bid text (because of their specialist role, e.g. HR, Legal or Quality Management) but who do not feel part of the core bid team.
Take any of these extraordinary people away from the bid and they can revert to type. They will frequently go back to giving an adequate performance in their day-job, but will not shine. So what is it in this stressful bidding environment that motivates them to give exceptional levels of contribution? What can we learn from this which might be harnessed to increase productivity across other environments?
I don’t have all the answers. Nevertheless, I have uncovered some pointers which seem to underlie the boost in personal engagement levels a bid situation brings out.
How the Bid Management Process Boosts Engagement
A bid has a very clear deliverable, both in content and in quality. One without the other will cause the bid to be lost and the entire team effort wasted. So, members of the bid team usually have a clear understanding of the top level objectives they must respond to from the outset.
This clarity of contribution required and the knowledge that the individual’s bid content really matters seems to generate a high level of individual engagement. Perhaps, if we can provide such clear direction and precision in the value of their contribution to a bid, it ought to create the same motivation if used elsewhere?
A bid has a real (and usually short) deadline. Miss the deadline and you have thrown away all the bid work that has been done. Everyone understands that there is little chance of any extension of the time to respond and so makes personal plans accordingly.
Of course, we are all used to working to deadlines and we know that setting deadlines can improve productivity. All too often, however, we also know if the timescales are not met, we will get away with it. We can use an excuse that something else was more important and our experience tells us that it will be accepted by our peers and superiors. In the bid room, knowing that missing the deadline will be a disaster for everyone, can provide the impetus we all need, particularly as the bid deadline approaches.
Nevertheless, I believe that deadlines should only be set if they are truly deadlines. If we set deadlines arbitrarily or without giving the justification for them, the motivation deadlines can create is diminished. So perhaps more contribution will be achieved by stating and explaining deadlines and then not allowing them to be missed? Moreover, if we set artificial deadlines we will be found out. Then, the value of us setting the next deadline will be greatly diminished.
Only one bid from the various competing companies will result in a contract. Every element of each bid will be contrasted against the other bids and the best overall submission will be selected by the evaluators. This means that the bid team is not being measured internally within the business; it is being measured against the best “out there”.
For some people, being the best is important and winning the bid proves they are the best. I believe that if, through the bid development we can give people the opportunity and the support to prove that they “are the best”, we will improve their motivation and commitment. I think that for some people, this ability to prove themselves is what drives them to become involved in more bids so that they can repeat the demonstration. If we can tap into this motivation, an enhanced contribution must surely follow?
Part of the Team
In the final hours before a bid is handed over to the courier or is uploaded on to some secure web site the pace can become frantic and everyone “mucks in” to do whatever is needed to get the submission completed. When it is all over, there is a real sense of “team” and tired elation. This bonding can continue as enhanced relationships long after the particular bid activity is finished.
Teams formed at short notice to tackle difficult problems can bring out the best in some (but not all) people. I think if we want more from our employees we should identify the ones who are motivated by the challenge and weigh the advantages of task-orientated teams over function orientation more carefully.
Of course, many people cannot be placed in the environment a bid team creates and nor would they want to be. However, I have seen exceptional performances from otherwise average individuals so many times when they have been in a bid team, there has got to be something special going on.
For a business getting the bulk of its work from the Public Sector, it has to have a successful bid team. For the team to be successful, overall levels of contribution must be high. This will be achieved if the best people in the business are on the team. Then the amount of business won will improve and the recognition this brings the team will elevate the status of everyone in the team.
As this happens, two other things will occur:
- A culture of excellence and high contribution will emerge within the bid team
- Other people in the company will aspire to join the bid team
If you get it right, this will then become self-reinforcing and your win rate will soar.
However, there is one clear danger: if left unchecked some people will become so immersed in striving for more and better bid results that they can “burn out” and everyone loses.
If you can start to generate the culture of a successful bid organisation in your business on the back of your next big win, our recommendation is to invest in keeping and increasing the momentum you have generated. The rewards can be spectacular. However, you need to rein back a little from time to time to keep these special people at the top of their game.
Is this only applicable to bid teams? No, I don’t think so. I think it will work anywhere where there is a clear combination of an expert team and complex tasks. However, nowhere else in a business is this so starkly presented as in the bid room.
Author: Andy Haigh PPM APMP Director and Public Sector Bid Consultant, Sixfold International Ltd
We believe that Public Sector bid success comes from both the bid team members and the environment they are in. If you would like to discuss improving your bidding team’s effectiveness, please contact us on 020 8158 3952 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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