Creative bid writing and project management tips

When managing a project you have all things planned. I hope. When writing a bid you have nothing. All is to be planned. More you can re-use of what you already have the better. But the temporary and one time nature of a project makes it really hard to use anything but the frame from your previous one. Topic changes, customers change, people change. You change.

Project managing is pretty simple. You just got to get the things done. There is no escaping, no hiding and no excuses. If it does not proceed it is up to you as project manager. And I am thinking project manager as an implicit role, even if you are not by title project manager, it means getting your task accomplished in time, as it was meant to be and with the resources that you have at hand. It is effective by definition.

Writing bids and project proposals is creative work. You get to plan and design a project, if that is what you are selling, to a customer who trusts you on that you are delivering. That is if a contract is made and you get the assignment. In bid writing the creative part combined to the methodology part and perhaps, hopefully, some lessons learned from previous projects, will get you half the way. Then it is about collecting information, feedback and negotiating the scope with the customer, product managers and top level executives. It is creative work by definition.

Now combine the effective with the creative. Busy daily tasks and meetings. Calls and writing, proofreading, correcting, finetuning. The creative and effective together are like driving a convertible in rain. You get wet all the time, but it feels great. The creative atmosphere is there, a distraction that leads to dissonance in the mindset of doing new things that will break the boundaries.

My best advice is to combine tight schedules with good ambiance. To dream up the next plan try going to a coffee shop and write there for 45 minutes. During that time 1) first drink your double-espresso 2) then write like crazy – put it all down 3) and get out when the timer says so. Not longer than what you planned for, because a deadline is a deadline. And do not spoil anything by editing, proofreading or tinkering with details.

Then go to a more formal office setting. A lobby of a big company will do. Or rent a conference meeting room to get in a proper corporate mood. See in the new context what did you write and consider critically was that even close to boardroom credible presentation? Edit with language checking and get rid of typos. Rethink to make business sense, rational and clear thinking when wearing a suit and tie. Simple, but disruptive. Business as usual but growth oriented. Risky but doable with the right team and proper resources.

Then go and talk with the engineers and designers. Explain what you need to get delivered to customer. See if they buy it – or laugh you out. When they nod you are safe, when they laugh, ask questions, interview and aim to understand the techinical dependencies better.

And last but not least, make it visual and iterate. Ask for more feedback from marketing, engineers and sales. And did I mention talking to your customers? If not, now is the right time.

Like this you have at least 3 dimensional view to the proposal that you are writing. It is not your opinion, not that of the customer, not even that of your boss. This will improve the proposal. And each time you do this iteration over again the better it gets. And closer you get to reaching your target: get the new project started.