In today’s “challenged” business development environment, it is more important than ever to have a structured approach to the capture process. I’ve always been fascinated by how a strong team can rise to be greater than the sum of its parts. Such teams are built with forethought. They are crafted.
There is an art and a craft in all our activities. ‘Art’ as used here is associated with talent, the sort of thing some believe is given out at birth; you either have it or you don’t. Consequently, many believe we are trapped at a given talent level. Malcolm Gladwell, however, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success pointed out that much of what we think is exceptional in others is a function of circumstance, training and effort. (Gladwell first advanced the idea that 10,000 hours of effort on any task will lead to success.)
Craft, in contrast, refers to concrete, systematic actions and metrics. Craft is teachable. More importantly, learning our craft is how we rise above our perceived talent limitations.
Consider an example. The date of a request for proposal (RFP) is a cornerstone for a series of downstream activities: briefings, meetings and a suite of coordinated proposal development and review activities. The RFP date is also a reference point for a series of upstream activities. For example, teaming plans, which in turn should have been articulated in earlier briefings, which should have been based upon analysis of the anticipated players and so on.
It’s possible to almost draw up a Gantt chart, referenced against the RFP date, of what needs to be done and where we should be in the pursuit. All without drawing upon the magical ‘art’ side of the house. Similar systems approaches can also be applied to other elements of business pursuit, for example, deciding what questions need to be answered and what our strategy is for answering these questions.
These activities can be standardized and taught. Standardized craftwork enables construction of a team that shares common approaches and goals. We can rely upon our talents for single efforts, perhaps two or three simultaneous efforts. But to successfully pursue a wide array of multiple opportunities in a consistent fashion, we must rise above our talent and embrace the craftwork of our profession. With the power of coordinated teamwork behind us, and only then, can we maximize the talent we have.