When a client tells us that their tender is a ‘must win’ and they want to go above and beyond to get the competitive edge, it lights our fire. This case study reflects on precisely that scenario.
Our client was leading a consortium that was bidding on one of Australia’s largest manufacturing procurement deals. Their consortium comprised 3 major players in the industry, and a raft of consultants and advisors. Some of these organisations had worked together before, but even those established relationships were out of touch and needed to be freshened and strengthened.
There were likely to be 3 bidders at the table, with the other 2 bidders already incumbents with the State. Our competitors knew the market, had established supply chains, would be able to demonstrate a delivery history with the client, and would probably be cheaper. We were definitely the underdog.
Our client set a clear vision that we were going to work together as a team, push ourselves to the limit and do whatever it took to win.
We were engaged to work on the full spectrum of bid management services, including strategy development, but this case study reflects on the team development aspects of the bid because this project stands out as one of the best teams we have ever had the privilege of working with. This was a team that was passionate, creative, open minded, cohesive, supportive and hard working. Debate was generally healthy and constructive, and competition was generally fun and encouraging.
So, what did we do to create this fantastic environment? The answer: lots!
Vision, Values, Behaviours
A high-performance team starts with the vision, values and behaviours. We took the team through a purposeful process in 3 steps:
- Articulating a big, bold, ambitious vision – this bit was easy. From our analysis, we knew we were in 3rd place behind 2 very strong competitors which meant we needed to work harder than anyone else in the race. We transitioned everyone in the team to a hyper-competitive bid mindset where they committed to go beyond ‘business as usual’ in every way, and to push the boundaries in every respect. The vision was contagious and the team was fired up to win.
- Establishing values – we worked with the team to identify the values and principles that reflected the team we all wanted to be and would form the basis for our culture. We selected values that were meaningful and genuine to the team, and that would support the team in achieving its vision.
- Agreeing behaviours – next up, we deepened the team’s values to a set of agreed behaviours for how we wanted to interact with each other and perform our duties day-to-day. These behaviours became our personal checkpoints to inspire us to do our best, remind us of what our team mates expect from us, and keep us on track. The behaviours were also used to correct errant behaviour whenever it arose, simply by being able to refer to a particular behaviour and remind our colleagues that we won’t succeed if we don’t behave appropriately.
Processes, Methodologies, Milestones and Expectations
We very clearly articulated the processes and methodologies we would follow, the timing of key milestones and the expectations for performance. Specifically, we:
- Outlined our process for content analysis, draft reviews and sign offs, including how would they be conducted and who would be involved
- Specified our methodology for developing content, including our 8-layer writing model to ensure content is robust, persuasive and compelling
- Confirmed timing of each draft and its associated review, including load levelling to avoid the tsunamis, and
- Implemented an objective scoring model so that every deliverable could be assessed and tracked.
Our client was adamant that the entire team was going to get onboard with this proven bid-winning content development methodology. Everyone was going to participate, abide by the process and deliver their best work within the framework. It was exciting to see such wholesale commitment to the task. Naturally, a few people tried to buck the system in the early days, but they were quickly re-calibrated by the project director. He strongly confirmed that everyone was going to follow this methodology, regardless of their deliverables or their special circumstances. This clear expectation was crucial to being able to coach and challenge the team: as soon as one person has permission to take the easy route, everyone tries to follow suit. But in this case, we had selected a methodology and everyone was required to follow it.
And there were consequences if team members failed to deliver. Firstly, if a deliverable missed its scoring target when it was reviewed, the relevant team members were referred to a Document Recovery Panel meeting that evening. At that meeting, the author and writer would present to the project director, deputy project director and bid catalyst their plan for how to get the document back on track to ensure it would meet its target at the next review. The meeting was a genuine 2-way communication about the state of the document: sometimes the author had dropped the ball, but sometimes the bid leadership needed to make some decisions or remove some obstacles.
The second consequence was being removed from the team, and this did happen. If an author refused to follow the methodology and let the team down time and again, they were removed from the team. The stakes were too high, the time too short, and the team too important to allow a bad apple to rot.
Communications and Team Engagement
Of all the teams I have had the privilege of working with, this one invested the most effort (and $) in strengthening their relationships.
To communicate the progress and activities of the bid, we:
- Held regular stand-up meetings for each working group
- Conducted weekly full-team updates
- Created a single source of truth using Sharepoint
- Used a twice-daily news alert to circulate information and updates
- Created an information wall of values, behaviours, key processes and dates etc.
To foster relationships within each working group and the broader team, we:
- Encouraged teams to name and decorate their areas of the office
- Had individual and working group competitions, eg first to finish certain tasks
- Hosted regular dinners out and weekly after-work drinks, some paid for and some at own expense
- Ran monthly ‘get to know you’ activities, such as 80s photo competitions
- Conducted a number of team building activities, including lawn bowls, arcade games and karaoke
- Gave awards for team members who made notable achievements, both serious and silly.
The project director of this team was an exceptional leader and there is no doubt that the style of his leadership was the reason for the team’s performance and ultimately our success.
When I think of this project director, three key aspects of his leadership come to mind:
- Vision – He set a clear, bold and ambitious vision for us to strive for which made the project meaningful and exciting to work on – and as part of setting this vision, he outlined the role that each of us would play in achieving it. He made it OUR vision.
- Humility – He may have an answer in his mind, but he genuinely wants to hear the thoughts and recommendations of his team, and he is happy to support his team to bring their ideas to life. He believes in the cumulative contribution of the team.
- Respect – He respects his team members. He values their contribution, wants to see them succeed and supports them to achieve their objectives. He knows he has assembled a top-notch team and trusts them to do an outstanding job. He directs, he coaches, he encourages and the team thrives.
This team was also the most diverse I have worked in, and the results attest to the creativity that diversity can foster. Our team thrived with a mix of genders, sexualities, nationalities, languages, ages, disciplines and experiences. The diversity in our team lead to an exciting diversity in ideas and opinions, which lead to better solutions and innovative ideas.
The team won, and it was a pleasure working with them. And I miss them.