• SJ

Avoiding Proposal Disaster series, week 5: the Overstretch

Today we’re getting into the tough reality of adding just one more proposal when your team already has a full plate.


Disaster 5: The Overstretch

Everyone is already stretched to full capacity, but another bid just got a go. When it rains, it pours, right?


You are given the budget to hire many consultants to support this amazing opportunity, but no one is factoring in the level of effort your staff has to put in to identify, hire, onboard, coordinate, and manage all these consultants. Maybe we can pull in the new intern from another department to be our budget lead?


Preventing this disaster through your Go/No Go Process:

  • If you read #4 in this series (The Busywork), then hopefully you’re already tracking what your staff is working on in the coming months and their level of availability. Next comes putting a limit at an 80 – 90% level of effort for each person, depending on how many other responsibilities they’re expected to have outside proposals, and sticking to it! No opportunity is worth working your business development staff every night and weekend until they burnout and seek refuge with a competitor after you’ve invested so much in training.

  • If you are bringing in consultants is going to be part of your proposal staffing solution, be honest about the time required of your own staff to make this happen and include that in your level of effort tracking. How much exactly you attribute will depend on the situation – for example, do you already have a standing contract with the consultant and it’s someone who has worked with your organization on numerous bids? Or, would you need to put out an RFP for someone completely new and bring them up to speed on your work? If someone on your proposal team is already in a role that takes their maximum level of effort, this person should not be asked to recruit and manage consultants, too.

  • Determine minimum qualifications for each role on the proposal team and only move forward if you can fill each role with someone who (a) meets the minimum qualifications and (b) has the necessary time available. Folks who are new to a role should learn it first by shadowing an experienced person. Major bids are not the time to see if your junior business development officer can figure out how to recruit a chief of party.


Using your team’s time effectively while preventing overload is always tricky. After all, we’re working with people, not machines! What takes one person a day will take another person two. That same person might be super effective this week and less so next week if they’re dealing with personal issues or when productivity levels just naturally cycle up and down. It’s what makes managing teams both engaging and exhausting. While it won’t solve everything, open and honest communication (where there’s space to say “this is too much”) is a good start.


Did you read the whole series? We hope you didn’t identify with all five of the scenarios, but if this did hit a little too close to home, there’s no time like the present to start building a better Go/No Go decision making process.

  1. The 11th Hour Kill Switch

  2. The Hail Mary

  3. The Pet Project

  4. The Busywork

  5. The Overstretch (this week)

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