While speaking with a participant of a workshop I was presenting (in Atlanta) last week, the topic of transiting a proposal group from one stage to another – from ad-hoc to tactical or tactical to strategic – came up.
In the course of our discussing proposal centers we hit on an analogy that works pretty well (and those of you who know me, know that I just love a good analogy!) and which underscores an important point. This analogy is based on water skiing as I had discovered in our conversation over lunch that this individual (the head of sales for this company) is, like me, an avid water skier.
We began discussing the correlation of this with proposals. This particular group has an established proposal function but it was not built on a solid understanding of best practice (it came into being, as often happens, by adding more and more people, without clearly defined roles, an understanding of the resources required, etc.).
As this individual listened to me present the concepts behind a best practice proposal center, he realized that, if the company was to advance from tactical to strategic, they might have to do things in a very different manner. Specifically for this group, it will require redefining roles and responsibilities and moving to a specialized, rather than ‘wearing all hats’ model.
As we discussed the fact that this group needed to make a ‘fundamental change’ in the way they approached proposals’ we related it to skiing, saying it would be necessary for this proposal group to ‘begin skiing with one hand instead of two’. We agreed this course is best done by allowing time to make the changes, getting some practice in the new method, having a good coach provide guidance and having a clear understanding of the goal.
Perhaps next time he and I talk will figure out how to teach a proposal group to ski barefoot!
*For those who might be interested in more about skiing a course.
A ski course consists of a boat path. This is two strings of buoys (also referred to as ‘balls’…which makes for some rather crude jokes among skiers!) which the boat drives through.. On either side of the boat path are buoys. (See diagram)
Now here’s the tricky part. The buoys are exactly 37′ 8 3/4″ from the center of the course. The line the skier is using starts at 75’ and is progressively shortened.
Typically, a reasonably accomplished skier can run the course at 22’ or 28’ off (the increments that are taken off are not equal – they get progressively shorter as the line becomes shorter and more difficult.)
Now, at 28’ off, the skier has only 47’ of line to get to the buoy. The result is in a ton of centrifugal force as they have to ski VERY fast to get to the buoy as the boat is moving forward… and then brake and turn to head towards the next buoy).
The current record is somewhere around 43’ off, making the line a mere 32’ feet. That’s shorter than the distance from center line to the buoy by 6’. Meaning the skier has to be VERY low to the water, fully extended, and as mentioned, and must use only one hand on the handle. And so far the best that’s been accomplished is ‘3 balls’… no one has done a full course… yet!