BJ and I are forever seeking out real-world analogies to help us to communicate various perspectives on proposal management. So, having watched the truly fabulous ‘Ratatouille’ last week, my mind’s been hard at work…
A rat went to work as a salesperson.
There was this rat, see. And it decided to get a job. In procurement.
If there is a parallel, it’s to provoke an interesting (and perhaps slightly controversial) debate. The rat in the movie has talent: he’s instinctively a great cook, with an amazing sense of smell and taste – who’s then studied with a master chef. And in the proposal world, we’re passionate believers in the importance and power of effective training. Surely it should be a given that everyone working on a proposal has received appropriate training in the necessary skills and techniques?
Yet I’d also argue that the best proposal managers have a set of underlying competencies, without which – no matter how well they’re trained – they will only ever be good, not great. And those aren’t really the mechanical things covered in, say, the APMP Foundation Level syllabus (the “how and when to run a review meeting” type of topic). They’re about interpersonal skills, passion, commitment, professionalism, leadership, empathy, a gift for communication, a commitment to excellence, influencing abilities – techniques which can certainly be refined, but also need to draw on some inherent deep-seated ability.
Actually, I’d go so far as to say that if you give me someone with the right fundamental competencies and mindset, I can teach them the proposal stuff – and (if their organisation has the luxury of a little time, the ability to provide mentoring, and is capable of sheltering them to an extent as they learn) turn them into a top-flight proposal professional: someone who’ll be ‘great’. But if you give me someone who’s been working on proposals for years, but doesn’t have the ‘right stuff’, we’d struggle to get them much beyond ‘good’. And maybe ‘good’ is good enough, in a lot of cases.
Incidentally, I’m guessing that Ratatouille has done wonders for trade for high-end restaurants. I know I for just had to go and find somewhere serving intense, original flavours after seeing the movie. And flavours don’t come much better than at “My Humble House”, the modestly-named Singaporean eaterie that’s recently been voted one of the top 100 restaurants in the world. Highly recommended, if you happen to be in the country!