This is a post from Brian Lindholm. He’s the Managing Principal and Owner of FedSavvy Strategies.
I’ve always found quotes to be helpful means to make complex ideas into simple ideas. Here’s one of my favorites.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson
What does this mean? Plans and talks are great, but these are pretty useless unless you focus on building resiliency in those plans and the supporting skills. The need for resiliency has been shown and tested in the wake of COVID19. The same applies for the FedSavvy Strategies team which has had to adapt, too!
Think about that quote for a moment in the context of business development. Plans involve some assumptions about a particular environment. Sadly, our world is a chaotic and ever-changing place. We need to recognize this fact. Here are some examples of typical follies.
“More is better” …throw resources at a problem and it disappears
This is one of my favorites. As you may know, we conduct many capture process exercises called Black Hat reviews. Throughout these endeavors, we encounter many different notions of how to get people engaged into helping a capture effort. After all, we’re not doing these exercises for entertainment value. The end game is to strengthen our client’s chances to win (remember the quote above).
Typically, we receive input with one or more of the following mistakes and misconceptions:
- Keep it loose and open…no structure
- Invite everyone you know…more is better!
- We want to do this remotely. Everyone is professional. They will be engaged.
- Just give us a briefing on the competition.
Point #1 is typically connected to the rough concept of brainstorming. This usually involves loosely connected thoughts and discussions which often have no relationship or meaningful objective. Near the end of a loose “brainstorm” style session, participants will begin to wonder what they’re supposed to take away from a session. While we recognize that plans don’t necessarily survive a punch in the mouth, having that plan helps to keep us on target with objectives to realize even if we get off target.
We drive towards a structured approach to keep teams on target and a means to constantly measure progress towards learning objectives. A good plan frames the objective with a set of actions to meet the objective.
Point #2 is similar to Point #1. The misconception is to invite everyone you know because “they’re smart people” and then somehow…fairy dust will sprinkle around to make the magic happen. Wrong. We have all witnessed “smart people” who are not engaged or committed to an exercise.
Get the people you need who will be engaged. These people should be able to bring directly relevant customer, competitor and technical knowledge to the table to drive discussion.
Point #3 is a challenging trap to overcome, especially now. Normally, being physically present in the same room helps people connect and engage to work through a problem. However, that isn’t so practical anymore. To counter distraction, spell out expectations in advance of any commitment made or requested. Continue to directly address participants throughout the session to pull them into a conversation. Check out an array of tips in a previous blog of ours.
Point #4 is an easy trap. It’s easy to transfer all ownership of a problem to someone else. When you act in “receive mode” as opposed to “collaborate mode” it changes your thinking to avoid responsibility. Getting actively engaged encourages participants to…participate. The collaborative creativity allows one to adapt to new information and then use it…as opposed to getting a briefing and not knowing what to do with it.
Database subscriptions equate to intelligence
Data is great. But data can also be overwhelming. Is it really necessary to subscribe to many database services of which *gasp* draw data out of the same source?
Databases ≠ intelligence.
Subscribing to a database is not a skill. It simply involves money. Focus on what you do with data (remember the theme of skill development).
Think about your plan to use the data and what you need to learn from it. Gathering data is typically not the problem. Further, the real challenge is making sense out of data. Simply acquiring data is not going to realize insight. A concept as elementary as scientific method can help you actually solve problems. Let’s frame the scientific method vs. data problems.
- Make an observation – What do you think a market is or is not doing? What about a competitor’s win or loss trend?
- Ask a question – Pose a question to drive your interest. Try something such as “What is ACME Corporation winning and what have they done differently?”
- Form a hypothesis, or testable explanation – “We believe ACME Corporation is winning because of X, Y and Z.” Can you verify your idea?
- Make a prediction based on the hypothesis – “ACME Corporation will bid on Opportunity ABC because it fits their direction.”
- Test the prediction – Contact ACME Corporation to verify their intentions. Engage in discussions. Were you right about their direction?
- Iterate: Use the results to make new hypotheses or predictions – Learn from your work to better read what is really happening in a market, a competitor, etc.
Whether you use the above to help you figure out a problem or another structured analytical technique, stop being obsessed with collecting data. Focus on learning how to think instead.
Stay focused. Do your homework. Happy hunting!
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