Bill Scheessele

COMMENTARY

4 strategies for a business development makeover

Changes are necessary to prevail in a shifting market

Bill Scheessele is chairman and chief executive officer of MBDi, a business development professional services firm.

Faced with a storm of change in government contracting, companies are confronting challenging times and are making adjustments to compete in this shifting market.

Doing business with the government has never been easy, but winning now is rising to a whole new level of difficulty. Bidding everything that remotely matches up to your firm’s capabilities without gathering critical intelligence about whether to pursue opportunities, taking your recomplete opportunities for granted, doing a routine update of your capture forms, or merely tweaking your proposal process won’t provide the wins you need for revenue growth. You'll likely get lessons that are too costly in time, personnel effort and budgets.

With shrinking opportunities and growing competition, the days of throwing bid and proposal funds at opportunities and driving to capture are over. Many organizations have discovered there’s a critical missing link at the front end of their business development and capture processes caused by this changed landscape.

But how do you change the way you go about pursuing business when things used to work so well and for so long? How do you get an organization to change and make that change stick?

The key to long-lasting organizational change is transforming the ingrained attitudes, beliefs, values or mindset of personnel by embracing these four strategies.

  • Solidify management’s commitment to the new objectives, methodology, expectations or roles and behaviors. Change starts at the top of an organization. Leadership has to buy into every aspect of the need to change the status quo. Management must exhibit the desire for change and actively promote follow-though if a transformation is going to last.
  • Communicate to everyone that roles and expectations are changing, behavior has to change, and, likewise, their thinking also must change. To make a substantial change, you have to transform the organizational mindset. Changing a mindset needs to be done at the role level. People need to introspectively evaluate their mindset in light of the role they’ve been working in, as well as the role they are now being asked to move to and function in the transformed organization.
  • Install reinforcement and support systems to bolster changes, such as ongoing refinement of processes, training in new systems, strong leaders who dive in, exemplify and promote the change.
  • Provide training and insights into how personnel can adjust their thinking if they want to succeed in a new role. Not everyone is prepared to change. How can you deal with this? The best way is to encourage de-volunteering. You should communicate the expectations in the new role, the methodology, the requirements and the behavior; provide support training for people who have difficulty adopting these changes; and allow people to make their own decision to move ahead and embrace the changes or not. Ultimately, only they can make change happen for them. Everyone says they’re for change — they just don’t want to be changed.

This reminds me of an insight learned a long time ago: When the pain of change is less than the pain you're in, then you will change.

There is no growth without pain. Change for the better always requires letting loose of the status quo, such as the old ways of business development. People finally realize the pain of moving ahead, the trials, frustrations, disappointments, and even failures are always better than the situation they were once in and accepted. Change won't begin until you seize the courage and mental discipline to immerse yourself in a certain amount of pain and disillusionment concerning where you are in the present and realize the need to adjust. Losing bids you banked on, being surprised on recompetes, watching your pipeline win rate shrink, and reporting flat or declining revenue are all painful symptoms of an organization that need a business development makeover.

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