Is your PM cut out to be the recompete capture or proposal manager?

Should the incumbent program manager be assigned as the Capture and/or Proposal Manager for an upcoming recompete?

In most cases, no! Capture Manager and Proposal Manager hats generally do not fit Program Managers and there are a variety of reasons for that.

Many times the incumbent Program Manager is the incumbent’s biggest liability. Independent 3rd Party Assessments of their performance as the incumbent contractor, sometimes find that the Program Manager is not the stellar performer the boss thinks he or she is. The Program Manager may have some management failings, not have a good relationship with the client, and/or be lacking the insight into client needs, wants, and biases that you would expect her to have. As a result, if she were the Capture or Proposal Manager she would be executing her responsibilities through distorted lenses.

This being said, even if the Program Manager were terrific, she still probably is a misfit for capture or proposal management. Here’s why.

Program Managers tend to be left brained. That is, they are analytic, directive, methodical and extremely data driven. The best Program Managers sees things as a systems engineer. They put together pieces and get them to run together to achieve programmatic objectives. This is diametrically opposed to the prototypical Capture Manager, who is a strategist and an idea person. Capture Managers do not see “things”, they see “concepts” and are adept at molding these ideas into a strategy that is responsive to the needs, wants and biases of the client decision makers and influencers.

So why would she be a poor choice to don the Proposal Manager’s hat. After all the description of a Program Manager in the previous paragraph sounds like the characteristics of a Proposal Manager. Shouldn’t a Proposal Manager be left brained? Methodical? Adept at putting together diverse parts to achieve a coherent whole? Focused on completion, compliance, and utility? Yes, of course it does. The mismatch here is not about personality, it is about process. The proposal process is a fickle beast. It must be followed and it must be respected. But more than that, it must be caressed.

The best Proposal Managers know how to follow the process, but also know the art of making adjustments at the line of scrimmage when a cold dose of reality tells them that the proposal is at risk of going off the track if followed religiously. Only an experienced Proposal Manager knows how to do that – probably learned from a great mentor or from painful experience – while a Program Manager would be a babe in the woods and might go down in flames. Leaving senior management to put the flames out!

– Dr. Richard Nathan, AOC Key Solutions


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