Submitting your quote shouldn't feel like a squeeze play

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Submitting your quote shouldn't feel like a squeeze play

It's mid-April, and this is the season for allergies, taxes, and patio lunches. Spring-cleaning is underway and ballparks are once again infused with the smell of hot dogs and beer. Although this may only be happening in the Northern Hemisphere and our neck of the woods, we can all learn a thing or two about project management and quoting from these yearly rituals.

How are these related? I'm glad you asked!

This is the time of year when revamped baseball teams take the field and people clean out their closets, it's during these days that we see the beginning and end of cycles. The culmination of planning, practicing, and in some cases, hoarding. More importantly, it’s the season to look at what we've done, what we've got, and start anew.

You're not a baseball fan? Doesn't matter. To grasp what we're talking about here you don't need to know how to throw a cutter or pull off a squeeze play, (however, if you do, give the NY Mets a call, they're in dire need of skilled players). This applies to any industry, any field, and it's about the bottom line, aka, your wallet.

Back in November when the season came to an end, players went home, bats were put in storage, and hot dog vendors took a winter break. General Managers didn't sit back and relax, not at all, they got to work. During this time they compared achievements against goals, analyzed projections versus actuals, and determined what their team needed in order to improve, both financially and on the field.

What threw your last project over budget? Was it the font set you keep forgetting to include in quotes, or something more significant like the two-dozen hours of Junior Developer time that really did you in? When a project ends, reach for that well-deserved pint and take your team out for some brick-oven pizza, but whatever you do, don't cave in to thinking your work is done. No, it just started. Each project, each client, and each deliverable are an opportunity to learn and improve, evaluate what objectives were realized, and review your original plan by putting it side by side with what was actually accomplished.

Did you perform or did you simply come through?

When you deliver a product or project, (like the end of baseball season), this is when you should serve yourself a cup of coffee, pull out the project quote and get to work. Why now? Because this is when you can truly compare projections against actuals and consequently improve your quoting for the next RFP. If you don't grow accustomed to this, you'll fall into the same project quoting pitfalls every time and each new proposal will feel like a squeeze play.

Similarly, you should take this time to look at what areas you can trim and clean up. In other words, look at your recently delivered project and apply some spring-cleaning. Ask yourself - Were there any areas where you were "hoarding" resources? Are there redundancies in the way you manage project workflow? Do some team members need to improve skills? Should you consider letting people go or not hiring certain individuals again?

Maybe there's an old sweater or two that you've been holding on to for too long and it’s just taking up closet space. Take a look at that "sweater" and evaluate if it's truly contributing to your projects. These are the tough calls that need to be made during "spring-cleaning."  

The problem with all of this is that the issue is never obvious, even if it’s staring you and your team right in the face. In my previous life as a Project Manager at WNET.org, we were all about redundancies, but nobody truly realized it because it was confused with protocol, requirements, and reporting. Half of what we were doing was government funding so understandably, there were many annoying layers of red tape that came with the territory, but that was all for the outside vendor, in this case, Uncle Sam. So why did our internal quoting and budgeting get muddled and blinded by outside procedures? Because. Period.

Don’t let “because” bog you down, and more importantly, don’t allow the status quo to dictate how you should quote or manage projects. See those tulips in full bloom? Can you hear the crack of the bat coming from the ball fields? This is the season for reviewing and revamping procedures, teams, skills, and the overall quality of what we do. Don’t be shy, shake things up, even if they were working fine and clients were apparently pleased.

Avoid the quoting squeeze play and instead improve your proposal building technique. Learn from past projects so you can avoid redundancies and unnecessary costs, while becoming efficient and lean.

It's April, so do some spring-cleaning and play ball!

PS - If you’re still curious, a baseball squeeze play is explained here.

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