It’s come from the top. This opportunity is a targeted ‘must-win’.

So, you organise a tender workshop and you invite the bid team, and the senior managers/directors who will be reviewing/signing off your proposals.

The senior people attend, with their laptops and phones because the business can’t run for a few hours without them. Having traveled to attend, and spent a few disengaged hours, they pack up and travel home, secure in the knowledge that everything is tickety-boo. They’ve been seen being involved early, and that’s what matters, right?

You set out the answer plans and allocate lead authors, and the drafts get developed.

A few weeks later, you hold a 60% review to verify that the responses are heading in the right direction. The senior people are so busy being important that they dial-in. They remain pretty silent, occasionally butting-in to raise a comment on something that was discussed half an hour ago.

A couple of days later, you get a helpful email with scanned copies of the drafts with handwritten notes scrawled in the margins. Who left them alone with the crayons again?

The review comments are collated and addressed and the responses progress to 90% drafts. The senior people attend. This time they are full of great ideas, and they seem incredulous that the team hasn’t already written them into the bid.

They suddenly tell you about the great things that are happening elsewhere in the company, that you were, until now, unaware of. They give you contact details so you can find out more (like you have time!) They demand that their valuable contributions are added, but they don’t tell you what content to remove to create space within the page/word count.

They leave in a hurry because their armour is getting sweaty and their white charger is waiting to whisk them away to another crisis.

There are just a few days to go and so everyone burns the midnight oil to get the bid across the line. There’s little time for proofreading.

Everyone is frazzled. But it’s OK because you have a corporate wellbeing programme to firefight that. Go have some yoga, or something, on the company (but don’t take too long about it, there’s another bid due soon!)

Does this sound familiar?

Take full control. Engage your senior people from the very start, or not at all.

Be polite but firm and put pressure on them to contribute early. After all, they’ve decided to bid, not you. They’ve decided it’s a ‘must-win’, not you. So, put it back on them.

Tell them straight, if it’s a ‘must-win’, you’ll give 100%, but it’s got to be their top priority, otherwise, you may all be out of a job tomorrow.

Your senior people are there to serve the business (including you and your team). They often know more about the whole business that anyone else. Tell them you need their knowledge now, not later.

Set out a tender process which makes answer planning critical, not the 90% review.

Ban laptops and phones from your meetings (apart from a single note-taker) and engage everyone. Don’t allow dial-ins and ban hard copy commenting. No excuses.

If they kick back, then it’s obviously not the ‘must-win’ that they said it was!

If you are a senior manager or director, don’t troll me. Either change your ways or be relieved that you’re not one of the ones I’m talking about!