Navigating the Pandemic: 5 Ways to Work Effectively Amidst the Coronavirus Outbreak




With the current environment and the threat of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreading among teams working in close quarters, companies should be taking precautions to protect their proposal team members. Where possible, organizations should seriously consider the benefits of encouraging virtual proposal teams, which will limit the risk of widespread illness among the team. When working closely in a war room environment, when one person gets sick, the entire team tends to get sick. However, there are instances where teams might have to be in person (e.g., Classified responses). When this is the case, leadership should take extra precautions and follow World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance for promoting good hygiene, encouraging sick team members to stay home, keeping surfaces clean, and limiting travel to the extent possible.

PROMOTE GOOD HYGIENE

If in-person work is required for your proposal effort, CDC guidance recommends that leadership actively promote frequent and thorough hand washing. The CDC indicates that it can also be helpful to provide team members with alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol. Leadership should also encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes. Organizations should provide plenty of tissues and trash cans; sick employees should be encouraged to cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available). Further, to the extent practical, leadership should discourage the team from using other team members’ phones, desks, offices, or other equipment.

ENCOURAGE SICK TEAM MEMBERS TO STAY HOME

Though you should always encourage your team to stay home when sick, the current pandemic threat makes this even more important. To prevent the spread of infection, if possible, provide opportunities for sick individuals to take time off without negative repercussion and/or to work remotely, if desired. The CDC also recommends sending home any employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough and/or shortness of breath).

KEEP SURFACES CLEAN

When in-person work is required, the CDC and OSHA recommend that you routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, counter tops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces—e.g., doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks—can be wiped down by the team before each use.

You should also maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and equipment. When choosing cleaning products, the CDC and OSHA recommend Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved disinfectant labels with claims against emerging viral pathogens. Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims are expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 based on data for harder to kill viruses.

LIMIT TRAVEL WHEN POSSIBLE AND FOLLOW RECOMMENDED TRAVEL GUIDANCE

With travel guidance changing daily, and more and more instances of travelers spreading the virus, you should try to limit proposal team travel as much as possible. In fact, more and more we’re seeing the Government and many large organizations putting such limitations on travel in the interest of employee public safety. If travel is deemed necessary for one of your proposal efforts, check the following websites for up-to-date travel guidance:



The CDC recommends advising employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel and to notify their supervisors and stay home if they show any symptoms of being sick. Ensure that employees who become sick while traveling immediately notify their supervisors and promptly call a healthcare provider for advice.

USE VIRTUAL PROPOSAL TEAMS WHERE POSSIBLE

In their online guidance, the CDC and OSHA encourage company leadership to explore whether they can establish policies and practices such as telecommuting and flexible work hours to increase the physical distance among team members and other employees. With the current environment and the threat of COVID-19 spreading among teams working in close quarters, companies should seriously consider the benefits of encouraging virtual proposal teams. This will limit the risk of widespread illness among the team. When working closely in a war room environment, we all know that typically when one person gets sick, the entire team tends to get sick.

However, managing virtual teams requires some extra diligence to ensure success. For the best results, you should leverage collaboration software, train teams on tools and expectations, establish a regular communications cadence, and encourage cross reading.

Leverage Collaboration Software
When working with virtual teams, it’s critical to leverage collaboration software and tools, including collaboration portals, telephone and/or video conferencing, and chat applications.

Collaboration Portal: You’ll want to establish a repository for files and data that organizes and secures data to replicate the tools and controls provided by a centrally located team. Companies are increasingly turning to applications such as SharePoint, Privia, Virtual Proposal Center (VPC), and even JIRA to facilitate management of the large volume of files and data. The collaboration portal is used for writer collaboration, color reviews, and final production. These collaborative software applications also include features for version control. Since team members post files from remote locations, you should be sure to establish and clearly name file libraries, directories, and security profiles early in the proposal process.

Telephone and/or Video Conferencing: Teleconferences and/or video conferences are also important in virtual proposals since they help bring the team together. To make sure these tools are used effectively, you should establish teleconferencing and video conferencing protocols and ensure that all proposal team members understand related expectations.

Chat Applications: Chat applications are a great way to help dispersed team members collaborate quickly and effectively. Ensuring that all team members actively log into and use the company’s preferred chat application can help facilitate more frequent and effective collaboration among the team.

Train the Team on Collaboration Tools and Expectations
Having the right tools is the first step in helping your virtual teams to succeed; however, virtual proposal development will only work if the team members understand how to operate in the virtual environment. Team members must be trained on the use of collaborative software, coordination expectations, and proposal procedures before the team begins using the system. This is essential to maintaining configuration control while providing an environment conducive to collaboration. Even if team members claim to have used the collaboration tools before, it is helpful to provide refresher training to go over key processes and features.

Establish a Regular Cadence
Stand-up calls become even more critical when managing a virtual proposal team. Make sure to pick a time that is convenient for all participants, keeping in mind any impacts varied time zones will have. Keep the stand-ups short, focusing on any capture updates, upcoming milestones, outstanding action items, brief section statuses, and any author roadblocks. 

Make sure authors are uploading their drafts to the collaborative site nightly so you can check on the progress and make sure the development is on track with your established schedule. If you notice any issues with content or rate of progress, you can reach out to authors to help them address the problems before they negatively impact a color team review, or worse, final production. 

Encourage Cross Reading
A common problem with virtual teams is that it becomes so easy for authors to avoid communicating. This leads to sections that are developed in silos, which can result in inconsistencies across the proposal sections. I always encourage cross-reading with my proposal teams, but when my teams are virtual, I usually include formal cross-reading assignments that occur in conjunction with the Pink Team and Red Team reviews. This pushes authors to identify areas where their sections are inconsistent with other sections and collaborate with each other to drive updates to the Style Guide and/or Wall of Truth.


Final Thoughts

With the current environment and the threat of COVID-19 spreading among teams working in close quarters, companies should be taking precautions to protect their teams. When possible, leadership should seriously consider the benefits of encouraging virtual proposal teams. However, in instances where teams might have to be in person (e.g., Classified responses), leadership should take extra precautions and follow WHO, CDC, and OSHA guidance for promoting good hygiene, encouraging sick team members to stay home, keeping surfaces clean, and limiting travel to the extent possible.


Written by Ashley Kayes, CP APMP
Senior Proposal Consultant, AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI)
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