Building high performance bid teams

“Ok, the Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) is landing next week, so we had better get the budget approved to build the bid team!”

It’s a phrase that echoes all too often. Bid budgets are constrained, and ITN launch dates are notoriously unpredictable regarding bid resource needs. Consequently, bid team formation is usually deferred until the eleventh hour, a practice that can have significant repercussions.

Typically, bid teams convene for the first time at the bid kick-off, then disperse for a few days to digest the customer documentation. This often results in drafting the response while the solution is still taking shape, underscoring the need for earlier and more comprehensive team meetings.

Colour teams, also known as review teams, transition into rolling reviews, and the team’s physical reunion often doesn’t occur until the post-submission celebration, assuming the team even shares a physical bid room. This is becoming increasingly uncommon, highlighting the evolving nature of bid team dynamics. Colour teams are typically responsible for reviewing and providing feedback on the bid proposal at various stages of its development.

Does this scenario sound all too familiar? While it may seem like the standard approach, it’s crucial to remember that in a competitive bid, conforming to the norm is a losing position. The winner is typically the one who stands out, often due to their early preparation and ability to communicate the most outstanding value within the customer’s budget. This suggests they were likely the highest-performing bidder before and during the bid period. By adopting these strategies, you can position your bid team for success and feel empowered in your competitive environment.

Enhancing team dynamics

The relevant stages of the Tuckman model, with common indicators to help you identify which stage the team is in. Tuckman (and subsequent researchers) confirmed that the stages cannot be jumped, though the durations of each stage can be compressed.

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman proposed a model for group development that is still widely used today. It’s commonly referred to by the stages themselves: forming, storming, norming, and performing. These stages, which characterise the efficiency and effectiveness of the team, are natural progressions that occur as team dynamics evolve.

Each stage builds on the previous one and characterises the team’s efficiency and effectiveness. Tuckman saw these transitions as natural progressions that occur as team dynamics evolve.

Forming is the first stage as the team initially assembles. Team members are polite but superficial with each other as they learn about the bid, the team personalities, the team structure, the timings, and their responsibilities. Much is uncertain in this phase, and there will be general anxiety about team roles, objectives, and individual expectations, leading to a primary focus on group orientation and dependency.

During the forming stage, it is incumbent upon the Bid Director \ Manager to take the reins and clear up an ambiguity in roles, processes and bid schedule whilst allowing the team members the space they need to settle into their roles.

If the bid commences during the forming stage, it is likely to be highly inefficient, with members overlapping each other or actions being missed or late to complete.

Storming involves the inevitable conflicts as team members with different opinions and personalities clash. Tuckman saw this phase as critical for the team’s growth. It is often marked by disagreements on leadership, structure, and responsibilities, which can be intense but are necessary for team development.

The bid team’s success depends on its ability to quickly overcome these conflicts and emerge more cohesive and aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. PQQ and ITT documents can become the focal point upon which team members put aside their gripes; however, if the content is a surprise for which the bid team is unprepared, tensions will likely escalate, prolonging the storming phase. Your role in resolving conflicts is crucial for the team’s growth and success, making you an integral part of the team dynamics.

Norming begins as team members resolve their differences, appreciate colleagues’ strengths, and respect authority as a group. They develop new standards, and roles become flexible and functional. Tuckman identified this stage as one where more vital commitments form and the team begins to operate more cohesively, focusing on group unity and shared goals.

In many companies, the bid team just starts to become normal when the bid has been submitted and the team is being disbanded, which means many of the bid team members leave without experiencing the positives of working in a high-performing bid team.

Performing is the stage where the team starts operating effectively and efficiently. By this point, roles are flexible and functional, and group energy is channelled into the task. Tuckman noted that the team members work interdependently in an organised and supportive manner. This stage is marked by a mature closeness and dependability that leads to consistent productivity and progress toward the team’s objectives.

More time and energy to devote to the actual actions that win the bid – developing and communicating a competitive, compliant and compelling solution to the client’s problem

Working with bid teams at the performing stage when the bid drops are noticeably different from the norm… energy is high, and problems identified during the bid are dealt with positively and proactively. Communication lines are clear, everyone knows their role, and they hold each other accountable for the actions that need to be done. This leaves more time and energy to devote to the actual actions that win the bid – developing and communicating a competitive, compliant and compelling solution to the client’s problem. This ultimately increases the team’s PWin, or Probability of Winning, which is a key metric in competitive bidding.

Bid teams that have not already reached the performing stage before stress starts to ramp up will likely see their performance plateau or regress and pressure mounts.

Tuckman’s stages critically outline the evolutionary path of team dynamics, essential for achieving peak performance. However, the brevity of bidding cycles and the intense competition characteristic of such environments place unprecedented pressure on these teams. This pressure can manifest in various ways, such as tight deadlines, high stakes, and the need to outperform competitors. It necessitates not only rapid progression through these stages but also sustained performance under stress. Often teams formed ‘just in time’, unless they are built on mostly existing relationships, are lucky to have reached ‘performing’ before the bid is submitted.

The consortium complication

Complicating this problem further is the trend towards building bid-specific consortia for large bids. These consortia are often formed by multiple companies, each with their own bid processes, approval routes, and cultures. For instance, a bid-specific consortium could be a collaboration between a construction company, an engineering firm, and an architectural design agency. It’s difficult enough to accelerate an internal bid team towards high performance. When building a bid team from such diverse entities, the challenge of building team coherence becomes exponentially more difficult. Consequently, in high-value consortia-led bids, the ability to rapidly build a high-performing bid team becomes a clear differentiator and driver of higher PWin.

What Tuckman’s Model Means for Bid Teams

In competitive bidding, where timelines are compressed, and stakes are high, the luxury of slowly maturing through these stages is absent. Teams must swiftly form, address interpersonal conflicts during the storming phase, establish norms, and begin performing at an optimal level, all within the time constraints of the bid process.

When a bid team experiences high stress, common as submission deadlines loom, it can significantly disrupt the progression through Tuckman’s stages of group development—forming, storming, norming, and performing. During the forming stage, high stress can amplify initial anxieties and tensions, impeding the establishment of trust and clear communication. In the storming stage, stress may intensify conflicts and emotional responses, complicating conflict resolution and potentially leading to a breakdown in team cohesion.

As the team attempts to transition into the norming phase, ongoing stress can hinder the establishment of adequate norms and collaborative processes, preventing the team from achieving a functional working dynamic. Finally, in the performing stage, persistent high stress can compromise the team’s efficiency and productivity, affecting their ability to achieve goals and maintain high-performance levels.

The likely result is that bid teams who have not already reached the performing stage before stress starts to ramp up will likely see their performance plateau or regress and pressure mounts.

Overwhelming stress levels can exacerbate team dysfunctions such as fear of conflict and lack of commitment, significantly derailing team progress [Lencioni (2002)]. Thus, managing stress is crucial to maintaining functional efficiency and creative output in high-stakes bidding environments.

The Yerkes-Dodson law (Yerkes & Dodson, 1908) posits that there is an optimal level of arousal for performance, beyond which stress becomes detrimental, impacting productivity and creativity. This model is over a hundred years old but still relevant today. It has been enhanced and expanded to help companies better understand, anticipate and act on the signals and issues caused by overwhelm and burnout.

We do not rise to the occasion; we fall to skills we have mastered.

Stressful periods are where well-tested processes and procedures come into play – it is much easier for a stressed bid manager to deliver consistent output if they have a solid bid process to fall back on when under pressure. However, creativity (essential in developing a winning solution) requires a different level of cognitive activity. Stress has a significant impact on our ability to “think outside the box” and deliver innovative solutions [Arnstein (2009)], so planning to develop the solution during periods of eustress (optimum stress in the chart above) is essential for competitive solutioneering.

Using Psychometrics to Accelerate Team Development

A study by Higgs and Aitken (2003) demonstrated that teams using psychometric tools to guide their development processes experienced a 25% reduction in the time taken to reach optimal performance compared to teams that did not use such tools. This indicates the potential of psychometrics to enhance team cohesion and their role in optimising operational efficiency in pressure-driven settings like competitive bidding.

Psychometrics enable a 25% reduction in time for teams to reach optimal performance.

Indeed, Schmidt’s research in 2014 further showed that psychometric tools can significantly shorten the time teams spend in the storming and norming stages, enabling them to reach the performing stage more rapidly.

Implementing Psychometrics in Bid Team Strategies

The practical application of psychometric assessments allows team leaders to swiftly identify the optimal mix of skills and temperaments required to navigate the complex landscape of competitive bids. By understanding individual stress thresholds and working styles, leaders can better manage team dynamics, ensuring that high stress does not lead to burnout or decreased productivity. This targeted approach helps maintain a focus on innovation and strategic thinking, even under pressure.

Lumina Learning Teams view is a powerful map for understanding different team personas and how team dynamics change in specific scenarios.

These tools assess individual traits and competencies, allowing for better alignment of team roles and facilitating deeper interpersonal understanding. This alignment is crucial, as it enhances collaborative efforts and minimises conflicts, thereby streamlining the team’s progression through Tuckman’s stages. The psychometrics will:

  • Ensure that the people fit the roles and build a team that is strong in key areas of bid competence but has the diversity of thinking and sufficient resilience to deal with the pressures of timelines, shifting requirements, and competition manoeuvring.
  • Help the team to self-manage by identifying risks to performance and indicators of stress or overwhelm that they can mitigate or better manage.
  • Help the bid leader to communicate more effectively with the team, resolve conflicts, and inform effective future recruitment.

Future Directions and Opportunities for Bid Teams

Companies must proactively manage team dynamics throughout the bid process to leverage the insights from Tuckman’s stages of group development and enhance bid performance. Here’s a set of actionable strategies that can be implemented to ensure your bid teams are well-prepared and positioned to outperform the competition:

  • Initiate Early Team Formation: Start building your bid team well in advance to allow sufficient time for the team to progress through the forming and storming stages before the bid process intensifies.
  • Implement Psychometric Tools: Use psychometric assessments to better understand individual and team dynamics, ensuring optimal role allocation and enhanced group cohesion.
  • Focus on Conflict Resolution: Equip team leaders with skills and strategies to effectively manage and resolve conflicts during the storming phase, preventing delays and fostering a collaborative environment.
  • Strengthen Team Norms: Develop explicit, agreed-upon norms early in the team’s formation to guide interactions and decision-making processes, aiding the transition into the norming stage.
  • Promote Regular Communication: Maintain open lines of communication across the team to ensure all members are aligned and can efficiently transition into the performing stage.
  • Plan Solution Development During Eustress Periods: Strategically time the development of solutions to coincide with periods of eustress, harnessing optimal stress levels to boost creativity and problem-solving capabilities without overwhelming the team.


The success of a bid team crucially hinges on its adeptness in navigating through Tuckman’s stages of group development—forming, storming, norming, and performing. However, the typically compressed timelines and fierce competitive pressures of bidding environments can significantly obstruct this progression. High stress may amplify initial anxieties during the forming stage, intensify conflicts throughout storming, hinder effective collaboration in norming, and impede efficiency during performing.

Notably, creativity in solution development, vital for devising compelling bids, is most potent when a team reaches the performing stage, where members collaborate efficiently with a profound understanding of each other’s strengths.

Employing psychometric tools can expedite this development, evidenced by research indicating that these tools can reduce the time teams take to reach optimal performance by 25%.

By enhancing understanding of individual traits and team dynamics, leaders can bolster collaboration, minimise conflict, and sustain a focus on innovation and strategic thinking, even under pressure.

What next?

Are you striving to enhance your bid team’s efficacy and secure more competitive bids? Contact me to explore how my expertise in team dynamics and psychometric tools can transform your bid team’s performance when it matters most.


Arnstein, P. (2009). Stress impacts our ability to be creative and innovative. [source detail needed].

Higgs, M. and Aitken, P. (2003). An exploration of the relationship between the use of psychometric tools and team development. [source detail needed].

Lencioni, P. (2002). The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

London School of Economics and Political Science (2021) The effects of diversity on teams change over time. LSE Business Review. Available at: (Accessed: 2 April 2024).

Schmidt, [First Initial]. (2014). Impact of psychometrics on team performance. [source detail needed].

Tuckman, B.W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63(6), pp.384-399.

University of Michigan School of Public Health (no date) Rising Above: Conflict Resolution for Exceptional Leaders Events. Available at: (Accessed: 2 April 2024).

Wallingford, E. (2007) Knowing and Doing: November 2007 Archives. Available at: (Accessed: 2 April 2024).

Yerkes, R.M. and Dodson, J.D. (1908). The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit-formation. Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology, 18, pp.459-482.

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