Stop me if you’ve heard this one…

Your proposal department has built a shrine to Shipley Associates and follows industry best-practices to the letter. You hold daily stand-up calls confirming that all ten thousand details are right on course. Upper management is regularly informed that everything is going well — smiles all around. Then, without warning, red team is a blood bath. Fingers start pointing. The panicked executive in charge takes the whole proposal home to rewrite it from scratch over the weekend. The entire team then spends the remainder of the project working 27-hour days while subsisting on coffee and cold lasagna.

The Red Team Catastrophe

The red team review is the first time you see your proposal in a format that closely resembles its final form, and this review typically occurs between half and three-quarters of the way through the schedule. Most of the work should already be done and very little time remains to make major changes if it is not. But far too often red team is a rude awakening rather than validation of a job well done.

Red Team Disaster Graphic

Why is this?

Disastrous red teams are usually the result of one or both of two culprits — either inadequate solution development and storyboarding during the run-up to pink team or mediocre and disjointed writing by a large group of subject matter experts (SMEs) working in isolation. Both of these problems have the same fundamental cause: an overemphasis on proposal process that comes at the expense of the proposal’s content.

In all but the most relaxed settings (rare during proposals), the proposal manager is hard-pressed just coordinating the innumerable moving parts of the process: status and development meetings, subcontractor coordination, data calls, outline and document creation, RFP analysis and compliance, color teams, and the list goes on. Logistically, it is next to impossible for the proposal manager to also dig deep into the content. As a result, the content, the most important part of the proposal, is left to the section authors, usually SMEs.

SMEs are critical to the success of any proposal and a substantial portion of the effort should be devoted to mining their knowledge. But there is an ever-present and often hidden danger that these key resources will be asked to do either more than they have time for or more than they feel comfortable with. The domain competence exhibited by such experts is often mistaken for competence in general. This is a major risk because SMEs are frequently overworked, fully billable, and have extremely limited bandwidth for proposal writing assignments. When asked to write their portion of the proposal, they often focus on scientific and technical details rather than the value such details have for your prospective customers.

The result: A red team document that lacks cohesion and continuity, written from a variety of perspectives, by authors with varying writing skills, that misses the key messages communicated by the win themes.

The Solution: Gadfly’s Dual Management Approach

To lower the risk of a red team catastrophe, equal attention must be paid to both the process and the content. Particularly for proposals that are strategically important, large, or on a tight schedule, that goal can only be achieved effectively by a dual proposal management approach: one manager for the process and another for the content. These two functions draw on different skills and must take place in parallel. Expecting a single manager to perform both roles to the highest standards is inherently and unnecessarily risky, and in many cases is logistically untenable.

To mitigate this risk, Gadfly offers a published author and 12-year veteran of IT proposal management to manage content and work in close collaboration with your in-house proposal process manager. The combination of skills possessed by these two professionals gives you the best of both worlds and dramatically reduces your risk. The process manager does not become hopelessly bogged down and distracted by arcane, time-consuming, technical issues, potentially allowing critical details to fall through the cracks. Meanwhile, the content is presented in one voice, expertly written, and with a laser focus throughout on its value to the customer.

If you are facing a must win opportunity, you cannot afford to merely hope. Eliminate the biggest risk of proposal failure right from the start.

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