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The proposal lifecycle (realist’s version)

The RFP just came out. A couple of days ago. We didn’t tell you because we weren’t sure we were going to bid it. But we want to pursue it so now we’re trying to put a team together. First we have to decide which solution we’re going to bid. We just wanted to give you a heads up so you can be prepared. Oh, you want a copy of the RFP? I’ll see if I can get you one. How long will it take you to write the proposal?

A week after the RFP (on a 30 day schedule) was released you have the RFP, a draft outline, and the key players around a table for a kickoff meeting. All except the subcontractors, who are responsible for critical sections. You hash out assignments and give the authors three days to complete the storyboard forms you pass out. You get your first objections that there’s not enough time that it would be better if they just wrote their sections. You stick to your guns and explain why the storyboards are important.

Three days later, only half of the storyboards are done. The storyboard review meeting, instead of reviewing the plan for writing the proposal becomes a discussion about assignments and competing priorities. The storyboards are complete a day or two later and section writing starts. You give the authors four days for writing. When you check progress two days later, you find:

  • Most people have set the storyboard’s aside and are not using them as a map of the section
  • A couple of people haven’t even started yet
  • One section has changed the solution and not told anyone else
  • At least one person doesn’t like the flow of the RFP and has come up with a better way to organize their section.

Four days later only some of the sections are ready. You have three days to read them, edit them, and prepare for the Red Team review.

On the day of the Red Team, you have a draft of most sections. In a couple, you’ve only got the outline from the storyboard. The Red Team participant from one of the subcontractors shows up with their section. In addition to only being halfway complete, the half you have doesn’t fully address the RFP requirements.

The Red Team takes two days and gives the proposal a passing grade.

25 Four days after the proposal is at a stage you would consider a decent first draft. You distribute copies of the “Final Draft” to give participants a last chance to make changes. You give them two days. An executive decides that one of the sections needs to be re-written. Changes drift in over the next three days.

You begin final production, except for the section being re-written, applying formatting templates and inserting graphics. The re-written section comes in the day the proposal is due. You format it roughly and let it pass without graphics. When you produce the final formatted copy for QA prior to shipping, the same executive wants to review the other sections. You strenuously object, but are overruled. The executive promises to limit the review to typos and things that are “critical”. An hour before the proposal is due, with the rest of it packed into boxes, the executive hands over the last changes. They include wording changes and overlook a typo or two you saw when packing the proposal but didn’t say anything about. With only 45 minutes ago, a car leaves to deliver the proposal. You pray that they don’t get a speeding ticket (or worse) and blow the delivery.

They make the delivery and don’t bother to tell you until the next day. You’re not concerned because someone else has an RFP they want “some help” with…


PS: In an alternate version, the proposal gets extended 6 times, ends up taking 4 months, with the final answers to questions coming in the week that it is (finally) due.

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By Carl Dickson,
Founder of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY



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