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How To Take Advantage of Proposal Lessons Learned

People often hold "lessons learned" meetings after a proposal submission. In my experience, the most positive thing that comes from these is providing people a chance to vent and clear the air. If you really want to use these sessions to improve your proposal quality, you need to re-think how you collect your lessons learned, and what you do once you have them.

Defining and applying lessons learned

For a lesson to be truly "learned," it must result in change. It is not enough to discuss and collect lessons learned. You must do something with what you find out. Issues should turn into action items that will lead to improvements on future proposals. Focus on how lessons learned apply to specific roles in the proposal process, not to individuals.

Consider how the following line of questioning elicits constructive feedback and focuses on positive changes:

Eliciting input after a customer debrief

There is much to learn from a debrief session with a customer:

  • Does what you learned apply to other/all customers/opportunities or just this one?
  • Did you know enough about what the customer wanted? What questions would have given you the right information? How would you incorporate getting answers to these questions into the pre-RFP process?
  • Did you find out that you had misinterpreted the customer? What questions would have mitigated misinterpretation in the pre-RFP release phase?
  • Were there errors in the production or delivery of the proposal? What steps can you take on future proposals to prevent them?
  • Are there additional steps or guidance that could be added to the process that would address other customer comments?
  • Are there any changes you can make to the Validation Process to ensure a better proposal next time?

Improving the effectiveness of the proposal process

In some instances issues arise because the process was not faithfully executed. Had the process been properly followed, the issue would not have come to be, or would have been mitigated. If this is the case, you can ask participants:

  • Would better guidance or notifications help with executing the process?
  • Would better orientation/discussion and/or training help proposal contributors? If so, when should it occur?

If this is not the case, it means that following the process did not prevent or mitigate the issue. In this case, you should ask:

  • Should you change what information you collect, when you collect it, how you collect it, or how you distribute the information?
  • Should you clarify or change in any way the guidance provided?
  • Should you change what, when, or how you validate the key aspects of the proposal?

Evaluating process documentation issues

Consider if the lesson learned feedback impacts your process documentation:

  • Does the process address the topic identified?
    • If yes: Where is it addressed, and how should the items be changed?
    • If no: Should a new page/topic be added?
  • Does the change have an impact on roles and responsibilities?
  • What can occur earlier in the process to mitigate the issue?
  • During future proposals, how can you validate that the issue has not recurred?

Reminder: Keep a list of which process pages and topics you make changes to so that when you release a new edition you can reapply your changes.

Evaluating proposal software issues

Many companies now take advantage of software tools, such as Privia by Synchris, to facilitate workflow automation, proposal collaboration, and document management. If your company takes advantage of a software tool, consider the following line of questioning:

  • Were participants able to use the system as designed and to its full potential, or did they find the need to work around it?
  • Did participants have sufficient technical support available when and how needed?
  • Can the software issue be resolved through user training or guidance?
    • If yes:
      • Would better guidance or notifications help with executing the process?
      • Are there features in the software that are not fully utilized?
      • Would better orientation/discussion and/or training help? If so, when should it occur? Should it be provided
      • online or offline (in person)?
    • If no:
      • Are there any network, equipment, or configuration issues that should be addressed?
      • Did everyone have access that needed it?
      • Does the workflow require changing?
      • Do any of the templates or files in the workspace require changing?



      By Carl Dickson,
      Founder of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY



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