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Solutions to Unsolvable Problems: Reviews that aren’t helpful

Does this sound familiar? The quality of your proposal reviews varies widely. Review comments are based on the reviewer’s personal opinions. Reviewers even contradict each other. Comments come too little, too late to do any good and you end up ignoring some of them. Considering the disruption and lost time, you may find yourself wondering if you would have been better off if you had just skipped the review…

Our solution:

Your process should guide you through defining the scope of reviews so that you specifically validate the things that are necessary to win. This means that you start by preparing a list of everything (decisions, drafts, attributes, criteria, standards, themes, solution components, outcomes, etc.) that needs to be validated. Then for each item on your list, consider:

  • How it will be reviewed (face-to-face meeting, teleconference, email, approval/sign-off, scoring sheets, document mark-up, etc.)
  • Who will lead and who will participate
  • When it should start and when it must be completed

Write this down so that it becomes your Proposal Validation Plan. Then review the plan to make sure it is sufficient to achieve the level of quality required. Hint: It’s easy to produce a written Proposal Validation Plan if you turn it into a checklist. This makes it adaptable to both:

  • The size and importance of the bid. While the things you need validated will be nearly the same from proposal-to-proposal, what is required to achieve sufficient quality may change. For example, while it might be acceptable for a single person to validate certain items for a small task order, you might require a team to do it for a large strategic proposal.
  • Changes to what you need to validate. The list of items to validate for a systems integration project might be different from those for an administrative services bid. What you need to validate may also change based on the evaluation criteria and other factors.

Traditional review processes tend to break down instead of adapting to changes like these.

Under our approach, reviewers receive more guidance and are also more accountable. It also can be used to produce measurable results. You can measure the progress of your proposal by how many items have been validated. Finally, it brings both planning and reviewing into alignment with what it is going to take to win.


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