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  • Writer's pictureRita Simmons

When Proposal Development Goes Awry

Does this story sound familiar? The boss calls and says, “we just received an opportunity to bid on a contract and I want you and the team to get on it.” You quickly gather some staff in the conference room and start reviewing the solicitation. In the meantime, senior staff try to find subcontractors and partners to satisfy compliance and build a winning proposal. As you and the team sit in the conference room and try to decide how you will pull this off, everyone realizes that no one knows who is writing which section, the writers are not at the meeting, and there has been no top-level direction on how to approach the proposal. And, add to these issues, there is only two weeks until the submission deadline.

As you work through the process it becomes clear that no one created a schedule or outlined sections for writing a response. Because all players weren’t at the initial team meeting, another day is lost as you try to reach everyone that should be involved. Once you get everyone on the same page, you work around the clock while each team member works independently. There is no one to review and integrate the writer’s material and no one to enforce deadlines. During the Pink Team evaluation, you find that entire sections are missing, and other sections were cut-and-pasted from old proposals. Because of time constraints, writers were forced to integrate these cut-and-pasted sections with the current RFP requirements, resulting in a majority of the text being unusable without a complete re-write.

Over the next couple of days, your proposal manager does the unbelievable and gets all sections in place and does the best patch job possible. Needless to say, your Red Team review met with disastrous results. After all this work, time, and effort the decision-makers, who directed the team to move forward so late in the game, decided to no-bid. Your company just wasted valuable resources and significant funding.

Most companies don’t operate this way, if they did, they wouldn’t be very successful or stay in business very long. Developing a robust pipeline and capture process, a solid bid/no-bid strategy (and sticking to it), and a strategic proposal development plan, ensures the company is well-prepared for solicitations as they are released. To successfully create these functional areas, team members across all stages must be involved, and it is highly recommended that post-proposal debriefs be used to assist in identifying areas for improvement and talent gaps that may need to be filled. If the scenario above sounds like the proposal process at work in your company, encourage your division leads to consider a better, more efficient way to do business. Novelle is here to help with all aspects of business development, proposal management and writing, and strategic planning for pipeline, capture, and opportunity identification.


Rita Simmons is the founder and lead consultant of Novelle, where she provides business and research consulting to companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Simmons leverages her drive for innovation and excellence along with her extensive executive and military experience to help business owners grow their business, drive revenue, and achieve strategic goals. When you’re ready to take your business to the next level, contact Dr. Simmons at or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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