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How proposal writers can help manage expectations during a proposal

Once you have accepted an assignment, it is important to continue to manage expectations

Expectation management:

  • You should make sure that what is expected of you and what you are expecting are both clearly communicated.
  • If you are not sure, then ask for clarification.

When receiving an assignment, communicate your acceptance.  This should include acknowledging both the deadlines and the scope of the assignment. After you have had a chance to review the Content Plan in detail, you should communicate any issues that may arise.  This may include things like changes to your availability, questions regarding topics to be addressed, topics beyond your expertise, interpretation of the RFP, conflicts in the RFP, ambiguity regarding the scope, trade-offs, etc. Do not wait until your assignment is due to communicate issues.  The earlier they are identified, the more likely it is that they can be addressed with minimal impact to the proposal schedule or quality.

Frequent check-ins and early reviews are highly recommended.  The sooner you receive feedback, the easier it will be to address.  If you get off track, the sooner it is discovered, the better.  Here are some ways to track your progress:

See also:
Proposal writing
  1. Time.  In addition to how much time remains, you should communicate whether you are at, ahead, or behind where you should be.
  2. Content Plan. A better measure of your progress is the percentage of items in the Content Plan that you have addressed.
  3. Validation.  Another measure of progress is how much of the proposal has been validated, based on what was said in the validation plan.  This is also a measurement of how far you are towards fulfilling your quality goals and completing what the team decided is necessary in order to win.

In the absence of other direction, using a red/yellow/green scale works well for communicating your status.  As frequently as possible you set expectations with statements like these:

  • I have completed some/about half/most/nearly all of the items in the Content Plan.
  • I have a few yellow issues to address, but nothing that I would label red.
  • I am ahead/on/behind schedule (and I think that I will/won’t catch up).
  • Here is a list of issues I have identified as I’ve gone through my section and a list of assumptions I’ve made in order to work through them.
  • I have discovered an issue that will slow me down and I could use help resolving it.
  • While I’ve finished a draft of everything in the Content Plan, I’m still waiting for some items to be validated.
  • Something has come up and I don’t think I will complete on time, but will complete by [date/time].
  • I need to speak with someone who is knowledgeable about [topic] so that I can address an item in my Content Plan.
  • I have identified potential graphics.  Do you want them now or with my section?

At the end of any meeting or review, make sure that you clearly understand what action items you are responsible for.  A follow-up conversation or email stating what you understand those items to be is a good idea.  The more feedback you provide to the people trying to manage the chaotic environment of a proposal, the better things will be for everyone involved.

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