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How many proposal reviews should you have?

Many tiny reviews are better than one big review

In the name of efficiency, you want to streamline the number of proposal reviews you have. However, doing so exposes you to a conflict with proposal quality. On top of this, the number of reviews is not even what impacts efficiency the most. Having fewer, but larger reviews that can’t possibly consider everything does not increase efficiency and decreases quality. On the other hand, more reviews and more reviewers can increase the logistical burden. The key question is “What is the fewest number of reviews you need to validate the number of quality criteria you have?”

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Goal: validate that the draft reflects your quality criteria

The best way to increase review efficiency is to make the act of reviewing easier. Most people do not consider this, because they wrongly assume that reviewing means reading the entire proposal while considering every possible issue. A quality criteria based review can be checklist simple. If the scope of a review is to validate criteria fulfillment for a particular milestone (such as completion of the Proposal Content Plan) and you have less than a dozen or so criteria to consider, your reviews become a lot more focused, more objective, and results will be more consistently effective. When you have one open-ended draft review that is supposed to cover everything, your review will drag on and people will start to skip things. Lots of quick, easy, highly focused reviews will deliver better quality than one big, inconsistent, and burdensome subjective review. You can still have an open-ended draft review if you want, but it becomes less important and no longer your primary means of achieving proposal quality.

In proposal quality validation, the most important reviews are the early ones. For example, it’s critical to validate the proposal outline before you start writing. Your Proposal Content Plan review is often more important than the draft review. Holding large late stage reviews leads to discovering problems that require extensive rework becoming train wrecks. Late stage reviews should be about tweaking wording, with bid strategies, proposal structure, what to offer, how to make best use of the page limitation, etc., already having been validated. If you are rethinking during late stage reviews, you did not adequately perform your earlier reviews and need to reform either your quality criteria, reviewer training, review procedures, or all three.

In addition to allocating your quality criteria to milestones, you can also group the quality criteria that can be reviewed at the same time. If you can avoid allocating too many criteria to a single review, you can use this approach to consolidate your reviews and reduce their number. Another consideration is what review method is needed for each of your quality criteria. Some may require a team to review, while others can safely be reviewed by an individual. Sometimes reviews are best conducted in person, while others can be done remotely. These factors can impact the number of reviews you need.

Many small quick reviews, that validate as little as a single quality criterion performed as a process of elimination is the best way to ensure that all of your quality criteria get appropriate attention and you end up with a proposal whose quality has been thoroughly validated. Lumping everything into one, or even a couple, of big reviews doesn’t make it any easier, can be more disruptive, and risks reviewers not being able to give everything the necessary attention.

If you think about it, every assignment should come with a definition of success. That definition should be expressed as quality criteria. The completion quality of some assignments can be self-assessed. Some will require another set of eyes. Some may require an approval or additional opinions. But a quick check of the completion of every assignment along the way will produce better results than a marathon review at the tail end of the proposal. Build your quality validation in by defining quality criteria for every assignment and then make all those reviews checklist simple. If one company implements Proposal Quality Validation and another sticks with its outdated all-encompassing too-little too-late proposal review, which do you think will win?


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