Conducting proposal reviews based on quality criteria
You need people to do more than just show up, read something, and give their opinions
In order to implement Proposal Quality Validation, you need to plan a set of reviews to validate that your quality criteria have been fulfilled. But how many reviews do you need to achieve this?
What you review is more important than how you review it, or even how many reviews you have. You should have enough reviews to cover all of your quality criteria without overloading your reviewers. You can’t have too many reviews, provided the reviews are small, focused, and support rather than impede proposal development. Small frequent reviews can resemble checklists.
While it may seem easier to only have a couple of major proposal reviews, they tend to produce train wrecks, and only having one proposal review can be worse than not having any. This is especially true when the reviews cover so much material that reviewers can’t possibly consider it all and when the reviews come too late to make any substantive changes.
Start by defining your quality criteria
Regardless of the number of reviews you have, you should start by defining your proposal quality criteria. Reviews can’t be consistently effective without defining proposal quality. Do this by creating proposal quality criteria that are based on what you need to validate in order to achieve a proposal based on what it will take to win. Do not define your quality criteria based on how many reviews you think you should have. Once you know what you need to validate, then you can allocate the criteria to a number of reviews.
Using your quality criteria to drive your proposal reviews
Each time you accomplish a goal, you should have a review to validate whether the goal was indeed accomplished. This is especially important when the output of one activity will be used as the input for the next. If you do not validate the inputs, then the next activity could fail as a result of bad input. In practice, this becomes simply checking your work before doing something else based on it. This is using quality validation to ensure prior work is reliable, with the goal of preventing late detection of problems that require large amounts of rework. To do this, you need quality criteria that define successful activity accomplishment and goal fulfillment. See our examples of allocating quality criteria to milestones.
Wrapping your activities and goals with quality criteria to use during fulfillment as well as after makes accomplishing tasks much less overwhelming. It provides the criteria for measuring success to the people who are doing the work. This achieves much better results than surprising people at the review with unexpected expectations. Your quality criteria not only drive how many proposal reviews you should have, but they also drive how many reviewers you need to participate.
When and where should you hold your proposal reviews?
When and where to hold your proposal reviews is purely a logistical matter. If you need people collocated to validate your quality criteria, then do that. If you can validate a quality criterion by texting it to a particular subject matter expert and don’t need confirmation from others, then do that.
When and where you hold your proposal reviews only becomes an issue when it impacts the reliability of your quality validation. In other words, don’t hold your reviews too late. Or in a time or place where people aren’t able to focus on the quality criteria.
Whether to hold reviews in a formal meeting in a conference room, or let people do the review while working from home, is up to you. You can also have a mixture of formal and informal reviews. Consider the number of reviewers, scope of the quality criteria, and importance of the milestone when deciding when and where to hold a given review.
If you start from a list of the proposal quality criteria you need to validate, you can group them based on when they should be validated, whether they require specialized expertise, whether they should be consensus driven or require a particular approval, etc.
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