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Proposal risks, issues, and quality validation

If you lose, the odds are extremely high that it will be because of a risk or issue that you knew about but did not sufficiently mitigate

All of the risks, issues, and problems you consider during the early stages of proposal planning should be reflected in your proposal quality criteria. Your goal is to prompt reviewers to consider the risks and issues in addition to the draft so they can validate their resolution. You can use Proposal Quality Validation to achieve an integrated approach to proposal risk and issue management.

Tracking problems by writing them down on paper or on a whiteboard can only take you so far. Imagine having a help desk ticketing system for your issues. Each issue gets assigned a priority, is given a mitigation approach, and assigned to someone responsible. If it is not responded to in time, it is escalated to a higher level. 

Why would you want to put all that effort into it? Because when you lose, the odds are extremely high that it was because of a risk or issue that you knew about but did not sufficiently mitigate. All that investment in the proposal could be wasted because you didn’t validate that the risk or issue was resolved. The amount of effort you put into tracking your risks and issues and validating their resolution should be proportionate to the amount of impact they could have. Otherwise, you are just gambling on whether you are in denial about the risk or not.

You may not need an actual ticket tracking system for your proposal risks and issues, but you might want to emulate the concepts by:

See also:
Goal: validate that the draft reflects your quality criteria
  • Identifying your proposal, offering, competitive, and performance risks. This is essentially a list, but should reflect risk severity, document mitigations, and be assigned to a responsible party.
  • Monitoring your risks so you know when they transition from potential risks to actual issues.
  • Assigning issues for resolution.
  • Tracking issues through resolution to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.
  • Escalating issues that are not resolved on schedule.
  • Validating that the mitigations and resolutions are sufficient.

Functionally, there is very little difference between:

  • A proposal assignment
  • A Proposal Content Plan instruction
  • An issue that has been assigned for resolution

What does Proposal Quality Validation have to do with risks and issue tracking?

While Proposal Quality Validation is a way to assess the quality of the proposal, it also has broader potential, because it provides a means to validate the fulfillment of your quality criteria. If your proposal quality criteria address risk and issue resolution, then Proposal Quality Validation can become part of how you ensure the risks and issues will not jeopardize your proposal.

Doing this requires you to declare your risks and issues. Not only do you need to document them (how isn’t terribly important), but you need to validate that these are all of your risks and issues. Even if you have daily “stand up” meetings, have you really validated that you have identified all of the risks and issues you need to be concerned about?

Once you are satisfied that you have identified them, how do you validate their resolution? What do you do about unresolved risks and issues? Do you monitor them? Do you validate your monitoring to ensure nothing can slip through the cracks?

Streamlining things and avoiding denial

In the same way that Proposal Quality Validation can be streamlined into simple checklists, its application to risk and issue tracking can also be made checklist simple. The challenge isn’t tracking. Paper and whiteboards work pretty well for that. The challenge is how to avoid people being in denial about the risks. In my experience, this is the real number one reason why proposals lose (even though everyone claims it’s price). Companies lose proposals because of risks they knew about and thought they had overcome, when they really hadn’t. Companies lose because they were in denial. The only cure for that is to explicitly surface and identify the ways things could go wrong and to intentionally validate your mitigations and resolutions. If denial is the number one reason for losing, then eliminating denial could be the number one way to improve your win rate.


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