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47 questions that tell you if the way you are preparing your proposals is any good

Signs that your process needs to change...

What makes a great proposal process isn’t the steps. It’s not even the functionality. It’s the ability to anticipate problems and maximize the effectiveness of contributors. The questions below won’t tell you what steps you should have. They won’t even tell you what to do. But they will point out when you need to change because you have problems that aren’t being addressed by your process.

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  1. If a particular individual is required to execute the process, you do not have a process. You have a personalized way of doing things.
  2. Do people show up prepared?
  3. Do you agree on who is responsible for winning and who is responsible for producing?
  4. Do all stakeholders agree on what it will take to win?
  5. Are all stakeholders aware of the bid decision rationale?
  6. Is everyone on the same page regarding how proposal quality is defined?
  7. Do all participants and stakeholders articulate the same priorities?
  8. Are bid strategies and the design of your offering completed and validated separately from writing?
  9. Do you discover whether what you intend to offer is affordable and competitive before you start writing?
  10. Do you ever have to go back and change the writing because of what you discovered when putting together the final pricing?
  11. Can you articulate what it will take to win before you start writing?
  12. Are people spending more time talking or writing? Why?
  13. Do writers know what they need to do to pass the draft review?
  14. Do bid strategies change after writing starts?
  15. Does what you are offering change after writing starts? 
  16. Do teaming partners complete assignments on time and with sufficient quality?
  17. Do people get stuck?
  18. Are review comments based on written quality criteria?
  19. Do reviews typically discover the same problems?
  20. Do you routinely ignore review comments?
  21. Do you have the right balance between authoritarian and collaborative management for this environment?
  22. Do all contributors have the information they need?
  23. Do all contributors have the skills they need?
  24. Are risks identified and mitigated, or ignored?
  25. Do problems linger?
  26. Is it clear who should make which decisions? When a problem occurs, do you have to figure out who can make any decisions needed?
  27. Are behaviors negatively impacted by budgets and accounting?
  28. Do you manage your proposals like an investment?
  29. Are assignments self-explanatory?
  30. Are you filling gaps? Why are there any gaps?
  31. Are things snowballing towards the back end?
  32. Do you focus on goals or procedures?
  33. Can contributors articulate the goal of every step?
  34. Is it clear what contributions need to be made and by whom?
  35. Do people know how to make their contributions? 
  36. Is it easy for people to make their contributions?
  37. Do your staff resources cover your functional requirements with sufficient depth?
  38. Has the amount of change been minimized?
  39. Has the amount of effort required to achieve the goals been minimized?
  40. Are proposal staff resisting change more than your stakeholders?
  41. Are you providing the right options to match the circumstances you face?
  42. Are you looking for tools to get people to buy in instead of adapting to achieve buy-in?
  43. Are you sacrificing win rate to lower costs or effort?
  44. Are you introducing more risk than you are mitigating, especially at the back end?
  45. Do you have a planned mechanism for incorporating debrief feedback and lessons learned? 
  46. How do you know when the proposal is complete?
  47. Are you making decisions based on the impact to your win rate?

Now, take this list and add any recurring problems that you should look out for and solve. Just be careful. The solution to “people won’t meet their deadlines” might be “do a better job of content planning” or “design the offering before you start writing.” Similarly, problems during draft reviews might be a result of not validating your bid strategies prior to writing. If people won’t participate in planning before writing, you might be making planning too difficult. What’s the least you need in your plan, and can you script it or turn it into a checklist?

The MustWin Process Architecture can also help give you a 360-degree view of how everything from culture to resources to management fits together. The model helps you to make sure that you are addressing everything that will contribute to your success and maximize your win rate.

It may also help to focus on rolling out small bite-sized changes. Instead of reengineering your entire process at once, try solving specific problems by delivering the information needed to achieve your process goals and helping stakeholders to maximize their effectiveness.  The steps will work themselves out.

We help companies make process improvements that pay for themselves by increasing your win rate. Get our insights, make sure you haven't overlooked anything, solve problems you thought you had to live with, and win more of what you bid. Sometimes we just provide an outside opinion on what you have, sometimes we help you plan the changes with you doing all the work, and sometimes we play an active role. It all depends on your needs. Click here to get on our calendar so we can discuss your needs.
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Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

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