Color Blind: Conducting Valuable Proposal Reviews

Color Blind: Conducting Valuable Proposal Reviews

My 12-year-old son recently overheard a conversation I was having with a Client and asked “Mom, what’s a Red Review?”

Me: “It’s a process in which a bunch of people who didn’t write the document read it and comment on whether the people who did write it, wrote it well.”
My son: “Why is it ‘red’ though?”
Me: “The color indicates the level of the review, how far along the document should be developed. ‘Red’ means all sections should be written and graphics included – kind of near final.”
And then I chuckled to myself … “And this one is NOT ‘Red’ ready.”

Anyone who’s ever participated in a well-organized proposal process has likely prepared for and recovered from Pink, Red, and Gold reviews … or certainly some similar color variation. Each proposal manager, and each firm, takes liberties in defining the substance of each color review – sometimes even adding colors into the spectrum or combining them to fit their specific review needs. For example, under a tight deadline Orange may replace separate Pink and Red reviews.

Of course the color really doesn’t matter, but the review’s purpose, action, and objectives really do.

This recent experience tells me that what really does matter sometimes gets lost in a schedule rainbow.

More astounding than anything else, our Client had not yet recovered from Pink Team, but was adamant about sticking to its proposal schedule and going to Red Team. CV had been asked to re-organize and edit the proposal to get it “Red ready” discovering in the process that Pink comments had not been addressed – and that they wouldn’t be. We cautioned our Client that conducting another review with important questions unanswered and holes unfilled would not be a useful exercise: reviewers would rightfully question what had been happening since Pink review and precious time would be wasted.

The Proposal Manager, however, had a different perspective. They were under deadline; their proposal schedule indicated that Red Review was Thursday and Report Out Friday, and that’s what was going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a strong proponent of adhering to a proposal schedule. This Client was right in prioritizing the schedule; they faltered in when they prioritized it. Had more emphasis been placed on meeting the Pink Recovery schedule, the Red draft would have been worthy of critique.

Lesson Learned:

Don’t be color blind. Define the level of your color reviews and don’t compromise – for example, don’t waste valuable time and resources executing a Red review on a Pink document. By all means stick to your schedule – but stick to ALL of it – especially due dates for critical recovery work.

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