For Small Proposal Center staff, holding a Red Team or any kind of Team Review for a proposal is a laughable concept. It can be almost impossible to get your Executive Team in the same place at the same time. But a peer or management review is a great alternative to a formal Red Team Review can help improve the quality of a proposal. It can identify weaknesses, errors, and help provide valuable feedback. Plus it is a great way to make your contributors responsible. So what to do? One solution I developed was a virtual document review.
The first step in conducting this review is to determine your review team at the beginning of the process and determine a date the review needs to be completed by. Included on your review team, if at all possible, should be the executive in charge of that division/product line, the Project Manager, and an experienced senior manager. But if all you can get is the executive in charge, then that is okay. Do be flexible about the date but firm at the same time. Be willing to let them give you dates they can do the review, but make it clear that if they don’t respond by the due date, their input will not be considered. Schedule 24 to 48 hours for them to respond. The next step in the review process is to send out a reminder to your team about 1 week before the review and then 2 days before. They are even busier than you are, so this is a necessary step.
For the review itself, develop an instruction e-mail. This can be similar to instructions you’ve seen developed for Red Teams. Remind your reviewers to focus on content and whether it answers the RFP. Tell them how and when they are to send their comments back to you. For those who are experienced Word Users, have them use track changes. If they are not, have them print out their copy, mark it by hand, and fax it back to you. Also be prepared for them to review the document with you line by line over the phone. Remember, it doesn’t matter how you get their input, just as long as you do.
Before you send the documents for review, create a clean copy and rename the file to indicate this is the review version. Make sure you have accepted all changes in the document. If your document is small, simply attached it to the e-mail and send. If it is a large proposal, create a zip file (or send more than one email) containing only the major sections, such as the Executive Summary, Execution Plan, Previous Experience. Don’t bother with resumes, drawings, or supplemental attachments. Then attach the zip file to the e-mail.
Within the next 12 hours after you send the review documents, call each review member (don’t e-mail) and confirm they received your e-mail and confirm that they will review the document for you. Some team members will be prompt, some will send you their feedback right at the deadline and some will be late. For those who are late you have two choices. One, if your deadline allows, call and remind them again that you need it NOW! Two, record in your notes that they did not respond and proceed with editing your final documents.
The key to making this work is good planning, good organizing, and flexibility. It may take two or three reviews to get your executives used to this, but it will be worthwhile. And never again will you be asked how they didn’t know about such and such proposal.