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The Bid Heartbeat – Do you know how your must-win bid is performing?

Do you know how your must-win bid is performing?  As the executive in charge of the bid, you have to monitor progress, but how do you know whether we are in good shape?
[caption id="attachment_527" align="aligncenter" width="320"]When did you last take the pulse of your must-win bid? When did you last take the pulse of your must-win bid?[/caption]

Preparing for a really big bid is similar in many ways to the preparation of a university dissertation or revising for a final exam. The timescales are relatively long, with a huge (but distant) deadline. Although there are a few people who instinctively manage their work towards a deadline, for the majority of us, we tend to delay and put off starting a project the larger it is.

What makes it worse is that the very people who are best at producing bids – conscientious perfectionists, are the ones that are most prone to this kind of procrastination. This link provides a bit of the science behind it

Traditionally, bid teams will review progress on a proposal at two stages:

  • pink team review (where the rough structure of the response is available, with outlines for the major sections, but the content has not yet been written)
  • red team review (at the final draft stage, where the content is ready for detailed editorial review)

This is fine if the bid timescales are short – say 4-8 weeks in total duration. However, for longer bids (which are usually the most important ones), this structure doesn’t work. There is too much that can happen between pink and red team reviews, and much of the bid period can be taken up with the production of the solution itself.

If you leave the reviews to the last minute you may find it impossible to close the gap before the submission deadline. However, its often inappropriate to undertake a pink or red team review whilst the solution is still in development. (I vividly remember bids where the pink team review was an excruciating walk through of reasons why each part of the response wasn’t even outlined – each reason amounting to the same thing: we are still working on the solution)

The health of a complex bid (and for that matter, any critical project) can be monitored in much the same way as your doctor starts to give you a checkup, by taking its pulse. This healthcheck doesn’t need to be of the depth and rigour that a pink or red team. It needs to be short, and focussed on answering the following questions:

  • are we clear on the response strategy
  • do we have the right people (and supporting resources) to build the response
  • what exec input is required to unblock issues with the solution or approach overall

It doesn’t need to take all day, it just needs to create a tempo and sense of urgency so that issues aren’t left unresolved until the night before the bid is due in.

Below is an indication of the frequency of health checks that I recommend for major bids

Time to submission       Heartrate (reviews per month)

3-6 months                      2

2-3 months                      4 (including one pink team review)

1 month                            6-8 (including on red team review)

A good bid has a heartbeat – a tempo that you can feel when dealing with the team, and when reviewing the proposal as it takes shape.

Is your must-win bid in good health?