A few weeks ago, we wrote about the value of carrying out client debriefs whether you win or lose a tender. But that is only half of the debrief story. How often do you review the bid process with the bid team who went through it?
Whether your organisation has multiple service areas and the bid team changes every time, or only one line of business and the same team on each bid – there will still be learnings, and opportunities to improve your processes and win rate. As the APMP Body of Knowledge (BOK) says, “from the internal lessons-learned debriefing, you can learn: how efficiently you operated [and] the strengths and weaknesses of your proposal process”.
According to the BOK, your process should be to conduct an internal review, develop your internal lessons learned, carry out the external client debrief, and then combine all feedback to develop and implement your improvement plans. While you will need to wait until the client award decision for an external debrief, the internal debrief should be conducted as soon as possible after the bid has been submitted – firstly so the process is fresh in the team’s minds, but also so the team is not clouded (negatively or positively!) by the award decision.
The focus of the internal review should be positive – rather than ripping apart what went wrong. That is not to say you don’t discuss what didn’t work, but you should approach it from a positive and constructive slant. The session should include all key team members who were involved in the bid, such as technical/solution leads, operational leads, pricing, graphics/design etc. The BOK sets out some of the key areas to think about with the internal team:
- How effective were our opportunity/capture planning and proposal management processes?
- Did we get senior managers involved at appropriate points?
- How do we rate the proposal for compliance, responsiveness, persuasiveness, and clarity?
- Did we budget correctly for the proposal development efforts (resources, time, and money)?
- Were the needed decision points properly scheduled and presented to senior management for bid/no-bid decisions?
- Were the appropriate reviews done? Did they provide significant improvements to the final bid? What could be improved?
- How well did the team(s) work together?
Consider using a structured feedback form to keep the session to a rough agenda, and to help later in coding/categorising the feedback received. You could also share this ahead of the meeting, so team members have an opportunity to reflect beforehand. When running the feedback session, the leader should encourage feedback to be shared constructively and focus on the bid, not the people involved.
After the meeting, document lessons and summarise recommendations for improvements, combining them with client feedback into an organisational improvement plan which is communicated to the key stakeholders for action. As the BOK says, “lessons collected are not lessons learned”.
So next time you submit a bid, don’t fall into the trip of thinking the only valid feedback is from the client – your team members can provide equally valuable learnings!