Proposal Team Colors

The larger and more important the proposal and the larger the organization, the more proposal reviews you are likely to have. The most reviews I ever recall participating in for one proposal was three. The proposal review teams consist of people with some experience reading and responding to proposals in the past but who not connected with the work. The idea being, you want people who support you but who will look at the proposal objectively and catch errors or “holes.” Each of these reviews comes with a color: pink, red, or gold. Much to my surprise, however, there are more reviews than that!

The Proposal Experience as Lived

Like I said, the most external team reviews I recall for one proposal was three. The reviews would occur at various stages of the writing/editing process.

Pink Team review

In my experience/recollection, “pink team” reviews occur while you’re still in the development process–say, 75-90% done with the content–so management can determine if you’re on the right track and “answering the mail” (i.e., responding to the questions the RFP wants answered). There isn’t much editorial input at this point because the team is still filling in all the blanks. People on the review team are looking at the flow and maybe suggesting graphics to insert while there is still time to find or create the recommended images.

Pink team reviews irritated me because sometimes work would have to slow down or stop while the review team was doing their thing to avoid version control problems. Or, alternatively, work would continue during the review because the clock was still ticking. Review inputs would then be added back into the version you are on when they got back to you.

Red Team review

This is the most common review I’ve participated in, both as a reviewer and a reviewee. And depending on the size of the company and the time until the submission deadline, it might be the only review the proposal receives. By the time you get a Red Team review, the expectation was that you’d have 90-100% of the content completed while perhaps still hunting down answers to specific questions. You should have graphics incorporated, and the style should approach sounding like one person wrote it. This is where you’ll get a lot more edits of a mechanical/grammatical nature.

When your proposal comes back to you out of a Red Team review, ideally there are only a few (say, half a dozen at most) changes or suggestions. If I think back, I might’ve participated in a “delta” (changed/revised) Red Team, where the reviewers had so many concerns that they wanted another look. In any case, given the proximity to the final deadline, the pressure is usually on after Red Team to get the proposal into final form and out the door for delivery to the customer.

Gold Team review

When a proposal I’ve worked on went to a Gold Team, it was usually a pretty hefty one, with senior executives participating to ensure everything was perfect, or close to it. This should be a 99-100% complete version where the executives are only catching very minor nits. The advantage of the Gold Team review is that they usually move along a little faster because the proposal is in better condition. That’s not to say the managers or executives won’t catch things–they will–but because it’s been polished and had all the content completed, it’s easier to read.

Wait, You Mean There Are More?

I’d love to tell you that that’s all there is to the proposal review process, but I’d be lying. If you’ve got to deliver hard copies–which is still possible, even with the Paperwork Reduction Act being on the federal books for 20 years–then you’ll have to be reviewing the deliverables. These can include three-ring binders with tabs and title page dividers, compact disks or other electronic media, fold-out sheets, and other items. In an article I found online, I also discovered “Blue Team” (outline review) and “Green Team” (pricing) reviews. Those were new to me, but again they would appear to be something more likely to occur in a LARGE organization (think Boeing or Lockheed Martin), where there are more people and time available.

Oh, yes: and you often have to recheck the address(es) on your boxes full of binders to ensure that the original and copies are going to the right office(s). For real fun, you might have to drive through city traffic at the last minute; rush to the FedEx office; or get on an airplane with the copies and deliver them in person by a specific date/time. No pressure.

Are all these reviews really necessary? Sadly, yes. If you spend too much time confined to the little room with a bunch of your peers and managers talking over you as you type, you are likely to miss things. Red Team reviews, by contrast, are relatively quiet, as the reviewers have the luxury of sitting down and reading the proposal quietly to themselves. (There might be people or organizations that read the proposal aloud, but I haven’t seen it.) The goal, of course, is to present the best possible product so that your company or other organization has the best chance of winning…at least from a proposal quality point of view.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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