Proposal production across the business development life cycle – what is production? (Part 1 of 6)

This week Briana Coleman, PPM.APMP begins a six-part series on proposal production.

Think about how you got to work today. You probably drove a car, took a train, or caught a bus. That’s the simple version of the story. In reality, the car, the train, and the bus companies spent hundreds of hours using thousands of people to assemble your final transportation vessel.

This is what we call production.

Each end product started with a small team of technical minds who conceptualized, designed, and engineered it. Then they turned the plan over to the thousands who work on the production process – a production process using the assembly line pioneered in 1908. A production process that is still used today as a matter of best practice to ensure consistent, perfect products every time. A process that requires thousands of workers to produce a car, a train, a thing…anything.

From the industrial revolution to today, manufacturers of goods have placed great emphasis on the production process because they know that even the greatest idea is no good if they fail to bring that product to market in an attractive package that consumers want to buy.

In proposal-land, our final books and CDs are the product of our labor. They are what the evaluators see and judge us on. But do we adopt the production best practices from every other industry?

Let’s see…a typical proposal looks something like this: we spend months thinking about our solution. We pull in every bright mind—and sometimes not so bright mind—we know to help us think. These huge teams critique us at blue team, pink team, red team, gold team, gold team 2, for real this time, final gold team. They tweak and tweak and tweak each word until it sings a perfect melody from the page.

But by now, we are 24 hours from due date. The development team breathes a huge sigh of relief for a job well done and tosses the proposal over the cubicle wall to PRODUCTION. Production is a mysterious land of wonder that routinely makes magic happen, despite the 24 hours they have to edit, desktop publish, check for compliance, print, assemble, and deliver a winning product…all with one or two people, because after all, the rest of the team is on to another proposal.

Hmmm…sounds like the exact opposite of the best practices used to produce every other product we touch!

Through this six-part blog series, I’m going to discuss the importance of production in the proposal life cycle. I’ll share some of my war stories to illustrate this single, very important point:

Even the best proposal is only as good as its execution.

Contractors fight many battles during the war to win business with the government, from capture management, to solutioning, to finding key personnel. You can win all of these battles but still lose the war if you don’t succeed on the final task—producing and delivering the bid!

What best practices do you follow in your production efforts? What disasters have you encountered? Send your thoughts to me at, and I’ll share your advice in upcoming posts!