Applying an Agile Tool to Make Your Proposal Processes Better

We talk about it in our proposals. We know it works. Agile practitioners take it seriously and are diligent about its use. What is it? It’s the idea of using lessons learned from each proposal effort to improve our approach the next time. In the Agile Scrum world, they call it a Retrospective.

APMP best practices suggest that conducting a lessons-learned review on each major bid opportunity is a critical best practice.  APMP suggests that after a proposal is submitted, the proposal team meets to discuss:

  • What went right?
  • What went wrong?
  • What deficiencies can we correct in processes or approach, and what winning processes/methods should we repeat on future opportunities?

Lessons learned should be well documented and stored for others to access and reference on future opportunities.

I suggest that rather than wait until the proposal is submitted, we have our proposal teams capture lessons learned across the proposal lifecycle. Waiting until after proposal delivery is less effective because participants forget what happened in the early stages of the process; or the team has moved on to other things. Another stumbling block is our tendency to take things personally. Participants are afraid to voice their honest opinions for fear of offending someone, or being viewed as a dissenter on the team.

An Agile tool called the Task Board offers an ideal way to conduct your next proposal Lessons Learned. The information can be captured either on the white board or a collaborative workspace in the Trello tool ( Create list areas for the proposal lifecycle phases, or those aspects of the process that you want to look at.

For example:

If using a white board, leave pads of green, yellow, and red post-it notes (3×3”) near the white board. If using a Trello board, grant access to all participants and provide instructions. Explain to the team at the kickoff that they are to use this space at any time to post things that went well (green post-its), things that did not go well (red post-its), or general suggestions for the future (yellow post-its). They do not have to use their name.

The White Board option looks like this:


Using the Trello Tool option:

The Proposal Manager can monitor entries and bring up suggestions at the daily standup meeting, if they will help improve remaining activities. A complete review should then be held at the end, with a discussion about how to make improvements, and identification of action items.

The Trello Board approach encourages honesty, since input is fairly anonymous; it captures ideas as they come up; it offers a forum to get improvement ideas out to the team so they can actually be implemented now (not waiting until the next proposal); and it ensures capture of collective observations during the project lifecycle, with more actionable outcomes at the end of the process. The end result is an improved ability to win new business!

I hope you find this suggestion helpful, and I welcome feedback on how well it works for your team!


by Maryann Lesnick, Managing Director at Lohfeld Consulting Group, CP APMP, PMP, CSM, MOS.

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.

As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $135B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.