Advanced scheduling

All proposals have one thing in common. Unless they meet their submission deadlines, the customer does not evaluate them, and the company loses the bid. Therefore, verifying the proposal is on schedule is one of the most important duties of the proposal manager. However, most proposal managers don’t manage just one proposal. Most proposal managers handle several proposals simultaneously, and proposal directors manage the entire portfolio of proposals. The customer compounds the complexity of managing multiple bids by not always communicating the request for proposal (RFP) or post-RFP amendments’ release dates in advance.

Trying to manage multiple schedules with conflicting requirements is stressful. Therefore, we sought out the advice of experts to complement the scheduling best practices found in the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) Body of Knowledge (BOK). These additional sources include the Schedule Assessment Guide from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). This report is available from the GAO website for free. We also consulted master schedulers with experience managing large, complex government contracts and construction industry jobs. We compiled their advice in our Advanced Scheduling presentation. This blog summarizes the tips we learned to reduce stress and manage your proposals like a pro.

Scheduling best practices for single proposals

  1. Capture every activity: Identify every activity you must complete from start to finish.
  2. Sequence activities: Organize the activities in chronological order.
  3. Determine your budget: Identify your budget.
  4. Resource-load the activities: Identify all the staff and resources needed to capture the bid and produce the proposal; next, resource-load the schedule.
  5. Establish the durations: Define each activity’s start date and end date.
  6. Use metrics: Use your company’s historical metrics or those contained in the APMP BOK to help establish realistic start and end timeframes.
  7. Trace the schedule horizontally and vertically: Schedule as many activities as possible concurrently and minimize sequential tasks.
  8. Establish the critical path: After completing the schedule, identify its critical path or the tasks you must accomplish by specific dates to submit the proposal on schedule.
  9. Calculate the float: Next, estimate the percentage of cushion needed to mitigate potential or actual risks so you can submit the proposal on schedule. For example, you need a cushion to provide enough time to plan, review, and produce the proposal.
  10. Determine acceptable risk: Evaluate the completed schedule to mitigate the risk that you won’t finish the proposal on schedule.
  11. Deconflict and update the schedule: If the risk is too high, mitigate the risks and update the schedule. Meet daily, weekly, or as needed to update the schedule and resource allocation.
  12. Maintain the baseline: Put the schedule under configuration control. Try not to change dates unless the customer drives the date changes.
  13. Calculate earned value: Analyze the cost and schedule variance and alert company executives if your budget or schedule baseline requires a change.

Now that you have created individual proposal schedules, create an integrated master schedule of all individual proposal schedules to help control capture and proposal operations.

Create an Integrated Master Schedule (IMS) to integrate all individual schedules

  1. IMS creation: Aggregate the individual schedules into a single IMS.
  2. Identify conflicts: Identify how and when the schedules conflict and negotiate with stakeholders to deconflict the schedules, if possible.
  3. Identify risks: After deconflicting the schedules, identify risks such as a lack of staff resources and budget impacts that affect your ability to meet proposal deadlines. Meet weekly or as needed to update schedules and resource allocations.
  4. Recalculate durations and float: After mitigating risks and conflicts, recalculate the durations and float or cushion needed to ensure you meet all the deadlines.
  5. Maintain the baseline: Put the IMS under configuration control and try not to change dates unless the customer drives changes.
  6. Calculate earned value: Analyze the cost and schedule variance for all bid and proposal projects and alert company executives if your budget or schedule baseline requires a change.
  7. Report status: Report the status of timeliness for all bids.

Overcoming challenges

Challenge #1: Insufficient resources: An unforeseen RFP release or amendment can torpedo your resource-loaded schedule. Identify primary and backup resources for your bid and proposal team. Train internal staff to serve as backup or enter into master agreements with proposal consulting firms like Lohfeld Consulting Group to minimize your risk.

Challenge #2: Time vs. quality: Customers expect high-quality proposals that are compliant, responsive, filled with strengths, well-written, and visually appealing. Schedule enough time and resources to deliver a top-notch proposal.

Challenge #3: Wayward subcontractors: Unfortunately, it is common for subcontractors to deliver data calls, proposal responses, or pricing late. Guard against late deliveries by getting buy-in on the schedule from the subcontractor’s senior executives. If your subcontractors lack the resources to deliver proposal artifacts on schedule, recommend the assistance of proposal consulting firms to assist them.


Bids and proposals are costly and time-consuming. The more effectively a company can manage its time and resources, the more bids it can pursue and win. The more bids it wins, the higher its growth rate, which creates new opportunities for all staff members. So, support your company using these best practices to manage schedules and resources effectively.

By Brenda Crist, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, MPA, CPP APMP Fellow

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 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 $170B 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.

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