How much planning is too much? Ask the Proposal Doctor

Dear Proposal Doctor,

My team received a draft RFP about 6 months ago, and since then the government has continued to extend the procurement schedule. It now appears that we will not see a final RFP for several more months. At least.

The government is accepting comments on the draft, but it is a one-way conversation. We get nothing back by way of useful information.

The team has already created a detailed solution based on the draft, and there are people in my organization who insist on creating an entire proposal document (red team ready was one suggestion) before we see the final RFP.

Naturally, some of us are pushing back. I, for one, am afraid we will run out of money before the final RFP appears. How much planning does it make sense to do in this scenario?

-Perplexed About Planning

Dear Perplexed,

This is a common challenge, so I am glad you raised it. Success in life is often about balance.

Just as it makes no sense to ignore preparation entirely, it probably also makes no sense to create a red team-ready proposal when you don’t know how much the final RFP will resemble the draft.

Yes, as you pointed out, you run the risk of spending all the money, and possibly on the wrong solution. The potential for burnout and exhaustion is also latent in the situation you describe.

I believe that you can only pull the trigger once to get the real sense of urgency that you need to keep a proposal team motivated. The next time you pull it, people don’t take you seriously. And, there is another danger lurking here – the proposal or technical team can get so wedded to the solution developed in response to the draft that they won’t be able to change when something different appears in the final RFP. I have seen this happen many times.

For all these reasons, I would suggest that you put the entire effort on a slow simmer. Don’t turn off the heat altogether, but take as many people as you can off the clock, and create a schedule of activities for a small core team that allows you to stay current and continue to prepare without breaking the bank.

This is also a great time to clarify roles and responsibilities and ask people to update resumes and past performance descriptions. Those are investments that will pay off regardless of when the final RFP appears.

All the best,

Wendy Frieman, The Proposal Doctor