Replace chaos and drama with discipline, pragmatism and discovery

How well does your proposal process work?

What is the Chaos Triangle?

When a proposal goes wrong, it is often a problem with one or more of three factors:

  • The team
  • The process
  • The management of time

The three compound into a triangle of chaos which is increasingly difficult to manage. Just one issue would make things difficult for a bid team, but when there are many, it produces chaos.

Really complex and/or complicated solicitations

A common issue with these solicitations is struggling to get the requirements systematically documented and reorganised into a logical response. Without developing a compliance outline, which forms your proposal response against the solicitation requirements, the proposal risks being non-compliant and could be rejected.

  • Pre kick-off preparation sets up the proposal for success
  • Build a logical and compelling story within the structure of the requirements
  • Early kick-off workshop with the whole team to align thinking


Difficulty making a compelling case succinctly

Many proposals use internal jargon which the evaluator will not understand. Combined with wordy passages that don’t answer the requirements and visuals that don’t add to the story results in a proposal that is insufficiently clear for the evaluators to assess.

  • Focus on making it easier to read for an evaluator
  • Increase quality with independent external reviewers
  • Reduce the word count and increase message efficacy with relevant and compelling visuals

Contributors from different locations and time zones around the world

Lack of coordination and drastically disparate teammates across geographic locations can lead to poor collaboration. Miscommunication or delays in achieving a cohesive message can really set you back.

  • Stay on track by establishing a weekly ‘Battle Rhythm’
  • Set specific collaboration windows or blocks of time during hours that suit everyone
  • Harness the extended working day potential across multiple time zones—after collaboration time one team member can hand off to the other who is just starting their day

Ownership tennis

There can be ownership tennis resulting in rewrites, repetition, or conflict between sections and a lack of cohesive messaging. Unplanned interventions after the Red Team Review, typically by senior executives who haven’t engaged in the process up to that point, may significantly reduce the opportunity to test and adjust coherence between Red Team and Gold Team. All of this results in reduced quality.

  • Involve leadership in early workshops and periodic reviews to prevent surprises and domino-effect changes in the final stages
  • Plan writing assignments carefully making use of technical writers with access to solution architects who are the ultimate authority on the topic within your organization
  • Maintain a Conventions List to keep word usage and metrics consistent from the outset

Overworked staff juggling day jobs while also developing a proposal

Team members try to juggle their workload and typically leave proposal writing to the last minute which they then do on the weekends or by pulling all-nighters just before the deadline. This results in staff burnout and a less-than-professional proposal that lacks cohesion.

  • Prioritise the strategic contracts and only bid on those
  • Free up overcommitted resources by using outsourced proposal experts
  • Use internal SMEs to give focused guidance to full-time writers

Short timescales

With tight deadlines, critical steps in the process get skipped and there’s often a last-minute dash to try and rectify inconsistencies. This creates opportunities for error and introduces content that never gets reviewed resulting in a proposal that risks non-compliance and is rejected.

  • Adapt your proposal development process when there are shorter turnaround times
  • Don’t shortcut the planning phase to avoid running out of time
  • Proposal experts can be dedicated resources for your proposal – hire an expert!

Varied writing styles

The absence of coherent messaging can result in a less-than-professional proposal that lacks cohesion and makes it difficult for the evaluator to read.

  • Develop a style guide and use it so everyone works against the same editorial and design guidelines
  • Create a proposal-related Conventions List early in the project
  • Have writers review each other’s sections to check for consistency

Trying to break into new markets

Navigating the complexities of foreign procurement is often overwhelming, costly and high-risk. Lack of knowledge of the procurement systems of the new market can result in reputational damage if the bid is seen to be poor quality.

  • Seek regional knowledge to understand cultural expectations
  • Leverage in-country knowledge of procurement processes
  • Exploit Salentis International’s local procurement procedures and writing expertise to ensure you ‘sound’ like a local throughout your capture and proposal development process

How well does your proposal process work?