Ironic Issues Affecting All Federal Proposal Managers? (Part 2)

  |  February 26, 2019

Tim Birdsell

Part 2 of 2

In this article I want to share some of the many issues I have seen that can bring the federal proposal process to a screeching halt.

Red Team Review (RTR)

My biggest issues with the RTR are 1) it’s okay if your document comes out of it looking like it was on the floor of a hospital emergency room – that’s the purpose of an RTR; 2) RTR is not an editing pass! Statistically, 50% of the material will change significantly; why waste time editing now? Again, people will ignore the instructions and edit away; and 3) Leadership skips out on the RTR, and waits until Gold to look at the document. Uuuuuugh! This is where the team really needs leaderships’ inputs. I’ve seen some pretty significant re-writes occur after Gold because leadership didn’t participate in the RTR. When you re-write after Gold, you can cut your PWin in half. By now the federal proposal manager is having more than one drink.

Gold Team Review (GTR)

If I were King for a day, I would rename this review the Perpetual Review. I have worked a lot of federal proposals over the last 14 years, and here’s how that “final review” typically goes, after the federal proposal manager does the final edit and format. 1) Capture manager reviews it before releasing. 2) BD Director and/or VP of BD & Ops want an “advance look.” 3) The actual review occurs. 4) Review to validate that the federal proposal manager made all the corrections. 5) Executive review. And finally 6), many refer to this as White Glove, but they have just stolen the name to add another review. So we have taken what is supposed to be the final, and least painful review and turned it into SIX reviews, and each one requires some amount of editing and formatting. This is when federal proposal managers switch to something stronger to drink.


We finally finished the federal proposal and it’s ready to submit. We had spent over a month developing the proposal. The team was excited, and we were pretty confident we had the winning proposal. It was due at 9:00 AM in hard copy. The gate review for submitting was scheduled for 7:30 that morning. Normally this wouldn’t be a major concern; however, there had just been an organizational restructure, and now our team leaders had to convince their new boss this effort was a winner. At 8:30 we called our person sitting in the customer’s parking lot with the hard copy, and told them it was approved to deliver. We did end up winning the effort. This is when federal proposal managers wake up with a hangover.

I believe the federal proposal process for most companies is about 25% science and 75% art; this is why the process can be abused so much and still work. However, if you can flip those numbers and follow the federal proposal process as if it were a science project, your process will be disciplined, understood, and repeatable. Oh and your federal proposal manager wont have to go to AA after a couple years.


    Name Maxine Walters

    Absolutely, the federal proposal process should be treated like a science project. It should be well thought out and executed for a good result.