Five Habits of Highly Effective Color Team Reviewers

Recently, I have seen an influx of articles attacking the effectiveness of color team reviews. One article states boldly that the “color team model is ineffective, obsolete, and not worth preserving.” The author goes on to fault the process itself. However, to be most effective, processes must be taught to the implementers, and the right people must be selected to implement the process. Processes should be evaluated frequently and adjusted for maximum effectiveness. 

As you have probably guessed, I am still a proponent of tried and true color team reviews. Why? Because I have seen them done well, and I have seen them work. Color reviews should be based on a defined process that is clearly articulated, taught, and understood by all those participating in the proposal process. The right review leadership should drive the color team reviews and keep the review teams on track. The review leadership should select a sufficient number of reviewers to allow for a thorough review. However, even if all this is done correctly, reviews will not be effective unless the right reviewers are selected. Color team reviews can only be highly effective when you have highly effective reviewers. This post will examine five key habits of exceptional color team reviewers.

1. They come prepared. Exceptional color team reviewers come to the review prepared for business. If the RFP was available to review beforehand, they have already read the requirements, especially those pertinent to their assigned section. They avoid distractions while participating in the review (e.g., emails, phone calls, etc.), and they spend their review time focused on the task at hand.

2. They focus on compliance first. Exceptional color team reviewers understand that the team can’t win if they are noncompliant. These reviewers first scrub the section looking for holes, and then make solid recommendations on how to remedy any issues found.

3. They provide recommendations. Exceptional color team reviewers not only identify issues and weaknesses, but they also provide the proposal team with solid recommendations on how to fix the problems they find. These reviewers take time to fix a non-compliant outline, add example proof points to strengthen a section, or actually rewrite bullet points for parallel structure. Exceptional color team reviewers understand that not all proposal writers are grammarians and that nearly all proposal writers are very stressed for time.

4. They provide positive feedback. Exceptional reviewers not only identify weaknesses, but they also identify portions of the proposal that are done well. This positive reinforcement not only helps to keep morale high among the proposal team, but it also provides examples that the proposal team can use to fix issues elsewhere. For example, as a model for how to fix a weak past performance write-up, the reviewer may point to another past performance write-up that is very strong, with solid proof points and metrics that map clearly to the requirements of the RFP.

5. They use the pronoun we instead of you. Exceptional reviewers understand the psychology involved in receiving feedback, and opt to use we instead of you. Instead of “You need to include the retention rate on the program,” they write, “I recommend that we include the retention rate on the program to strengthen our statement about how effective our retention strategy is.” Using you can come across on an attack on the writer, where using we reinforces the team aspect of the effort.

When conducted thoughtfully and with diligence, color teams can be highly effective, helping proposal teams to improve their proposal offering and increase their probability of win. To increase the effectiveness of your color team reviews, make sure to define expectations, select the right reviewers, and allow for sufficient time to review. The proposal process must always remain flexible, adjusting to the needs of individual opportunities and organizations. Color team reviews are no exception. It is OK to adjust the review process to make it effective for your opportunity or organization—in fact, this is something that you absolutely should be doing.

Written by Ashley Kayes


  1. Who is the author? I would like permission draw from this article and share with colleagues in my company and give credit to the Author

    1. Sorry for the delayed response. I am the author of the blog and this specific article. Please feel free to share content from this blog with your company! I am glad that have found it useful. Hopefully your colleagues do as well.


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