Four Tips for Smoother Color Team Reviews

Color team reviews are critical to developing winning proposals. Most large, strategic proposals should undergo at least three review cycles: Pink Team, conducted at about 65% to 75% completion; Red Team, conducted at about 85% to 95% completion; and Gold Team, conducted at 100% completion, before final production. When implemented effectively, color teams support stronger proposal content that is compliant and compelling, with clearly articulated strengths and customer benefits. This week I discuss four ways to make your color team reviews run more smoothly.

1. Select a Sufficient Number of Reviewers
For the greatest success, make sure you select a sufficient number of reviewers to allow for a thorough review. Select a team of reviewers (independent of the proposal team) early in the proposal development process and schedule the time and place for the review well in advance. The review team should comprise a mix of proposal professionals and relevant subject matter experts. To avoid conflicting guidance across reviews, it is ideal that your Pink Team reviewers also be your Red Team reviewers. 

When assigning sections to review, keep in mind that remote reviewers are more likely to be plagued with distractions, so they are not as likely to get through as much content as in-person reviewers. When I make assignments, I like to assign primary, secondary, and tertiary assignments. I make sure to assign each section as a primary assignment to at least two reviewers and as a secondary assignment to at least one reviewer. I spread out tertiary assignments for additional coverage across sections. As the review progresses, I typically check in with the reviewers to make sure they are on track, and I shuffle assignments, as necessary, to ensure proper review coverage across the sections.

2. Set Clear Expectations at the Review In-Brief
During the color team color team reviews, it is important to set clear expectations about the goals, schedule, and process. For each color team, I typically develop an in-brief deck comprising the following:
  • Opportunity, Customer, & Solution Overview
  • Review Goals
  • Response Summary
  • Evaluation Criteria
  • Review Process
  • Review Guidance
  • Review Schedule
  • Review Assignments
  • Questions
Reviewers should be instructed to provide constructive and actionable comments designed to upgrade the quality and responsiveness of the document. However, the review goals will vary slightly from Pink to Red.

Pink Team
The Pink Team review is typically the first formal review of the draft proposal. The primary objectives of the Pink Team are to ensure the proposal is:
  • Compliant, responsive, complete, compelling, and easy to score
  • Technically accurate
  • Reflective of key selling points, themes, and the proposal strategy
  • Free of major gaps or problem areas.
Red Team
The purpose of the Red Team is to review the more mature proposal draft. Members of the Red Team assume the independent role of a member of the Source Evaluation Board (SEB) to objectively examine and score the proposal. Reviewers should focus on the following:

  • Compliance: Verify that the material in the volumes responds to the requirements of the RFP
  • Clarity: Ensure that the material presented is clear and complete
  • Consistency: Ensure consistency throughout the proposal
  • Accuracy: Ensure the information presented is correct in all respects
  • Strategy: Provide input relative to strategic issues and winning themes.

3. Lock Your Documents for Comment Only
Some proposal tools can automatically restrict reviewers to allow for comments only. However, many tools do not automatically provide this restriction. While we instruct our reviewers to focus on content and not grammar, many reviewers cannot help themselves from making suggested re-wordings. If you’re still using a tool that forces you to combine comments manually following the review, you know how complex things can become if multiple reviewers use track changes to modify the same sentence. To prevent this issue and streamline the document combination process, it can be helpful to restrict the editing to comments only. I provide instructions for how to do so below.

In Word, go to the Review tab.

Select Restrict Editing.

Under option 2. Editing restrictions, check Allow only this type of editing in the document and select Comments.

Under option 3. Start enforcement, select Yes, Start Enforcing ProtectionThis will prompt you to enter a password.

After entering your password and clicking OK, be sure to write down the password. Before you combine the files, you’ll need to unlock the documents with that same password. I provide instructions for how to unlock your file below.

Go to the Review tab, select Restrict Editing, and click Stop Protection. Enter the password into the Unprotect Document popup screen.

4. Simplify the Debrief Process
When leading large reviews, it can be helpful to assign section leads responsible for consolidating comments for each major section and debriefing those consolidated comments to the team. For smaller reviews, it may be just as easy to combine the comments yourself and ask each reviewer to brief their individual comments. Regardless of which approach makes sense for your proposal, I’ve found that having reviewers enter their high-level comments directly into PowerPoint slides helps to streamline the comment consolidation process. For each section reviewed, on the first slide I have reviewers provide a color or adjectival score (consistent with those presented in the RFP) and request that reviewers list at least one strength. On the following slides, I request that reviewers list out their top four to five weaknesses and recommendations. By entering the content directly into the slides, the slides are more easily consolidated into a single debrief presentation. I present sample templates below.

Final Thoughts
Color team reviews are critical to developing winning proposals. Most large, strategic proposals should undergo at least three review cycles: Pink Team; Red Team, and Gold Team. To support smoother color teams, I recommend selecting a sufficient number of reviewers, setting clear expectations at the kickoff, locking documents for comments only, and simplifying the debrief process. These tips will help you to lead smooth color teams with the goal of driving proposal content that is both compliant and compelling.

Written by Ashley Kayes, CP APMP
Senior Proposal Consultant, AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI)


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