Nine Tips for Conducting Effective Pink and Red Team Reviews for Your Proposals

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Proposal color reviews, such as Blue Team, Pink Team, Red Team, Gold Team, White Glove, and others, are a proven best practice in developing outstanding proposals. However, many color reviews are not very effective despite their ability to dramatically improve the quality of the proposal.

Here are the tips in improve your proposal’s Pink Team and Red Team Reviews:

  1. Invite the right reviewers
    • Managers (non-subject matter experts) often know what’s broken but they can’t fix it. They can only direct the over-busy proposal team to do it, and in a crunch time, it may not be particularly useful.
    • Most valuable reviewers are those that know this Request for Proposal (RFP) and customer, along with the proposal subject matter.
  2. Ensure everyone understands the RFP
    • Many reviewers don’t read the RFP prior to the Pink Team or Red Team Review – they procrastinate and try to read it while they are supposed to be reviewing.
    • Some reviewers may only scan the RFP in a hurry, without diving into important details.
    • Therefore, your job is to summarize the key requirements and highlight this RFP’s peculiarities, to ensure the entire reviewer team is on the same page.
  3. Train the reviewers on how to review a proposal.
    • Prohibit copy editing. Your proposal may change a dozen times before submission, so correcting words and commas wastes the reviewers’ and proposal team’s time. This is especially important for a Pink Team Review when the draft is still raw.
    • Show examples of good and bad comments to the reviewers so they understand what is expected and what kind of feedback they should provide.
    • Explain how compliance works, so that they know how to dissect the requirements and critically analyze whether their assigned section “answers the mail” or is compliant.
    • Explain how to look at this proposal through the evaluators’ eyes.
    • Set an expectation that reviewers should provide many comments – not one every few pages.
    • Ask the reviewers to use their full brainpower to dive into content and think about what topics are not explained well or what value propositions need to be better explained, instead of working on half a cylinder and staying on the surface.
  4. Assign the right people to the right sections.
    • Make sure there is more than one reviewer looking at each section.
    • If all start with Section 1, they may not get to the last section – assign different starting points in your proposal to the reviewers.
    • Match the reviewer’s expertise to the reviewed section.
    • Use peer reviewers who wrote other proposal sections, if inviting the other authors for a Pink Team or a Red Team Review is allowed in your company. These are the most useful reviewers because they already know the RFP and the solution, and will pick up on things others may not.
  5. Ensure the reviewers know how to plan their time.
    • Providing an agenda for the Pink or Red Team Review day is important. Show the times for Kickoff, the Review itself, Reviewers’ Caucus, Debrief, and don’t forget to specify who is supposed to attend each part of the review.
    • Assign a realistic amount of material per reviewer – 10 minutes per page or 6 pages per hour is a good estimate for a solid color review. Add reviewers if necessary.
    • Ensure the reviewers have a clear plan for how to spend their time on the number of pages they are assigned to review. They may not understand how much they have to do:
      • Refresh their understanding of the requirements
      • Check proposal compliance
      • Read the section once in its entirety
      • Read and comment in detail
      • Write up Pink Team or Red Team Review recommendations.
    • Set expectations of how long things normally take so that the reviewers get to work instead of a long “warm up” and distractions.
  6. Channel reviewer frustration constructively.
    • Set the rules of engagement upfront because reviewers tend to get emotional, wondering why the proposal is in such an unfinished state.
    • Manage the atmosphere and culture of the review, so that everyone acts mature and civilized. There is no use in ratcheting up the drama and pronouncing the Red Team proposal a “train wreck.”
    • Tell the reviewers to roll up their sleeves and fix what needs fixing. It is a working Pink or Red Team Review, after all.
    • Prevent your reviewers from carpet bombing the authors and discouraging the people who have been burning the midnight oil and working nights and weekends to move the proposal forward.
  7. Choose the form of the proposal review that fits your audience. Your review could take on different forms:
    • Virtual, using color review software, SharePoint simultaneous review, MS Word files, and so on.
    • Synchronous, when everyone reviews the proposal at the same time, vs. asynchronous, where the proposal files are sent to the reviewers who get a couple of days to review and send back the feedback.
    • Old-school hard copy review with multiple proposal copies distributed to the reviewers.
    • Review of a single hard copy of the proposal posted on the proposal wall, with reviewers starting and marking up pages at different sections of the proposal, so that they don’t trip over one another.
  8. Ensure you spell out how you want to receive Pink Team or Red Team Review feedback.
    • Redlines (have to be merged by hand, unless you use a reviewing software or work on the same SharePoint document).
      • Provide software training
      • Offer a file naming convention and location for file uploads.
    • Comments (easier for you to merge documents; can be sometimes harder for a reviewer to describe the desired changes instead of just making them).
    • Summary slides or comment sheets with section scores, strengths, weaknesses, recommendations, graphics improvements, and other pre-planned sections.
    • Summary table with the score or color assigned to each proposal section.
    • Hard copy redlines with optional post-it notes for marking pages with comments.
  9. Pose specific questions to the reviewers. Use the collective brain trust to the max.
    • Where could we cut text if we are over the page count?
    • Do you agree with our interpretation of the specific RFP requirement?
    • What themes have you picked up on in the document?
    • What past performance references should you go with out of the lineup?
    • Other solution-specific questions you wrestle with.

If you are looking for assistance with your Pink Team or Red Team Review, we are here to help. Reach us at service@ostglobalsolutions.com or 301-384-3350.

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