• Deb Yeagle

Win or Lose - Learn from the Debrief - #9 Proposal Management Process Improvement Lesson Learned


(9) Request a debrief.


The anticipation is brutal. Ever since the proposal was submitted you’ve been second-guessing your win strategy. Once you get notification of award, whether you get a win or a loss, it’s advisable to request a debrief from the Government. The purpose of the debrief is to obtain and apply feedback on submitted proposal to future proposal development efforts and contract execution. A debrief can help you understand how the customer perceived your proposal and help you make better decisions for pursuit / bid of future opportunities.


Keep in mind that you don't want to impose on the customer and that some customers will be concerned that you are going to protest their decision. If you do not intend to protest, you should make it clear to the customer that you just want feedback so that you can provide them with better proposals in the future --- it's in their interest too!


Basic debrief questions include:

- Who won?

- How many bids were received?

- What was your overall score?

- Was your score closer to the top or close to the bottom?

- What was the winner's score?

- Did the winner have the lowest price?

- Did the winner have a higher score on the technical evaluation factors?


If price was a major factor and you lost, suggested questions include:

- Did you score higher or lower than the winner on technical factors?

- Did you scope the level of effort (number of people/hours) appropriately?

- Was the skill level of your proposed staffing too high?

- Did the winner propose more or less staff/hours? By how much?


If you scored higher on technical factors but lost, suggested questions include:

- Did you lose because your higher score on technical drove up the cost?

- If your price had been the same as the winner, would your proposal have represented the best value?


If you scored lower on technical factors, suggested questions include:

- How did your staffing score?

- How did your technical understanding and approach score?

- How did your past performance score?

- Did you have any compliance issues?


If the incumbent won, suggested questions include:

- Did the incumbent score higher on the technical evaluation factors?

- Did the incumbent score higher on experience?

- Would a more clear statement that you would retain the incumbent staffing have improved your score?


Miscellaneous debrief questions include:

- How did the presentation and appearance of your proposal stack up against the competition?

- What differentiated you from the other bids?

- Was your proposal easy to navigate and score?

- Was the appearance of your proposal better, worse, or about the same as your competition?

- Did it contain any fluff or content that should have been substantiated better?

- Is there anything the customer would recommend for you to improve?


When asking debrief questions, consider the following:

- There may be some questions that they are not comfortable answering, and you shouldn't push.

- Keep in mind that most customers have standard debrief templates and may not be willing (or feel obligated) to answer additional questions.


Once you’ve received the debrief from the Government, then there are some reflections that should be considered by the Proposal Development Team:

- Does what you learned apply to other/all customers/opportunities or just this one?

- Did you know enough about what the customer wanted? What questions would have given you the right information? How would you incorporate getting answers to these questions into the pre-RFP process?

- Did you find out that you had misinterpreted the customer? What questions would have mitigated misinterpretation in the pre-RFP release phase?

- Were there errors in the production or delivery of the proposal? What steps can you take on future proposals to prevent them?

- Are there additional steps or guidance that could be added to the process that would address other customer comments?

- Are there any changes you can make to the review / validation process to ensure a better proposal next time?


These debrief reflections should be compared to the lessons learned surveys that were collected from the Proposal Development Team after proposal submission to validate and prioritize process improvement initiatives. You didn’t conduct a lessons learned survey? That’s Proposal Management Process Improvement Lesson Learned #10.

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