An Effective Reviews Process

Guidance notes to support your bid writing training for the module on An Effective Reviews Process.

This module is designed to help you make your answers easy-to-evaluate.

Always remember that an evaluator has to read, and make sense of, your answers. I have talked with a number of proposal evaluators, and they all said that the quality of the writing has a strong bearing on how they score it.

When you are baking a cake, if you leave out one or two important ingredients, you are unlikely to end up with a perfect cake. You will have a cake, but it won’t be a great experience eating it.

Making your Answer Easy-to-Evaluate

In the same way, when it comes to writing a winning proposal, if you leave out conducting reviews of the answer outlines (Pink Team), and reviews of the final drafts (Red Team), then you are unlikely to end up with the best possible proposal for the evaluators to consume.

Yet how many bid teams do any reviews of the drafts, let alone two?

To raise your game and produce your best possible proposal, you must conduct a pink and red team reviews as part of the bid production process.

This module provides a quick overview of what constitutes pink and red team reviews.

The sections covered below are:

  1. Raising Your Game – implementing reviews process
  2. Pink Team – review compliance & the answer structure
  3. Red Team – standing In the client’s shoes 
  4. Example: Review Timings – always enough time to do the reviews

1. Raising Your Game

Supposedly, Albert Einstein described the definition of insanity as: doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. He didn’t say it, but the sentiment is still correct. So when it comes to writing better bids, to expect different results by doing the same things over and over again, well, it’s just not going to happen. What can we do differently that will significantly increase the standard of the bids we submit, and get us better results?
1.1 Get Better Results – Do things differently than you normally do
  From the training, we already know that we need to do answer outlines, and to improve our written responses by writing results focused answers, and making them easy-to-read and to evaluate. The next key activity that we need to do, to get better results, is to conduct a review of the answer outlines, known as a Pink Team, and of the final drafts, known as a Red Team. • Pink Team – focuses on the answer structure and compliance • Red Team – focuses on scoring your submission, acting as the client’s evaluation team
1.2 Pink and Red Team – Reviewing answer outlines and scoring your response
Depending on the size of the ITT, the pink team or the red team may be made up of anything from 2 to 10 people, working over 1 to 3 days.

2. Pink Team

Review Compliance & the Answer Structure
The pink team is about reviewing the answer outlines to check that the answer structure is correct, and it is fully compliant.
Pink Team: An independent view providing:
  • Suggestions for improvement
  • Assistance for the proposal team to create a winning proposal
  • Confirmation that the correct placeholders are there for all the requested information
  • Confirmation that each answer has the best strategy for gaining a high score
2.1 Pink Team – Compliance
The pink team is tasked with assessing each answer outline to see that:
  • All the question points have been correctly identified – and each point has a place in the answer structure where they will be answered
  • The proposed answers are correct – at this stage shown as bullet points of the points to be covered, and indicating what graphics and supporting evidence will be provided
  • Where appropriate, key SWOT points have been included in the answer
All this information is provided in the Answer Outline – the template is shown below. (This is covered in detail in the module: Answer the Question)
2.2 Pink Team – Compliance 
Shown below is an example where the question points have been correctly identified. There is a place provided for each point in the answer structure, indicating where they will be answered.
2.3 Compliance – Question points have been correctly identified
Below is a populated SWOT analysis for an ITT question. The appropriate points can be copied and pasted the answer where needed.
2.4 SWOT Analysis – Looking at strengths, weaknesses, competitors’ threats and competitors’ weaknesses
Below is an example of a completed answer outline. You can see that it’s a combination of:
  • Comments
  • Indications of what points the author will cover to answer the question
  • Description the specifications that will be supplied
Indicators where the author needs to provide
2.5 Pink Team – Provide comments on the answer outline structure, its compliance and suggestions for improvements
The pink team will provide comments on the answer outline structure, how well it answers the question, and what we need to include in our response to achieve the highest scores. They may well offer some guidance and thoughts for answering the bullet points, where it says: – through… Most importantly, through reviewing the outline, the pink team ensures that the authors are on the right track before spending their time to writing the draft.

3. Red Team

Standing In the Client’s Shoes
The Red Team is about standing in the client’s shoes, and scoring the bid as if they are the client’s evaluation team. They will be looking at:
  • Is the answer credible?
  • Do I believe what they are saying?
  • How well does it answer the question?
  • Does it read well?
  • Is this an exceptional, high scoring answer or just a middle of the road, pedestrian effort?
3.1 Red Team – Standing in the clients’ shoes
A critical aspect for the red team is to be fully briefed on the:
  • Key points of the ITT
  • Scoring guidelines
  • Proposal strategy to win this opportunity
The bid manager will provide a briefing document for all red tream members, to read beforehand. As shown below, for each answer, the red team reviewers will be provide with a red team reviewer’s checklist, that has:
  • Question text
  • Scoring guideline for the question
  • 4 part scoring: content, evidence, risk(if appropriate), credibility
  • Checklist of things to review
  • Feedback : comments, weaknesses
  • Actions for improvement
3.2 Red Team – Reviewer’s checklist: Challenging everything, they will mark the responses against the bid’s scoring criteria and provide suggestions for improvement.
The scoring guidelines can vary widely. It can be a very specific list of what would constitute a 100% score, as shown below.
3.3 Red Team – Coverage requirements
It can be minimal guidance on what would be required for a 100% score, or a “4”, as shown below.
3.4 Red Team – guidance on what would be required for a 100% score
Quite often the criteria guidance is vague, as shown below. In that case, it is up to the professional experience of the SMEs and solution management team to explicitly define what criteria and evidence would give “very high confidence”, and provide that guidance with red team briefing documentation.
3.5 Red Team – Design and delivery
Once the answer has been reviewed, it is essential that the reviewers discuss their feedback with the authors. An issue that often crops up with red teams is when the reviewer starts to question the solution. In my experience, unless the reviewers are Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) on that particular question’s topic, if the author disagrees with some technical solution issue raised by the red team, then either:
  • Further discussion are needed
  • The author can disregard the red team comments on that technical point
3.6 Red Team – Feedback 

4. Example: Review Timings

It might seem that, with lots of questions to answer within a very short time scale, it is not possible to find the time to conduct pink and red team reviews.

My experience has been it is not only possible, but in fact essential, to ensure you are reviewing your answer outlines and final drafts for each and every bid you submit.

You must make time for this, if you want to ensure you are submitting a high quality, error-free bid.


Below is an example of the timings for a major bid with:

  • 9 weeks to provide response that required technical innovations during response
  • 80 answer outlines being reviewed
  • Over 200 answers in the final draft
  • Pink team review – one week after authors receive their outlines
  • First red team review – a week and half after the pink team
  • Second red team review – after final version of the ITT’s solution design was released
  • Proof reading – one week later of the final text
I have successfully conducted pink and red team reviews for bids that took three weeks from start to finish.
4.1 Example of Timings for Team Reviews – Showing a 9 week plan
Accordingly, I highly recommend that you consider introducing pink and red teams into your own bid production process. It is the icing on the cake to raise your game, and help your team to produce your best possible, winning proposal.
4.2 Team Reviews – Raising your game