Friday, August 30, 2019

A Simplified Go or No Decision Guide

The goal isn't to submit more proposals, it's to win more of them. In my experience, focusing on writing fewer, better proposals is a winning strategy. But many A/E firms struggle with proposal discipline—they just can't seem to pass on an RFP where they're qualified to do the job. To combat this problem, most firms at least try to employ a go/no go decision process, typically embodied in some kind of form or matrix.

The problem is that compliance with this process is often spotty. Some managers simply bypass the process because they feel they can make the right decision without it. Others don't see the opportunity cost of working on a losing proposal because, well, the marketing group does most of the heavy lifting. Still others find the go/no go process too tedious, trivial, and time consuming. 

In response to this resistance, I devised a simplified, three-step decision process years ago, which several of my clients have found helpful. Recently, I created the following visual guide to support this process. You can download a PDF version of it here.
No alt text provided for this image
 A few important points in getting the most out of this tool:

It's intended to be used collaboratively. I suggest 2-3 people be involved with any go/no go decision of consequence. Two key commitments ideally drive your decision: (1) we're not going to waste our time working on proposals that are probable losers and (2) if we're going to do the proposal, we're going to do it right.

The three main questions should serve as filters. In other words, a no answer to any of the three questions should end the decision process. Haven't been talking with the client? No go. Not confident you can win the job? No go. Got a yes on the first two questions, but don't think you have the time, commitments, or insights you need to prepare a strong proposal? No go.

The scale associated with each question acknowledges that your answer often won't be a simple yes or no. For example, you talked with the client (yes!), but it wasn't with a key decision maker or it's been 10 months since your last conversation (uh-oh). That should mean a lower confidence level, say 15-20% (or essentially a no answer). On the other hand, if you've had several conversations involving multiple decision makers, you might have a confidence level of 80-90%—a solid yes answer.

But don't let the scoring drive your decision. I've moved away from the popular notion that a score should determine whether your decision is go or no. A numeric score may seem more objective, but in my experience when a number drives the decision, people tend to manipulate the number to arrive at the decision they want. I prefer an honest estimation of confidence level relating to each question without setting a minimum threshold. Use the resultant scores to inform rather than dictate your decision.

As with any "simplified" process, there's the likelihood that some valuable detail or nuance is excluded. You can readily bring these points into the conversation. The guide directs you to three key questions, but there may be any number of mitigating factors influencing your answers to those questions. Just don't overload it with more complication than is absolutely necessary (which is one way we commonly try to manipulate outcomes).

If you're not totally satisfied with your go/no go process, I hope you'll give mine a test drive. Then let me know what you think!

No comments:

Post a Comment