Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Effectively Using Red Teams

Dave Herndon's article details how companies should use Red Teams to get their proposals to win contracts.

When to Review
This presents a dilemma to many firms because the later they review proposals, the more robust the review may be. On the other hand, reviewing a proposal late may leave insufficient time to implement the recommended changes. Herndon argues that the best way to avoid this issue is to conduct more than one review during the process.

Herndon identifies three types of red teams:
1) Evaluating-and-Recommending Fixes Red Team - reviews the proposal for a broad range of factors, including:
  • Compliance
  • Completeness
  • Responsiveness Presentation
  • Sell
This team makes recommendations on how deficiencies can be fixed. Normally, this team does not possess customer expertise to formally score a proposal with solicitation evaluation factors but it can provide an informal quality score (excellent, good, marginal, and unacceptable) of each section for general evaluation purposes.

2)Customer-Evaluation-Simulation Red Team - attempts to simulate the customer's formal proposal evaluation process

This team measures proposals by:
  • Evaluating each solicitation requirement
  • listing proposer benefits and deficiencies
  • identifying needed clarifications for each solicitation requirement
In order for this red team to score a proposal effectively, its members must have a comprehensive understanding of the customer's requirements including the budget for the proposed work and political agendas.

3)Running Red Team - When a proposal is on an extremely tight schedule, a running red team is often an effective method of proposal evaluation. When a writer completes a section draft, he or she immediately gives it to the running red team for a quick response evaluation.

Composition of Red Team
Avoid using senior company executives on the red team unless they agree to give full-time effort to the review. The most important member of a red team is the red team manager. The ideal individual is someone totally familiar with the proposal review process, the proposal preparation, and the customer's requirements.

Red team members normally include:

  • Outside proposal professionals
  • Customer specialists
  • Employees who thoroughly know the bidder's capabilities, products, services, and past performance history
  • Subject matter experts
Red Team Planning Procedures
The red team evaluation should be planned early. The capture manager, proposal manager, and red team manager should then determine the type of red team to be used, its exact function, and a list of desired red team members. Red team procedures should include a breakdown of tasks for each red team member and a schedule for red team activities.

Preparing the Proposal for Red Team Evaluation
The most important thing in preparing a proposal for review is having it complete. Herndon recommends that the proposal be given a hard edit prior to red team review and a detailed compliance matrix should be included. This matrix should be in a check-off-list format that follows the requested information of the solicitation proposal instructions, evaluation factors, and statement of work.

Red Team Evaluation
After receiving the proposal, the red team evaluation procedures will include:

  • Final assignment review
  • Finalization of review schedule
  • Coordination with proposal team for debrief and follow-up actions
  • Review of total proposal against the solicitation requirements
  • In-depth review of assigned sections, noting deficiencies and strengths, identifying needed clarifications, providing recommendations, and completing evaluation forms
  • Compilation of comments into single book
  • Debrief of proposal team
The red team should meet and prepare a formal debriefing to the proposal team. The red team should concentrate their presentation on a realistic approach to improve the proposal.

Post Red Team Evaluation Actions
After the red team evaluation, the red team members should assist the proposal team in making the recommended fixes. When this responsibility is understood in advance of the review, the red team comments will invariably be more realistic.


  1. This process seems very thorough, but it also seems very time consuming, especially to get executives and outside professionals to be able to not only meet for the process but to be prepared to effectively run through the process. I am curious to see if red teaming is mostly used for more costly proposals; this sounds like war gaming.

  2. After reading the other articles, it seems as if the author's definition is too broad. "Evaluating-and-Recommending Fixes Red Team" sounds like a far too fancy phrase for having someone check your work. I think it would make post-event evaluations of red team recommendations more useful if the definition was more specific.