Colour reviews have been a part of every bid and proposal proponent’s career for decades. Back in the day, understanding this obscure lexicon was akin to the secret handshake that established some mystique and gravitas for the little-known profession. But what are the origins of the colours and are they still relevant? At BiD Masters, we think it could all made much clearer.
The origin of several of the colours is known. Back in the 1950s, western movies defined the villains with black hats, while the good guys wore white hats. Hence, the Competitor Review is known as a Black Hat. The White Hat is the lessons learned, so it’s what the good guys could do better. But what about all of those other hues? Are they all really standardised?
Everyone understands what a Red Team is, right? The answer to that question is likely a hesitant “yes”. BiD Masters’ team has noticed that most people have an idea of what a red review should be, but its purpose isn’t always fully understood. The most common understanding is that a red review is a final review of the entire bid, carried out by people independent of the bid team, taking on the role of the customer. But what’s its purpose? To provide guidance on how to improve the bid? To act as a gateway for approval to submit? To make decisions about the final solution? To ensure the images are suitable and the grammar and spelling is spot on? To check it reads well and has a single voice? All of the above?
In an effort to decode the vocabulary, the standard colour reviews are Blue, Pink, Red, and Gold. Done properly, each review has a specific purpose and the results of each review should guide the ongoing proposal preparation process. The ultimate aim of the reviews is the same: to deliver a winning bid.
The Blue review occurs either before the RFP is released, when a draft RFP is issued, or sometimes, once the final RFP is issued. The goal is to determine the competitive position of the company with regard to this specific bid, the strategy and the proposed solution. It should cover the capture strategy, high-level strategy for execution of the scope of work, SWOT analyses, customer hot buttons, execution risks, and known information about the customer’s acquisition strategy. This is sometimes presented as a storyboard – perhaps another Hollywood legacy?
The Pink review begins once the final RFP is issued and the response has been outlined or loosely drafted. The goal is to determine if the proposal structure meets the requirements and answers the questions. It also determines whether the strategy is clearly articulated and whether sufficient evidence has been provided to confirm the ability to deliver the solution proposed.
The term “Red Team” comes from the Cold War practice of U.S. officers taking a Soviet perspective to attempt to defeat U.S. strategies. Hence, the Red Team takes the customer’s perspective to identify weaknesses and gaps in the final draft of the proposal. The goal is to ensure the proposal is clear, compliant with the RFP requirements and tells a convincing story with evidence.
Red Reviews also evaluate the financial side to ensure compliance, competitiveness and integration with the strategy and schedule of the proposed approach to performing the statement of work. This element is sometimes separated out and give its own colour – Green – presumably a reference to the traditional colour afforded to money.
The Gold Review is the final quality control effort for content, editorial consistency, style, and format. It’s basically a final inventory of the documents to ensure everything is complete—all the graphs, tables, pages, signatures, copies, etc.
There are many approaches to colour team reviews, and some companies have added proposal reviews that are given other colour names to distinguish them. One of the more common additional reviews is the “Green Team” review, focused solely on the pricing aspects.
What about the black and white hats? Where do they come in again?
The Black Hat Review is generally slotted in after Blue. It’s used to assess known information about the customer and competitors, with the aim of strengthening the proposal and strategy.
The White Hat Review is held after the decision is announced and any feedback is received. It focuses on lessons learned to determine areas of weakness/strength, what was done well and what needs to be addressed to improve the process for the next opportunity.
We all agree that reviews are essential milestones in the journey of response preparation. The question is whether colour coding these reviews really makes sense. The key is to make their purpose clear and effective, rather than shrouding them under the shade of a cowboy’s black hat.
Why not drop the codenames and pair meaningful titles with expected outputs? That’s what we do at BiD Masters as part of our REWARD® methodology. Read more about the BiD Masters recommended review process here.