Better RFP Responses & Management
Better but not Perfect

Better but not Perfect

I’ve often wondered what it feels like to hook a ball out-of-bounds in front of a packed gallery, not to mention a few million TV viewers. Me, I never had that level of exposure, nor even a comparable level appropriate to my work environment. And yet, I still hated making mistakes. I hated even being mistake-adjacent.

In my first year in Proposal Land, we had been assigned a technical section based on the probable division of work assuming contract award. One response, however, was outside our area. As I gathered the responses from our own technical folks, I flagged this one question for completion by the prime contractor in another province:

XX’s input here.

When we faxed our pages to the prime (Yes, really. This was long before we even had files attached to emails. Shared online repositories were unimaginable.), I called the volume lead to tell him that we needed their input for that response. I didn’t think it was necessary, you understand, given the note in the document itself: I was just being thorough.

Typists in their organization retyped our pages into their word-processing software (I know, I know), and the whole proposal then went through a rigorous and meticulous review process with many stages. A few weeks after the submission date, we got a question from the reviewers.

What, exactly, does this mean:
“XX’s input here”?

Good lord. How many sets of eyes–typist, technical reviewers, executives–had missed that text? I was mortified but also furious.

A few years on, I understood Proposal Land a little better. By then, I had experienced more of the pressure inherent in a speed-&-feed environment. I had learned that the people scan a page more than they read it, and that an embedded note needs something (colour, font size, bolding, caps – SOMETHING!) to catch that scanning eye. I had developed better processes:

  • Submitting a complete document to a prime contractor, even if some of it had to come from the very people we were submitting it to
  • Reviewing documents against checklists

And so on. And yet, we still submitted imperfect documents. We still made mistakes. Not, perhaps, as silly or embarrassing as this one, but mistakes.

So? So read Seth’s Blog today.

Being careful is smart.
Being perfect is unattainable,
and seeking perfection is a trap.