Proposal teams are formed ad hoc, assembled often quickly, with a short-term deliverable under high pressure deadlines. Since they form and disappear so quickly, capturing lessons from these processes is essential to improve.
It can be challenging for organizations to make time for reflecting, capturing and analyzing lessons from proposal processes. All of the many moving pieces in the busy days of business development can push learning to the back burner. Yet the best proposal teams are the ones that take the time to look at what they've been doing and try to identify ways to improve.
These are a few helpful tips to make capturing lessons learned more useful and outcome oriented.
1. Don't excuse proposal processes as a "one off"
My strategic advising clients I've led through analyzing their past proposals often seem to excuse a "bad" proposal process as a one-off - a process that somehow fell outside the realm of all other proposals because of it's unique circumstances. Excusing those bad experiences is a missed opportunity to really analyze what happened and learn from the experience. Instead, focus on what processes need to change to prevent that from recurring.
2. Schedule debriefs regularly and at multiple levels
Take this as your reminder! Schedule those debrief opportunities regularly, both to capture lessons learned from individual proposals, but also to find commonalities across proposal processes. An individual proposal process debrief can be an opportunity for the proposal team to reflect, and should be scheduled within weeks of the end of a proposal process (enough space to breathe, but not so much they forget). On the other side, business development teams can benefit from a larger scale meta-analysis of multiple proposals. A quarterly or even monthly check-in can help teams capture those lessons and look for commonalities across proposals.
3. Make lessons learned actionable
After dedicating the time to reflect and capture lessons learned, it can be a challenge to actually put those lessons learned into practice. Reflecting alone can be cathartic and useful in its own right, but it's not really valuable to the learning process unless there is someone there dedicated to capturing themes, documenting commonalities, and rolling up results into action items. Make sure that you have someone present who is capturing themes, and a venue to report back commonalities and tips to address common issues.
With these tips, your capture of lessons learned will be more useful and lead you to more wins!