In Support of Color Team Reviews
Updated: Jul 16, 2022
A couple weeks back a client shared this recent article from Carl Dickson at PropLibrary about why they no longer recommend color team reviews. I love it when clients let me know about what they're hearing in the business development world. It's interesting to hear what folks in the industry are thinking.
Don't worry, I won't make you read the whole article to catch the gist of it. Kicking off the article, Dickson says that the color team model was "a great first attempt, but we've learned how to do much better." He refers to the model as ineffective, obsolete and not worth preserving. Strong statements against the principle quality control mechanism that most organizations continue to use for proposal processes.
From my perspective, Dickson is making a good argument that color team reviews are flawed in their implementation within many organizations. As Dickson says:
Checking in from time to time to see if the proposal is broken so that you can fix it is a way of catching defects that should have never been made. It’s good to inspect to catch errors and you will always need to check your work. But it’s better to prevent errors in the first place. It’s even better to design out the possibility of errors.
The color team model does not do this.
But I'm not convinced I buy this. Isn't this exactly what the color team model is intended to do?
Dickson criticized three key flaws that he commonly sees in color team reviews:
The open-ended, un-scoped nature of the review - often offering an unwieldy scope of documents and diffused focus for reviewers
Multiplicity of definitions, where-in a red team is rarely the same from organization to organization
Complexity of training and retraining potential reviewers
Ultimately, it isn't the color team review model that's the problem. Once again, it's not about the model itself, it's about how that practice is implemented within the organization.
Dickson argues that we ought to replace the color team model with "designing quality in at the beginning." I have yet to have a client that isn't making an honest and earnest attempt to design quality at the beginning. This analysis feels disconnected from the industry and ignorant to the challenges of group think that arise in proposal design teams.
Well designed color team reviews offer an opportunity to enhance the quality of a proposal beyond the knowledge set and capabilities of the central proposal team.
I'm not against innovation, and I do think there are opportunities to improve design quality from the outset. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater while looking for improvements to proposal processes.
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