As I was teaching our IDIQs and Task Orders course on Monday, we were reviewing the best practices for a quick and efficient proposal development process. One practice was conducting a proper kickoff meeting. After attending many proposal kickoffs (some of which included a proper breakfast and a long PowerPoint), and then watching a proposal unravel, I have figured out what needs to happen in order to prevent a disaster. I distilled the information that needs to be shared with the proposal team into nine kickoff goals. It doesn’t matter what the size of the team is and what the length of a proposal is, you have to address all the goals – or there will be problems, guaranteed.

One of these goals is obtaining a management buy-in.  First, make sure that you and your teammates’ senior management are present at the kickoff. Since management usually grapples with a busy schedule, the portions of your kickoff content that you want them to hear the most should be put at the beginning of your brief, and addressed in a discreet chunk of time, with management in attendance, so they can leave afterward. You especially need to win their support for your:

  • Plan for conducting your proposal (how have you tailored the proposal process to fit your opportunity and the resources you have available),
  • Win strategy, and
  • Level of confidence in your ability to pull it off with the resources you have at hand – or any resource-needed requests if you don’t think you can do it with what you’ve got.

The kickoff is the time to express confidence in your team’s ability to win, and to get everyone excited and ready for the “fight.” But, do not sound overconfident – so that you inspire complacency in your team, and don’t commit career suicide with the senior management, in case you make it seem like a slam dunk. This may prevent you from getting the resources and support needed if you run into trouble around the mid-proposal stage, and will definitely backfire if you don’t win.

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