By Anna Gault Galjan
A MORE ADAPTIVE, FLEXIBLE APPROACH FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
ACCORDING TO THE LATEST
data, 5.134 million businesses with
up to 20 workers exist in the United
As nuclei for invention and
growth, small businesses have long
been recognized by APMP as likely to
benefit from the early adoption of best
practices in proposal development as
part of a sound business plan.
However, current accepted procedures in proposal management, such
as Shipley, continue to emphasize a
multi-resourced, single linear time-
line involving a storyboard phase,
a first written draft, initial review,
second draft, follow-up review (red
team), recovery phase, production,
and submission. Similar to the
“waterfall” methodology in software
development, each phase is ideally
encountered once, with no back-
tracking or repeat, with the objective
of building upon the quality of the
previous proposal draft. Those 5.134
million small businesses can buckle
under the strain of taking a significant portion of their resources from
operations to develop a competitive
proposal using this method.
Agile development, adopted from
the Agile software development methodology created in 2001, presents a more adaptive approach,
emphasizing continuous improvement
and flexible response to change, with
practices that focus on the product
needs with an iterative approach.
The applicability of an Agile
development approach to proposal
management has been explored
within the APMP body,
discussions have tended to favor
large businesses in their (1) focus
on product improvement through
increased collaboration, synergy, and
cross-functional teams; and (2) treatment of the process—RFP receipt
through proposal submission—as one
development cycle, known in Agile
. These key Agile components continue to elude very small
businesses, who lack the large teams
necessary to cover the various roles
required to successfully implement
these elements under Agile. Simply
put, and using Agile terminology, the
(proposal manager), writer, and graphic artist are
too often all the same person.
Not all opportunities demand the
resourcing that a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract proposal requires,
and smaller opportunities evaluated on
best value are of no lesser importance
to many small businesses. Within this framework, and with one experienced
and knowledgeable writer, there are
elements under Agile that can prove
powerful to the very small business,
still offering the iterative and adaptive approach but better harnessing
the limited skilled resources avail-
able. Central to these is the Scrum
Sprint, a repeatable work cycle that
resolves into a finished product. The
Scrum Sprint can be adapted to any
length under one month and can be
extremely effective for smaller tasks
within a one-week time frame.
Consider the example of a
month-long proposal cycle, where
the RFP requires the technical
volume to contain a technical
approach, corporate experience, and
a management plan with accompanying resumes. Using a standard Scrum Sprint model,
first determines whether all tasks
can be completed within one week.
If so, the writer completes planning
within eight hours, performs an
initial outreach to resources within
the company to gather information,
drafts the proposal section, relinquishes the draft for review, and
completes the recovery based on
reviewer feedback. (Handoffs and
additional development phases are
discouraged within Agile, to keep
the timeline short.) There should be
an opportunity for a
standup, where technical resources
are available for one 15-minute
meeting every day to answer any
questions that the developer may
have and to allow the writer to
report progress. The final version
of the proposal section is completed
in five days, and once that section s done, the writer moves on to the
next section, to meet the next dead
line within five days.
This process requires flexibility
in the available team, since the
writer must access various workers
to gather information at four different points within the one-month
cycle. The process also requires the
reviewers to be available at four
different points, but this type of
flexibility is often more realistic
for brief periods for a very small
business. The many advantages of
this approach for a small-business
- Rapid convergence of finalized
- Higher quality of writing by an
experienced proposal writer.
- Uniformity of writing.
- Concurrence of facts through
out the proposal
Centrally maintained under
standing of specific technical
- Centrally maintained under
standing of adjustments to
the technical solution, in the
case of either amendments or
changes to technical approach.
- Reduction in resources diverted
- Reduction in reviewer feedback
too late into the proposal cycle.
The very small businesses who
cannot incorporate all elements
of Shipley deserve their own
set of best practices in proposal
development, and Agile presents
a number of scalable, flexible
solutions for best-value bids.
- U.S. Census Bureau, 2012.
- Mitch Reed.
Proposal Best Practices: Fitting
Best Practices into an ISO/Capability Maturity
Model (CMM) Infrastructure,
May 28, 2007;
Neil Cobb & Charlie Divine.
Bids & Proposals for Dummies,
Wiley & Sons, 2016.
- Maryann Lesnick, APMP-NCA Mid-Atlantic
Conference, 2014; Wendy Freiman,
, Spring/Summer 2009.
- Kenneth Rubin.
Anna Gault Galjan
is the founder of AGG
Consulting LLC. She can be reached at 860-
712-7276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
APMP Journal Volume V Issue 2
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