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An Alternative For The Venerable Kickoff Meeting?

Kickoff meetings are often held at the start of a proposal. And that’s the problem.

They reinforce the concept that the proposal starts at that moment. Whether you win or lose the proposal has probably already been decided by the time of the kickoff meeting. The work you do learning about the customer, the opportunity, and the competitive environment before the RFP is released is a critical part of the proposal. While it may be entering a new phase, the proposal effort starts way before RFP release.

The idea of getting people together, introducing them to each other, collectively discussing what is about to unfold, etc., is a worthwhile effort. But maybe what’s needed is a proposal orientation and not a kickoff. At RFP release, new people need to be briefed into the proposal effort that is ongoing. Other people may need to be introduced after RFP release, due to the addition of team members, staff availability, results of reviews, etc.

Just like when new staff are introduced to a company, they need an orientation. And that orientation should be part:

  • Policies, procedures, etc.
  • Handbook, manual, or whatever you want to call it
  • Forms that need to be filled out
  • Badges, permissions, network accounts, parking passes, etc.
  • Logistics, supplies, resources, etc.
  • Introductions to people you need to know
  • Training
  • Proof of compliance
  • Delivery of your first assignment(s)
Now ask yourself what is the best way to provide this orientation. Is it individual based or group based? Is it self-guided? Is it a meeting? Is it a single event or multiple events? On-site or remote? What is the duration? The most likely answer is all of the above. Part of the orientation you need to provide can be self-guided. Part must be done as a group. Part can be remote and part is best done on-site. Part can be done before proposal writing starts, and part at the beginning. How you handle the allocate of orientation activities is less important than making sure you don’t leave anything out.

What is most important is to tear down the wall between pre-RFP and post-RFP. There might be different staff involved before the RFP comes out and after it is released. They may even come from different departments. But it needs to be one process. And while there might be a handoff that takes place, there shouldn’t be a “start” that happens in what is actually the middle.

Having a “kickoff” meeting reinforces the idea that after the RFP comes out (actually a few days later after the company decides whether or not to bid) is when the proposal starts. By getting rid of “kickoff” meetings and instead having “orientations,” it implies that there is something or someone already in place to provide the orientation. And you can have accountability for the content and quality of the orientation, whereas in most organizations there is little or no accountability for ensuring proposal readiness before the “kickoff” meeting. So maybe it’s time to let the venerable “kickoff” meeting go...

By Carl Dickson, Founder of

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