Evolving our approach to feedback and reviews

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Reviews are a fundamental part of the bid response process and at the heart of them is the delivery of feedback. I’ve been increasingly intrigued by how approaches to feedback in these review stages can be evolved so that it has the most positive impact.

The reality is, providing feedback and receiving feedback require particular skills and a specific mindset, which many people underestimate the importance of.

Feedback at response development reviews, as an internal way to provide helpful information or share perspective, is vital to drive continuous improvement. Despite this, for an activity that is so important to successful bidding, there appears to be little attention paid by our profession to strengthening our leadership skills in this area.

Review stages represent a key stage with potential to demotivate if thought is not applied to who is involved, the objective and how it is delivered.

Review feedback can potentially be immensely constructive for those involved and is crucial in building trust, boosting confidence, applying focus and fostering learning. It is wise to remember however, that the way in which this is delivered can have more impact than the feedback itself.

Yes, we can ensure people are clear about what is expected through the development of agreed writing plans. But it is important to support the reviewers and safeguard writers by keeping reviews structured, focused and filtered.

Inviting people to review and provide feedback is a simple activity that comes with little resistance. Inevitably, our involvement as bid leaders is often focused on ensuring timeframes are met and post review action plans are agreed. Too often, we take for granted that both the reviewer and the writer, or presenter, are adept at ensuring this serves as a positive platform. Things to consider include:

  • Have we assessed the relationship of those involved prior to inviting the reviewer?
  • Is the reviewer clear about the motive for providing feedback, the outcomes it is intended to achieve and the circumstances the bid team face following the review?
  • Are the reviewer and writer clear about why they have both been chosen?
  • Have a number of people been asked to review and feedback on the same piece of work?
  • Have we thought about when and how the feedback is to be provided?

The ideal we are working towards is for writer and reviewer to buy-in to a common goal. For example, would encouraging a one-to-one session before the review build mutual respect between both and help refine expectations. Would it be prudent to ask one reviewer to coordinate thoughts from different reviewers so as to avoid mixed messages?

Providing support to both parties on how to deliver and receive feedback is often overlooked. For example, encourage the reviewer to share:

  • RETAIN – What did they see as positive that they were hoping to see?
  • REMOVE – What did they see that they felt was unnecessary?
  • RECOMMEND – What didn’t they see that were hoping to see?
  • RESIST – What didn’t they see and don’t want to see?

Receiving feedback on our work, with dignity, comes naturally to very few people. Providing support to prepare recipients for the review will help control defensiveness and aid the reviewer to deliver what is often an awkward responsibility.

This is important, because being able to take on board what essentially are interpretations and suggestions, requires an accepting mind, concentration and excellent listening. Key to this is controlling emotions.

As bid leaders, our roles are increasingly evolving to areas where the role is that of coach. Review feedback is an area where we can help others deliver and receive a message in such a way that everyone leaves the review committed to investing further because they know you care about them and the team.

As ever, it is our duty to ensure that the next time writers, presenters or reviewers are co-opted to a bid team, their experience of previous bids means they approach it with genuine enthusiasm, confidence and commitment.

This article was written by Peter McPartland.

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