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Tips for how to learn lessons in bidding

Updated: 6 days ago

How can we change the much-maligned reputation of 'lessons learned' in bidding and use them as a force for good?


Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The wrong way to do them is arrange a single ‘lessons learned meeting’ at the end of a bid and hope to learn lessons - which you rarely do. What normally happens is a blood bath, tumbleweed, or tea and medals. So, here are my tips on the right way.


  1. Appoint someone accountable for learning lessons across the organisation, preferably someone senior at the executive level.

  2. Gather observations from the three main sources - the customer, your own team, and any suppliers or teaming partners.

  3. Validate the observations. Are they the opinion of the most senior person, or the one with the loudest voice? Are they emotion from pent up frustration?

  4. Prioritise which observations you’re going to act on first. You can’t fix everything at once so decide what to tackle first.

  5. Pilot the changes. There’s little point rolling out a new process or technique if it doesn’t make any difference.

  6. Implement the changes and measure the benefits. Only then can you say that lessons were learned.

  7. If you've got the resources, use a BMO (Bid Management Office) to collect, analyse, and report the data.


Sounds great – when should I do it?

Hold reviews at the end of each bid stage to gather observations, validate them, and apply them to benefit the next stage.


Many people ask whether you should hold reviews before or after the customer’s decision is announced. I recommend doing both. Doing it before removes bias from the discussion, but you still need to know why you won or lost, so you should do it afterwards as well.


Haven’t got time or budget for this?

That means you’re not learning how to improve, which in a competitive market is the same as going backwards. Can you afford not to?

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