Clear thinking

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Structuring case studies

 February 21, 2017
by Paul Heron

If you follow this blog, you’ll know how important we believe it is to organize and structure content for clarity and reading ease. It all goes back to our mantra: Conserve the bid evaluators’ energy for engaging with your ideas. Don’t burn them out struggling with a proposal that’s hard to follow and understand.

Structure has another purpose

It signals what it’s like to work with your company, particularly how well you organize and manage detail. Here's an example from a recent client project.

One section of the RFP asked proponents to describe their responses to four emergency scenarios, including details of its recovery plan. Each response was limited to one page.

Our client’s subject matter experts (SMEs) had drafted five- or six-paragraph narratives for each emergency. Buried in each narrative were assumptions, steps required, resources needed, time estimates, etc.

Because the scenarios required responses from different divisions of the company, a different SME had drafted each narrative. Not surprisingly, the responses were inconsistent, in both format and the information they contained.

They met the RFP requirement—but weren’t going to impress the evaluators.

Here’s what we recommended—and did

  • Created a standard format for each scenario
  • Summarized the scenario in the header
  • Listed all the assumptions behind the response
  • Built the action plan into a table with four columns: step number, action, resources and time required, and measures of completion and/or success
  • Added a notes section below the table for additional information, for example the bidder’s experience and track record resolving similar situations

The power of structure

Formatting the responses created consistency and highlighted gaps in information.

It also sent a powerful message to the RFP evaluators: When confronted with an emergency situation, this bidder immediately begins structuring the information it has, takes steps to learn more if necessary, identifies the resources it needs, and then organizes its action plan into a sequence of logical steps and goes to work. Finally, it has clear measures to identify when the action is complete and successful.

Build templates in advance

In the scenario above, we joined an effort that was already underway. A better approach is to create a simple word table and circulate it to SMEs at kickoff. The SMEs will work more efficiently and produce better, more complete drafts.


Need help getting the most from subject matter experts?

Contact Complex2Clear



Photo credit:

Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 





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