Datawrite News
January 2008
Datawrite has served Fortune 500 companies and the Government since 1982.
Datawrite Inc. - Chet Shinaman


As strategies are refined and reviewed they are hung onto the wall of the proposal war room. Use tape or tacks. Often long sheets of peg board are installed on the walls for this purpose. It saves the walls from damage. Assign wall space to each of the major proposal sections from the master outline so that the team gets used to looking in the same place for a particular topic. Use large placards bearing the proposal volume section names and numbers. A well laid out wall gives the team visibility to all of the strategies and review comments for this phase. It also kicks off the next phase of the proposal development: STORYBOARD development.

This phase is decisive in the creation of a total RFP response. It is now time to take the high level ideas developed in the strategy sessions and to apply them to lower level requirements. For each of the major paragraphs treated in the strategy development there will be a number of lower level requirements. Storyboards help the team to capture approaches to the flow of all of these requirements in a summary fashion. When finished, this series of storyboards gives everyone on the team the chance to comment on the entire story upfront before it is rendered into many pages of text.

The major objectives of storyboards are to:

  • Take the lead in points from the evaluator by differentiating ourselves in a positive manner from our competitors, and
  • Give the benefits of our approaches in customer terms

Much has been written about the use of storyboards. Their heritage is from the movie business where they are used to track shots for a scene. Each scene is broken down into a sequence of actions. Each action is captured on an individual sheet, or storyboard, which allows the director to see what resources each shot will require in advance of going to the set. It’s a neat clear device. But bring it into a proposal team composed of cost, management, logistics, marketing and engineering folks and you have a tool that isn’t as well understood.

The idea is to give the proposal leaders that “snapshot” of the entire proposal before it goes into draft. Once in draft form the markups and pile of pages make it hard to see how thoughts are or are not woven through the entire product. But on the wall it is easy to go back-and-forth from one section of a volume to the next correcting approaches and giving emphasis to particular thoughts.

That’s the objective. But in a diverse group of people everyone has a different idea of what you are asking them to do when it comes to writing storyboards.

Each paragraph level requirement needs a treatment on a storyboard. There may be multiple requirements within a paragraph that have been shredded or we may gather small related requirements into a single board. Either way the idea at this level is to form objective responses that can be flowed down to lower paragraphs.

Each person on the team must learn how to use a storyboard to get anything out of the exercise. A proposal storyboard contains themes, strategies, substantiating data for claims and sometimes graphics or graphics interpretations. If you stand back and examine this last sentence you will see the heart of the problem. None of the personnel mentioned will understand what to write if you ask for a storyboard in those terms. What do these terms mean? Is there a commonality between them? What do they mean when they are applied to my section?

And so on… lost? I thought that you might be.


Give a short training seminar after every Monday morning status meeting to prepare the team for the exercises of the week. Since they will need to achieve the milestone you are teaching them to prepare for that week, they will all be more likely to listen and to take notes. But be ready after the meeting. Everyone will have heard the instruction in a little different way. The part that you thought you were being the clearest about will often be the one that they misinterpret. That is because they have had a lifetime of training some of which contradicts what we are trying to accomplish.

STORYBOARD preparation instruction

You create storyboards to clarify your thoughts in advance of writing them out in full English sentences. This is necessary on proposals where there is a whole team of people responsible for writing. One or two people could talk it out, take notes and come to an agreement but an entire team of engineers, cost, management, logistics and marketing people cannot. There has to be a vehicle that allows the Program and Proposal Manager to see and correct the flow of all ideas at one time before they go into the heavy text mode. Even though this concept sounds like good news from a management perspective, it can be frightening to the people who are expected to input a consistent level of information when they have never done this before.

It is an absolute must to hold storyboard development training classes. I like to give these after the morning status meeting. People tend to listen and get very interested in an exercise that they are expected to perform that day or that week. A seminar two months before the storyboard development starts isn’t going to get it. The method for filling out the storyboards should be fresh in everyone’s minds.

A simple, straight forward storyboard with as few blanks to fill in as possible will be the most successful. It will also achieve the objective of capturing approaches and substantiating data with the least amount of confusion. Remember, this is a difficult exercise for most of the team. This is no time for long repetitive forms filled with arcane writing exercises. The approach must be simple and germane to the final product. In the world of large competitive contracts you can not afford to give up precious time for circuitous exercises.

So, right after the morning meeting get out the old white board or flipchart. Sketch out the headings for the major boxes in your storyboard and explain them as simply and as clearly as you can.


I prefer a straight forward single-page storyboard format (Figure 5-1) that asks only the basics of the writer. This simplified approach leads to fewer diversions of style and misinterpretations of objectives. Let’s take a look. I will give the essential areas to a storyboard and explain their use. The simplest storyboard often obtains the best results (Figure 5-1). Using such a storyboard will cut your training costs and increase your productivity. Why? Because all of the information gathered in my example can be (with editing) moved directly to the first draft development phase. Let us find out how.

This has been a sample introduction to Chapter 5.
Please contact for the complete document.

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