Managing Agile within the Shipley Framework

By Brad Douglas, EVP Global Strategy


As workforce and workload management continue to accelerate toward a virtual and flexible approach to achieving outcomes, adhering to a defined and disciplined pursuit management framework has become more important than ever.

Agile is not a framework with specific tasks, milestones, and lessons learned, but an approach to managing a series of activities and milestones in a flexible and nimble way to achieve outcomes and maximize resources.


“The Shipley framework is the map, Agile is the navigation.”
—Brad Douglas, EVP Global Strategy, Shipley


The key is learning to navigate the pursuit framework by executing and managing with an agile, flexible, and nimble approach to winning business. With this approach must come accountability at all levels of business winning. It is the rigorous accountability that drives an agile approach to pursuit management. Absent accountability, any workflow method will fail.

The widely accepted Shipley framework has been established and updated for this very reason—to help teams track, monitor, and adjust key activities, milestones, and gates in an iterative, not linear or lockstep fashion. Most activities, tasks, reviews, and decision gates outlined in the Shipley framework can and should be done concurrently and sometimes repeatedly. The level of activities should be scaled based on the complexity of the pursuit and availability of resources.

For example, we should be assessing our competitors and pricing to win while we build a relationship with the customer—all in preparation for blue and black hat reviews. We should develop win strategies and win themes while formulating our content plan. Waiting to collaborate on these key activities until the next formal review or gate is scheduled is NOT an Agile approach. Agile requires collaboration at each step.

Applying the Shipley framework in an Agile work environment also means adapting Agile terminology. Regular stand-up meetings become huddles. Concurrent, rapid activities become sprints. A proposal manager might function more like a scrum master with similar responsibilities. Color team reviews are done rapidly with a spiral approach—still requiring action plans and feedback to key pursuit stakeholders.

Whatever your business culture, workflow, and leadership approach look like, a well-defined business winning framework with key tasks, activities, and milestones can’t be overlooked. We can’t shortcut the key decision points and expect to compete and win. Discipline, flexibility, and increased visibility will improve our overall efficiency—with a focus on the customer.

Let the iterative and flexible Shipley framework complement, not hinder your Agile work environment. Staying true to commitments, objectives, and outcomes helps improve business winning results, but only with discipline and leadership.