You have heard of inspections, and about consultants coming in and telling you what you should be doing – but do you know what a peer review is?
A peer review can help if you:
- are managing a project, or a service and have got to a point where it has stalled or progress has slowed down to get the impetus back – or to decide it is no longer viable,
- you are at, or rapidly approaching a key milestone and need to ensure that the project is on track and not missing anything vital,
- you have gone through, or are planning, a major change want to ensure you have not lost the plot,
- you are about to refresh a key strategy or policy and want to make sure that you include everything that is relevant,
- you would like to add to your existing knowledge by learning about good practice from experts in the field
- you have made changes and want to see how they are working and if there is good practice you could share with others in your organisation (this would normally be an internal review which might run slightly differently to the process I have outlined below, although the principles are the same).
A peer review is not an inspection or others telling you what you have done wrong and how they think you should do things better.
A peer review is experienced professionals holding a mirror up to your service, strategy or project to reflect back to you what they are seeing. They will make suggestions about what changes or improvements you could consider based on their experience, but is up to you what you do with them.
So – how does a peer review work?
The first thing you need to know is that you are in control:
- You decide who will act as peer reviewers for you based on their profile received from the organising body,
- You set the parameters about what they are looking at,
- You provide the information and back ground documents,
- You organise the meeting schedule, in consultation with the reviewers,
- You are asked what outcomes you require from the review – although the reviewers can only provide them if they find the appropriate evidence to back them up,
- You have a meeting with them on the 2nd (and subsequent days if over a longer period) to get feedback about what the reviewers are finding and the recommendations they will be making,
- You decide what you do with the report that you receive – it is your property.
A review is not intended to be a long, drawn out affair. It is intended to be a short, sharp intervention to help you keep things moving. It would normally last from 2 days to a week on site depending on the size of the brief. There will be preparation time for you and the reviewers before the review. The reviewers will give you feedback before they leave, and then commit to getting a draft report to you for your comments within a month. While on site the reviewers will have a programme of meetings with key people including an introductory back ground meeting a the start and a feedback meeting at the end.
The end result is a report which can help you into the next phase of your planning or strategy. It could help to clear the blockage, give you a new direction or option to follow, or it may even identify that the project or programme needs to end as it has done all it can, or is not worth continuing with.
There are a number of organisations which offer peer reviews as part of their improvement and support roles – have a look and see what you can find. I have recently taken part in a library peer review organised through the Local Government Association. They also offer peer challenges in a range of significant local authority areas .
In addition many companies, services and authorities will use an internal peer review process to share good practice. I would love to hear about your peer review experiences.