Tag Archives: consultant

What is the point of a Peer Review?

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

What next?

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.


Can the way communication is handled cause problems in a change programme?

The short answer is yes it can, however that would make for a very short post. It is not possible to cover all of the elements of good communication in one blog, so this is a taster on a theme I will come back to in the future.

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


One of the main mantra’s for any good change manager or shared service architect is communication, communication, communication. It is the people who are involved in the project or affected by it who can make it work or cause it to fail.

The projects that succeed have managed this part of the change process effectively by making sure that the right people are communicated with, at the right time, with the right information.



So who are the right people?

Here is a list of people who could be in the communication plan, depending on the project (please comment and add any you feel I have missed):

  1. people who have initiated the project and started it off
  2. main decision makers
  3. project sponsor
  4. project board
  5. project team
  6. management team
  7. staff
  8. unions
  9. customers
  10. stakeholders
  11. suppliers
  12. national bodies responsible for monitoring or validating the area of work being changed  or shared.

The trick, though is knowing what to communicate to each of these groups, when and in what format.

When is the right time?

All too often I hear of projects where all that people get is information about what has happened with long intervals of silence in between each communication. This is a prime breeding ground for rumours to become the main source of information about what is thought to be going to happen which then leads to the very people you want to be engaged and positive about the project being negative and difficult.

It is, therefore, important to have a regular, planned, timed and promoted methods of keeping all of the key groups linked to the project informed. I would suggest that this is at least monthly – but if the project is moving fast this should be increased to weekly or even daily updates. It is then important to keep the promises made about this communication programme even if the only thing to communicate is that there is nothing to communicate – although often this can be helped by saying what has been done as part of the process being  undertaken even if the potential outcomes cannot be shared. This communication should start from as near to the time that the project is initiated as possible.

It is also important to make the communication a two-way process – not just giving out information but showing how people can participate in, and influence, the change that is happening. A good change programme gets the people who are going to be involved in, or effected by, the changes that are happening participating at as many stages as possible. This is especially important at the start of the process as I have often found that  some of the most innovative ideas come from the people who are most closely involved in delivering or receiving the services provided.

This is not to say that the final outcomes of the change programme will be decided by everyone involved. It does mean, though, that when the options are presented to the project sponsor, board and decision makers that they will have the validation of the input from all of the people who have been part of the consultation element of the communication programme.

What is the right information?

It is information that they need to know at the time they need to know it and it should be presented in the places and formats that suit the people the communication is for. My recommendation is that you should give as much information as you can without hindering the confidential elements of the project. This will give the project credibility and can be referred to at the times when there is not very much detail to be shared.  It won’t stop the rumours, but it will help to maintain better relationships with the people involved.

I have listed below a range of methods of sharing the information (again this is not an exhaustive list), and not all methods will be suitable for each project:

  1. letters
  2. consultation documents
  3. newsletters – print or online
  4. internet pages
  5. intranet pages
  6. Twitter
  7. Facebook
  8. blogs
  9. linked-in
  10. staff meeting
  11. public meetings
  12. informal networks
  13. formal networks
  14. displays
  15. open days
  16. stakeholder meetings
  17. meetings with suppliers

Each should have a clear and simple method for anyone receiving the information to respond with a clear protocol for how and when the responses are dealt with. It is especially useful to develop a range of FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) to help with this process and make sure they are easily accessible.

I would be interested to hear your views on communication and what has worked for you.

Becoming a Shared Services Architect

I am a qualified Shared Services Architect with a postgraduate degree in Shared Services from Canterbury Christchurch University. I was presented with my certificate in February 2013 by the MP Brandon Lewis.


It was lovely to meet up with the rest of my cohort and the tutors from Canterbury Christchurch University .

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I am looking forward to using the skills I have developed in my consultancy business working with my Shared Service Architect colleagues and helping them to continue to develop their knowledge base.