Project Management

The Secret to Successful Projects: Peer Review

Even the most experienced project managers still discover problems they have never encountered before. And since they are so heartily invested in the minutia of the project, they sometimes cannot see the big picture reasons why the problems occur. In an article for, Bob Ronan explains how conducting project-centric peer reviews can yield the insights that take back control of difficult projects.

Reviews Catch Challenges

Before a peer review can even be utilized, there are a few things that need to be accounted for. The person who conducts the peer review needs to be someone who is respected by the team so that their conclusion is taken seriously, and the reviews need to be project-centric. The review itself should be a collaborative effort amongst the reviewer, the team, and senior management. Additionally, peer reviews should be done multiple times throughout the duration of a project. There should be an initial review near the beginning of the project, followed by additional reviews with the beginnings of new project phases.

The following are the steps to conduct a peer review effectively. Ronan finds that a critical project will likely follow this process closely, while a less critical project may only use some of these steps:

  1. Conduct a project team questionnaire.
  2. Analyze questionnaire results.
  3. Hold project team interviews.
  4. Document results and arrive at conclusions.
  5. Create a final report to present to senior management.

The first step is to gain some perspective from the team, and a simple way to do so is to give them a questionnaire. This questionnaire should inquire about issues that may arise and cause project failure. Sample questions include: Are the requirements complete and understood, is the scope stable, or are there clear metrics to track the project status?

After the questionnaire is conducted, you have to analyze the results. Although this task is mostly focused at looking at the ratings and numerical information, the reviewer may also find it helpful to analyze it from the perspectives of the people involved. After there is a general overview about perspectives, there should be a physical interview with the team members to gain even more insight. This is the time for more information about the open-ended questions to be discussed.

After the interview, the reviewer should document all of their findings and arrive at their conclusions. This should then be reviewed with the project manager, and if any discrepancies arise, they can be mended.

The final step is to document all of the final conclusions and present them to senior management. The purpose of this is to uncover potential vulnerabilities and discuss how to best overcome them. This presentation should be a joint effort between the project manager and the peer reviewer.

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