Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of mentoring and being mentored by over 100 project managers (PMs). Since much is written on how to manage project teams and projects, I won’t dwell on how they shared their wisdom and time to help me become an expert level PM. However, the critical strategic question we always tried to answer was “How can the odds be improved to better ensure a project’s success?”. The consensus method was to conduct Peer reviews throughout the project’s life to learn from other’s experiences.
As we planned a peer review, these are some of the learnings we developed over the years:
- Purpose of review – to gain valuable imput in the shortest amount of time to avoid disasters, quickly resolve problems and improve the project’s odds of being successful.
- Who to invite – 1 to 10 diverse, knowledgeable, internal/external “experts” (i.e. technical engineers, PMs, construction managers, purchasing managers, finance managers, R&D, etc.) plus the project team.
- Meeting agenda – The project team concisely communicates their planned technical and executional strategies. The invited peers ask clarifying questions and provide comments, insights, and observations. Meeting participants should be open, honest, and engage in the discussions or not bother to attend the review.
- Meeting length – A maximum of 6 to 8 hours, including lunch and breaks. The maximum length of any session during the review should be 1.75 hours to ensure participants maintain their focus on the topic. Pre-work should be distributed 5 days prior to the meeting.
- Discussion summary – Take notes and visually display them throughout the meeting. In my last peer review of a $50 million project; 30+ “flip chart pages” were generated with the ideas/comments. These notes were later distributed to all the meeting participants.
- Peer review expectations:
- The meeting begins and ends on time.
- 8 to 10 major project improvement “nuggets” the team can immediately utilize.
- Meeting participants will also take 1 – 2 “nuggets” back to their projects as well as be exposed to talented individuals who they may never have had the opportunity to meet.
The Premier Resources Group (PRG) Advisors can help your Company avoid problems on your projects and the project teams. Whether PRG Advisors are brought in during the initial, conceptual or definition phases, or asked to provide peer review feedback through out a project, our PRG Advisory Services Teams’ vast industry experience can help identify improvement areas and define ways to execute these improvements in a timely manner.
This blog is based on an article in the July, 2001 ASK (Academy Sharing Knowledge) Magazine published by NASA titled “The Hourglass and the Project Manager – Part One” by W. Scott Cameron.