Peer Review in the PMO

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

I am a big fan of peer reviews. Whether it’s related to project management or not, I really feel that the peer review process can deliver a lot of significant benefits to a piece of work. On the one hand it acts as a significant motivator to the person doing the work--the knowledge that a colleague is going to be reviewing the work that you do is a great inspiration to do a good job. On the other hand, a review by a colleague can be seen as less threatening than a review by a manager or other senior resource.

However, when I talk to people who have experience of peer reviews in project management environments, I often hear horror stories of how things have gone badly: PMs have felt threatened, discussions have gotten defensive, comments have been taken (or delivered) personally, etc. So how do you implement peer review successfully with a PMO?

Understanding the basics
It’s human nature to be defensive when our work is questioned--it’s seen as a personal attack and a suggestion that we aren’t capable of doing our jobs properly. As project managers, we are in positions of responsibility and authority--we need to be seen as leaders of our teams, and if people question our work then that can undermine our ability to successfully lead our teams and deliver the project.

If a peer review process is going to be successful, it needs to recognize …

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"He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever."

- Chinese Proverb