What is structured reviewing?
Working together to prevent waste: structured reviews can help a project in gaining advantage of reviews by early detection, preventing defects and getting a product fit for its purpose.
The phases in a structured review process are: planning, preparation, execution, approval, finalization and reporting. A moderator announces the review and supports the review process in which selected reviewers judge a product from their own perspective. The author reworks his product based on the merged list of comments after which an approval phase is started by the moderator. After the rework is approved, the review process is finalized by a review report.
Some might notice that structured reviewing does not mention review techniques. Reason for that is that the chosen technique does not affect the structure of the process.
The moderator facilitates the review process and informs the author and reviewers of each step and each activity that needs to be performed.
Based on experience, the role of an active moderator is vital for the success of the review process. The moderator facilitates, administrates, inspires, triggers, reports, assists, chases and reminds in order to keep the reviewprocess going on. The moderator’s top priority is to get the quality of the documents up to par.
The author of a document or product makes sure his deliverable is up to par as much as needed. A request for review is announced and handled via the moderator in order to get assistance from the reviewers to get the document to the required level of quality. The author treats the review comments as feedback, with the intention to handle all comments seriously and rework the document for each single comment. Unclear comments are clarified by contacting the reviewer, a session for clarification of the comments is requested to the moderator if the rework might not be right the first time.
For each role, as defined in a review matrix (an extract of a RACI), at least one reviewer should participate in a review. Ideally 1 reviewer per role should participate because that will lead to the most efficient reviews. More reviewers per role will likely lead to duplicate comments. Next to the reviewers identified by the review matrix, extra reviewers can be invited to participate. For instance subject matter experts can be part of this group.
Reviewers judge the deliverable from its own professional role. With respect to the author, the reviewer is polite, clear and to the point. When noting down a comment, the reviewer makes sure to be complete and detailed enough so the author can understand the comment and is helped in reworking the document.
The moderator does not participate in the reviews, but can perform some checks during the intake.
The role of management is important but limited. It starts with supporting the review process and encouraging the team to participate. It also concerns the creation of a safe, open, environment in which errors can be made and fixed without personal consequences.
Together with the moderator, the responsible manager fills the review matrix in which is decided which document types to review and which roles must or should participate in the review. The responsible manager decides on the time lines and the moment on which a review should be started. The moderator will put these agreements into the review plan.
All other managers, if not in the role as a reviewer, are involved as recipients of review reports, status reports and quality reports which can be used as input to plans and project plans.
On the start of the implementation of a review process, the details of the review process, including a review matrix, time lines and scope, are described in a review plan. In some cases it can be useful to prepare and use some check lists and guidelines.
All activities around the reviews need to be administered, leading to an extensive administration. Input for this are the individual and merged review forms. Using this administration and the metrics that are gathered, each review will be accompanied by a specific review report.
Data of multiple reviews can be combined with other metrics and conclusions, leading to an overall review report. This report can contain statuses and indicators regarding product quality and process quality.
To gain advantage of reviews by early detection, preventing defects and getting a product fit for its purpose, there are some critical success factors to keep in mind. Critical for the success is the commitment of senior management to have a review process in place. The (dedicated) support by a skilled moderator is absolutely needed to get the review process implemented and to keep the process going. Select a review technique that suits the product and the situation to get the most out of the review effort.
Since the reviewing heavily depends on the quality and quantity of the reviewers’ input, it is vital to keep this open stream of information going. Training the reviewers and instructing the management about how to use the metrics can be useful measures for this. The first improves the quality and ROI of the reviews, the second should prevent functional judgment of the reviewers or authors.