So the first time the review team meet the client’s programme team is at the planning meeting.  OGC sets out an agenda and guidance, and teams will be trained on how to run them.  But get these wrong, and the review will probably suffer.  Get them right, and start a productive relationship with the client’s Senior Responsible Owner (SRO), and you are more likely to have a collaborative rather than adversarial review, with much better outcomes for the programme.

That probably goes without saying?  Well you would think so, wouldn’t you.  Especially as reviewers have been carefully selected and then trained.  But I’ve seen it go wrong from the start, and here’s why.

The SRO has to want to have the review, and feel that there is some real benefit in doing it.  If, as some feel, that they are having the review foisted upon them by their bosses, then you have got to work hard to convince them that, because of the way that you run the review, they will have a report that will help them.

I’ve had the extremes:  I’ve been met at the railway station by an assistant chief constable in his full uniform who then drove us back to the force HQ and laid on a lunch whilst we discussed how we could work together for the review.

And the other extreme, where the SRO has failed to turn up, or sat there with a well-rehearsed page of “lines to take”, with all stakeholders briefed so that they are word perfect when we interview them.  “Gaming” is easily spotted, and in reality just makes the team look harder for the thing that is behind the smoke screen.

But it is easy to understand why this happens if the review is seen as a waste of time or an imposition by, for example, a government department on one of its agencies.  That is out of the review team’s hands, but what they can offer is real insight, technical know-how, experience, best practice and impartiality.  This can often bring SROs around, especially when you discuss the drafting process and say that you want to help them take the programme forward, and are there any particular points we should mention that would help you?

If you can help the SRO convince the management board that they have (if they have) done a good job, and that they could, perhaps, do with more senior stakeholder support, then you will have an easier job when you suggest the business case could be more clearly defined.  The teams that can’t build that relationship and trust from the start, will be the ones which won’t be invited back, and the recommendations will be quietly filed away.

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