Diary of a Planning Peer Reviewer – Day 3

We just gave a presentation of our findings to the planning chair, head of service, and others. It went down well. There were a few recommendations that will potentially be tough for some members to swallow. But everyone receiving the presentation felt that the changes would bring about positive outcomes.

-I’m on the train back to London as I type this. The train just stopped and we’ve been informed this was ‘due to an idiot on the track’…hmm, are conductors allowed to say that?-

The last day of the review was jam packed. We started off grouping the post-it from the previous days into themes within themes. This is hard because some issues are connected across themes. It’s important to be able to separate them out enough to pinpoint possible solutions. While this was going on we were still talking to important service partners. Some of the information coming in was confirming earlier assumptions but also raising new issues that we couldn’t really continue investigating at this late stage.

The rush to put the presentation together was a little stressful but also exciting. We had a couple of slightly heated discussions of what the main issues were and how we should word them. In the end we agreed enough to get it down on paper just in time. I think this final day was really interesting because it tested all of us. Our short-lived team actually needed the three previous nights of bonding over dinner, drinks and small talk to build a good enough relationship with each other to make some pretty strong statements about another council’s working practices. This final push was a very fulfilling process to go through.

The presentation and following discussion lasted for 2 hours. This was partly due to a very thorough planning chair and his detailed comments and questions. I was happy to hear that some of our points for improvement were warmly received. This council has recently gone through some big management changes and they are on a steep road to improvement. One of our team members had a great tip for this process. He said to the head of service, ‘ask yourself: if I weren’t afraid, what would I do?’. This seems like such a great closing statement after a review like this. They will need to make some comparitively radical changes and the head of service will need to show strong leadership to take his team through this journey.

In any review process I find that my thoughts tend to go toward reflections on my own work practices. The peers on the team also mentioned that they always learn and take ideas back to their authorities. Peer reviews are excellent examples of sector-led improvement. But the important point is that it was a two-way learning experience. All of us on the review team gained considerably from this experience. Ok enough of this sappy stuff. The train has finally started up again and I’m going on holiday tomorrow so I’ll be switching my blackberry and my brain off for the next week. Well, maybe I’ll keep on enough brain power to contemplate what I’m afraid of and perhaps what I would do if I wasn’t afraid.

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