The planning for structured reviews follows the project planning. A review should be non-invasive to the project plan if possible, or it should be fitted in. Either way, reviews must be part of the project plan to make the activity visible and plannable.

When planning for reviews, the following dates and turnaround times must be defined:

  1. Document delivery date
  2. Review date
  3. Review deadline
  4. Rework deadline
  5. Approval deadline

The turnaround time for the whole review process is the time needed from step 1 to step 5. The individual turn around times and dates per step can vary, although there are some things to keep in mind.

Reviewing overlaps project phases
It differs per project, so think about it: does the review process overlap with other design/build/test activities or do you implement it as a separate activity? Overlapping causes less impact on the regular project’s time lines and there is the advantage of reviewing documentation which is used directly. This might lead to more detailed comments and it provides some flexibility in the process.

The review overlaps phasesPlanning the reviews as a separate activity provides more visibility and makes reviewing a more formal activity.  It provides less flexibility because the review process directly impacts the project planning.

Review does not overlap phasesRestrict review time
Too little time for a review impacts the quality of the review and will reflect in a low response percentage or an incomplete set of comments. For a serious review enough time must be available. Next to that, in practice there will always be reviewers absent, ill or unavailable for whatever reason; just one day for reviewing causes non-responses for these people.

Too much time for a review will cause people to delay the review until the deadline. Or worse: past the deadline. The review requests will quickly move to the bottom of the to do lists causing low response percentages and hastily reviewed products.

Experience shows the following turnaround times per step:

  • 3 working days for a review
  • 2 working days for rework
  • 2 working days for approval

If a document is too big to review and rework within these time lines, it might be useful to split up the document or review the document in phases. Reviewing asks for a mental effort for which limited energy is available.  Although it varies, most people’s attention span is about 40 minutes, which seems to be valid for reviews as well. Metrics show an average of 45 minutes review time per document (avg 16 pages), which includes time to note down the comments.

Flexible deadlines
Choosing for strict or flexible deadlines is up to the situation. Some kind of flexibility can be useful for the reviewers to fit a review in their planning. Being flexible can help the reviewer in accepting and following the review process.

However, the process is called “structured reviewing”, remember? There is a reason for the deadlines; people are waiting for results and each step in the process should be executed just once to be efficient. When needed, the flexibility can be tightened to 0. Some things to take in consideration when determining the flexibility of the deadlines:

  • Project planning (do you have space for flexibility?)
  • Author’s planning (does the author have enough time to rework his document?)
  • The reviewer (is the reviewer always too late or is it incidental?)
  • Frequency (frequent reviews on standard days  can be less flexible than incidental reviews)