A process where peers from different teams or organizations share their experiences, insights, and knowledge with a team that has requested assistance
Purpose and benefit
A peer assist is a process in which an individual or team arranges a meeting or a workshop in order to make use of the knowledge and experience of other individuals or teams before embarking on a project or activity. In R&D organizations, the peer assist process can help avoid situations such as ‘re-inventing the wheel’ and provides team members with valuable knowledge and insights from other teams before embarking on a project or task. It therefore allows a valuable connection with those seeking assistance with a peer group who have expertise in a given area. A peer assist meeting can last from an hour to a full day depending on the size of the project or activity. Communicating with experienced peers about the best way to approach new projects saves R&D organizations time and money and avoids repetition of mistakes. It also helps to create strong team bonding, establishes rapport and fosters the development of relationships between people.
A peer assist meeting can last from an hour to a full day or even several days depending on the size of the project or activity. Communicating with experienced peers about the best way to approach new projects saves R&D organizations time and money and avoids repetition of mistakes. For NPP operating organizations pear assist teams are often used for high complexity low frequency events, e.g. replacement of components, embrittlement analysis and others, as the pool of experienced specialists is not very large. International organizations like WANO, INPO and IAEA often use the pear assist approach and organize expert visits to a facility which requests it.
Peer assist can be internal, external or even international (in cases where international organizations appear as facilitators). Internal peer assist is usually based on learning from different projects. External peer review requires more organizational effort to assure coordination between different research teams or facilities.
- Define the problem or opportunity that you are facing, and decide whether a peer assist is the most appropriate process.
- Write and disseminate a brief description of your need to peers, giving them the chance to self-select for participation (this step is applicable for a more general task where clear expert community is not known to you).
- Look for diversity, i.e., people who will help your team confront the problem from different perspectives (those with little direct experience can often offer a great deal).
- As soon as possible, identify people who can participate on your selected dates—fitting into their schedules is critical.
- Identify an experienced facilitator who understands the learning process and has a sound understanding of the technological issue to be addressed (in some cases self-facilitation is also possible).
- Design the event to ensure plenty of time to reflect.
- Allow the peer assist team members time as a group during the session to analyse their findings.
- Ensure the key lessons and good practices shared during the session are captured. This may require some follow-up work to gather sufficient detail for those who did not participate.
- Agree to a set of actions. If necessary, conduct modifications in the agreed procedure for completing the task/activity and consider lessons and feedback received from peers.
- Make your findings accessible to others outside the group (in accordance to the commonly used practice in your organization, e.g. in a portal or progress report)
A peer assist should be focussed on a specific technical, mission or business problem. A peer assist is used to convene the session after a team has exhausted its internal knowledge, created its plan, and before the start of actual implementation. People are more open to knowledge and insights from their peers before they undertake a project or challenge. A peer assist should be carried out in an atmosphere of help and support. Sometimes a host team already knows what it needs to do and is looking for validation. In these cases, its members still profit from the exercise, but only if the facilitator inspires them to consider new possibilities with open minds.
Convening a peer assist session when the project/task under review is routine and not particularly onerous. Peer assists should be used sparingly for the more unusual or high risk project/task. If a supply chain organization is involved in a peer review, conflict of commercial and safety related interests can appear. Peer review is often confused with a benchmarking or audit. It is an advisory help and not an assessment.