IPAO SRB Assessors or Consultants

Last year was an eventful and productive year for our office. You completed a significant number of assessments which, along with your team’s findings and recommendations, provided valuable input to the Agency helping to shape the Agency’s commitments for these, our most important activities. You managed to stay on track in spite of the many management changes that occurred during the year and it ended on a very high note with the Agency’s leadership endorsing the results of the continuous improvement activities that you carefully researched and worked with your stakeholders. You should all feel proud! I know I am!!

After a well deserved pause, it is time again to re-engage. In this 3rd edition of the Blog, I would like to address the following question: When do the SRBs exceed their independent assessment role and spill over into a consultant role? This question keeps popping up time and time again, and the truth be said, the line between assessor and consultant is sometimes a fine line that is hard to define. In its most essential role, the SRB is an independent advisory team to the NASA leadership. The SRB provides advice, not direction, related to the readiness of the Agency’s Programs and projects helping them successfully execute their commitments. Perhaps the best way to help define the difference is by providing examples of activities that are considered specific to each role. A good example of going into a “consultant” role is when SRB members advocate technical or programmatic solutions to the Program or project (note that this is different from the SRB recommending that a technical or programmatic approach be evaluated by the project or program). The distinction between these two activities makes all the difference. By advocating a solution, the SRB becomes a co-participant with the Program/project and has compromised its ability to further evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed solution. SRBs are interested in helping the Programs and projects be successful; but because of their expertise and experience, SRB advice may sometimes be considered direction by the Programs and projects. In their zeal to be helpful, the SRB could offer to perform work on behalf of the project…one of such cases could involve analysis that should be performed by the program or projects but instead is completed by the SRB. The SRB role is an “assessor” role and not a “consultant” role and we must remain vigilant and steer clear of those situations so that the independence of the SRB is not compromised or SRBs do not exceed their intended role. In this, like in many other challenging questions we deal with, there are no easy answers. As always, I welcome your opinions.

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