The common barriers that stop the implementation of reviews

Posted: 11/07/2018

The Higher Education sector requires reviews. Many of them. Everyone working in the sector knows this. Reviews can be valuable resources not only to gain accreditation or re-accreditation, but also to uncover inefficiencies, issues and risks, source evidence to support change and discover critical opportunities for improvement. Why then do so many reviews fail to be implemented?

In our experience, after completing hundreds of reviews in the past 10 years across 24 universities, there are four common barriers to implementation. To ensure you get the most from each review undertaken, we thought we’d explore these common barriers in more detail and offer some practical solutions to help you have a successful implementation.

Trying to implement everything at once

Reviews typically deliver many recommendations and provide an immense amount of information to sort through. Reviews usually include a significant amount of valuable recommendations for your institution to implement, which can also prove to be problematic. With many recommendations needing to be implemented there can be the perceived pressure to get everything implemented as quickly as possible, often with minimal resources.

However, managers often feel overwhelmed if they try to implement all recommendations at once. Delegating recommendations can also risk implementation that may not produce the desired outcomes if staff do not have the time or capacity to complete the additional work created by a review.


  • Create an Implementation Plan – This can be a simple summary table where all recommendations are listed, with a responsible person and due date added. This provides a logical and systematic way to manage implementation, to ensure timelines are met and the relevant tasks for each recommendation are added and tracked. An Implementation Plan can also help you identify when activities are late and at risk so you can take swift action. You can download your free Implementation Plan template here.
  • Start small – Tackle recommendations one at a time. Incremental change is better than no change.
  • Identify ‘quick wins’ – ‘Quick wins’ or ‘low hanging fruit’ are those recommendations that will be quick and easy to implement yet still have a positive impact in your target area or across the institution. An early win can boost staff motivation and morale and encourage greater buy-in for further changes.

No priority allocated to recommendations

When you have a significant number of recommendations to implement and do not prioritise them you can risk spending valuable time and resources on recommendations that will not produce the highest impact within your institution.

While ‘quick wins’ are ideal to start with, there also needs to be a priority given to other recommendations that may be harder to implement but also have a high impact across your area or institution.


  • Take a step-by-step approach based on priority and urgency – By prioritising recommendations based on urgency and impact you can break down the onerous task of implementing review recommendations into smaller manageable steps and ensure the appropriate allocation of resources. The priority tasks matrix is a great way to determine priority of each recommendation before it is assigned within your Implementation Plan. You can download your free priority tasks matrix here.
  • Establish a designated implementation team – When recommendations are left to anyone and everyone competing priorities can result in conflict and the wrong recommendations or activities being prioritised. A designated implementation team can take ownership of the plan, consult with key stakeholders, ensure the right recommendations are prioritised without bias and meet regularly to discuss progress, wins, and challenges or delays.

The institution cannot agree on the recommendations to implement

It is not unusual to have some disagreement around recommendations in a review, particularly when establishing the priority of each, but too much conflict and resistance can stop implementation in its tracks.


  • Use the priority tasks matrix – When there is a conflict around the priority of a recommendation, it is good to use the priority tasks matrix as a way to objectively evaluate and establish the value and priority of a recommendation. You can download your free priority tasks matrix here.
  • Establish an implementation plan – In our experience, a lot of disagreement can be linked to the perception that recommendations are too difficult, expensive or time consuming to implement. While this may be the case for some, creating an implementation plan that establishes the priority of activities and breaks them down into smaller manageable steps can be all that is needed to gain buy-in and prove changes aren’t an overwhelming headache or impossible to implement.

Insufficient internal resources to support implementation

With recent restructures and funding cuts, the staff left behind are often tasked with additional work. This can be a significant barrier to the implementation of review recommendations. With insufficient internal resources, whether due to a lack of time with ‘business as usual’ activities or a lack of knowledge and skills to implement the recommendations, review reports can be filed away to never see the light of day.


  • Identify what may need to change to implement the recommendation – Sometimes to implement a review recommendation another action needs to be undertaken. This could be establishing a process or creating a new position to be filled. Take the time to find out what additional actions or resources are needed and setup sufficient operating rhythm, accountability and reporting so that there is a driver to continue progress.
  • Get external help – If there are insufficient resources to take care of the implementation seek external help (the DVE Solutions project team can help). By engaging external help you not only get the specialist knowledge you need, but you also ensure that you have people on your implementation team who are 100% focused on the implementation and will not become distracted with business as usual activities. In our experience, this results in a faster, more effective implementation.

Do you have a review that hasn’t been implemented? Need help to establish priorities and develop an implementation plan? Call DVE Solutions today on 1800 870 677.