The Soft Skills That Keep Review Teams Moving


Without a plan in place, overseeing small review teams can feel like herding cats. A lack of specific, clear communication can result in missed deadlines, misunderstandings, or incomplete follow-through. Ensuring that team members are working on developing crucial soft skills like communication, planning, and collaboration, will keep teams organized and efficient. By utilizing the right combination of soft skills, teams will not only meet work deadlines, but also enhance workplace culture and morale.  

Keep Teams Small

Making decisions and delegating tasks can become unwieldy if a group is too large. On the flip side, teams of one or two people may not be big enough to complete the work quickly. Typically, placing three to five people on a review team is ideal for streamlining the process and ensuring that communication can happen in a manageable way.

Although most small teams may be able to organize an efficient system with no clear leader, assigning a manager for each small team can provide team members with a go-to person should questions arise. Managers can also check in with team members regularly to get updates about progress or any challenges the team has encountered.

Define Criteria for the Review Process Ahead of Time

Before reviewing submissions, it is important that team members all know what they should be assessing. Meeting in person to discuss the criteria for submission review is vital to ensuring that personal biases or opinions don’t get in the way. This can also help team members share ideas about what criteria they most value. Generating a checklist of criteria for each team member to use during the review process will ensure that each submission is being assessed according to the same set of standards. If you’re using a digital review system, this checklist will likely be integrated into your process.

Establishing clarity around review criteria eliminates confusion for your team, and also guarantees that submitters receive fair treatment. One good way to generate discussion about the best criteria to use during the submission process is to have the team review a handful of sample submissions together. Sample submissions can give team members concrete details about what they might expect in the review process, and can encourage teams to ask questions that will help them decide what criteria they will use.

Encourage Collaboration

It can be tempting to bypass team building when deadlines are looming. However, teams who put the time in to talk through processes and share ideas will collaborate more smoothly and be more efficient in the long-term. On any team, there are bound to be differences of opinion or dynamics between individual team members that detract from workflow. Teams who talk about anticipated challenges, share ideas, and engage in problem-solving together will build trust and be more reliable at producing needed results.  

Set Deadlines

If a review process will take more than a week, setting one distant deadline can mean that team members are more likely to prioritize other tasks from day to day. This could leave the team scrambling as the deadline approaches. Scheduling a series of deadlines for a team’s review process can help team members maintain momentum. Breaking the larger goal into smaller tasks with regular deadlines will help team members make progress at a steady pace.

Scheduling manager-team member check-ins at various points in the process can also help with troubleshooting if needed. Team meetings can serve as well as an opportunity for members to check in as a group about process and progress. Be sure to keep these check-ins and meetings brief and relatively infrequent. Too many meetings can distract team members from getting the job done.


Front loading the review process takes time that many organizations may feel they don’t have. But by promoting essential soft skills like collaboration, communication, and setting schedules, teams will be better equipped to meet deadlines and navigate review processes with minimal difficulty. Ultimately, providing teams with a strong foundation and work plan will save time for team members and for the organization as a whole.

Emily Withnall

Emily Withnall works as a freelance writer and editor. Emily also teaches poetry in public schools in and outside of Missoula and in the Missoula County Detention Center. Some of her work is available at