Critical Friend Review

Provide mutual learning for all participants

Supporting and challenging in order to improve

A critical friend can be defined as "a trusted person" who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critiques of a person’s work as a friend. A critical friend takes the time to [fully] understand the context of the work presented and the outcomes that the person or group is working toward. The friend is an advocate for the success of that work. The role of the critical friend is essentially a role of supporting and challenging one another, it is a strategic that is designed to helping  improve.

Typically a 60-day programme of work with six defined sprints, our Critical Friend Review (CFR) offers independent scrutiny and opinion from a number of different perspectives. CFR can be used either prior to starting a programme or as a midway feedback opportunity for longer projects, or as a final assessment for shorter projects. CFR can be conducted as short specific project sprints or across multiple projects and assignments.

What makes a good critical friend?


An effective critical friend is someone who:


  • You trust and respect, you have a strong relationship with, or believe you could develop a relationship with

  • Who will provide honest and critical feedback

  • Is a skilled observer and listener and is able to ask provocative/stretch questions that provide balance between support and challenge

  • Understands the context well or takes the time to develop this understanding

  • Provides a different perspective/new eyes and to critique utilising a higher order thinking.

Critical friends do not: 


  • Assume a directive role

  • Offer solutions to problems or provide “quick fixes”

  • Rush to judge

  • Pretend to know the problems better than those within the company

  • Impose agendas of their own or undermine the authority of others


Working with your critical friend: Confidentiality is essential, the ‘critical’ aspect relates to the task and the ‘friend’ aspect relates to the individuals as a person comments should be seen as professional challenges rather than criticisms. Expectations with regard to availability, commitment to the process, reliability and how progress will be evaluated need to be discussed and agreed. The critical friend need to own the agenda and take responsibility for preparation and follow-up. Openness to discussions about performance is essential.


Benefits of effective feedback: Effective feedback does many things, including:


  • Honouring competence and reinforcing desired behaviours

  • Helping align expectations and priorities

  • Filling gaps in knowledge enabling people to know where to take corrective action

  • Alleviating the fear of the unknown