Practical Advice for Integrated Baseline Reviews

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Pssst - Are you thinking about an Integrated Baseline Review or IBR?

This guide has easy-to-access information for program managers, IPT leads and analysts served up in bite-sized chunks. It is designed to be an informal collection of practical advice and insights supplemented with best-practice guides, quick-reference tables, videos, downloads and pithy text pointing you to real best practices in keeping your finger on the pulse of IBR planning, preparation and execution.

It also complements any IBR training offered by DAU by providing a variety of perspectives. By the way, of the DAU-led IBR training efforts efforts you might want to take a closer look at what DAU South (in Huntsville) does for IBRs. They have some innovative stuff going on down there in sunny Alabama. Just contact Joel Little at

For now, if you want to talk about practical, easy-to-access, suggestions for leading your team, your program, even your portfolio in an environment where IBRs lurk (and it should be all environments, not just EVM) then this is for you.

Some Awesome IBR-Enabling References for You

Perhaps you just want to dive into a best practice guide. Okay, that sounds great.

A real good place to read about what IBRs are all about is right here in the National Defense Industrial Association’s IBR Guide. Just download it and take a look.

guidebook icon National Defense Industrial Association IBR Guide

IBRs at their core are about Risk & Opportunity Management. We will talk a lot more about that from some unique perspective later in this guide, but for now if you want to gain perspective on how the DoD ought to do risk and opportunity management, then you will probably want to download this:

guidebook icon 2017 DoD Guide to Risk and Opportunity Management.

You really can’t talk about IBR’s without talking about cost and schedule.. Two additional excellent references directly related to IBRs come from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO). Over the past decade, the GAO has tackled the critical subjects of cost estimating and scheduling “head-on” in a selective crowd-sourced approach. The GAO gathered together experts in their fields from across industry and federal government to produce best practices guides in Cost Estimating and Scheduling, each will be outstanding sources for your PMO team. These guides are downloadable below for your convenience.

guidebook icon GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide

guidebook icon GAO Schedule Assessment Guide

Below is a video by the GAO Chief Scientist, Dr. Tim Persons, on the origins of these guides.

video icon The GAO Guides: Cost, Schedule Performance

IBRs are not done by individuals, they are done with teams. In our business we have to work with other people. Play nicely in the sandbox. It certainly helps to understand that sandbox and how other people play in it and DoD Acquisition Programs operate in Integrated Product Teams, or IPTs. IPTs are the critical linchpin connecting YOU to your program’s IBR success. Want to learn even more about IPTs? Go to the original source! The DoD has a guide for all that; it has been around a long time!

download icon Download the Guide here!

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) also has things to say about IPTs.

download icon Download their report here

Don’t Make IBR’s “Too Hard” … Because They Aren’t

Sometimes organizations will “push back” on the notion of an IBR because it is too time-consuming or expensive, messes with karma, whatever. These are the kinds of reactions that ought to raise an eyebrow or two. Too busy to plan the work and have a conversation about it? Really? Can you say “terminate for convenience” and just get it over with now, rather than enduring the pain of having someone in there running a scary management system full of surprises which has you paying an unexpectedly high bill in the end?

So please don’t think of the IBR as a prom or a wedding or a limousine ride to a gala. Instead, treat it like a daily commute. This stuff you OUGHT to be doing as a matter of course, not just in the first couple of months of a new program or re-baseline.

video icon Thinking of the IBR as a commute.

Leadership, Behavior, Culture … and Trust

Leadership is the best tool you have for shaping overall program culture, behavior and expectations in your organization or team. Without a doubt, it most certainly plays a critical role within the IBR preparation and execution process. As the leader – PEO, PM, IPT lead, other team lead -- you set the tone for IBR success. It is nice to want better outcomes, and in striving to improve we often overlook the role human behavior and organizational culture play in “getting good data” or “having a good process.” Thus we remind you of the Program Office Kill Chain below. We use the term because the term “chain” implies connectedness. The overall phrase “kill chain” is part of warfighter language, and since the warfighter is out ultimate acquisition customer, we thought it would be a good idea to remind you, through a simple language reference, of the warfighter environment.

Title: Program Office Kill Chain

Contains 5 chain links with corresponding titles:

1 - Leadership: Shaping Mindsets
2 - Culture: Value of X in your PMO
3 - Behavior: "x" walk vs talk in All teams
4 - Tailored Information
5 - Results: Real Decision Support 
Take a look at the short video below that explains this kill chain.

video icon PMO Kill Chain

Now that you at least thinking about the interplay among leadership, culture, behavior and outcomes, we have another element to throw at you: Trust. Thrust is the MOST IMPORTANT THING you need to make sure exists. In fact it might be said that the one thing that will kill an IBR if you do not have it, is an environment of TRUST.

Check out the video below:

video icon Trust, the IBR Cornerstone

If You Talk “IBR” You Must Talk “Risk & Opportunity”

IBR’s are about risk & opportunity. Yet even when we talk about risk & opportunity we don’t always talk about proper context, which also includes, constraints, assumptions and issues. So we would like to introduce you to the concept of CAIRO: Constraints, Assumptions, Issues, Risks and Opportunities. CAIRO prompts a wider view of the challenges facing a program manager – and those planning for IBR conversations --because each element of CAIRO is inter-related. Take a look at the video below for further explanation.

video icon Introduction to CAIRO

Thus we suggest you assess your program challenges and prepare for your IBR by “taking the road to CAIRO”:

  • Constraints: Limitations or restrictions (legal, programmatic, policy, personnel, etc.)
  • Assumptions: Suppositions or things taken for granted
  • Issues: Challenges that are, or must be, dealt with right now
  • Risks: Possible future events that will likely have negative impacts
  • Opportunities: Possible future events that will likely have positive impacts

Table 1. The Road to CAIRO




Limitations or restrictions (legal, programmatic, policy, personnel, etc.)


Suppositions or things taken for granted


Challenges that are, or must be, dealt with right now


Possible future events that will likely have negative impacts


Possible future events that will likely have positive impacts

Seriously … IBRs Are About Risk & Opportunity

Let’s spend some extra time here to get one myth busted right off the bat. IBR’s are about risk and opportunity. They are NOT about EVM. Yes of course you can hold IBRs within an EVM construct but you do not have to. Just to reiterate for the 3rd time in as many sentences, IBR’s are not about EVM, they are about risk and opportunity. Recall in the preceding section we go even farther than that to talk about challenges in terms of CAIRO – Constraints, Assumptions, Issues, Risks and Opportunities.

Anyway, as you think about your IBR, consider key points in the video below.

video icon Risk 101

Let’s take this whole “IBRs are about risk” conversation a bit further. For the remainder of this section, we want to tell a story about IBRs through the eyes of two people who have “been there, done that” and keep the conversation light and informal. So, without further ado, we present to you three short videos called “Dumb Professor and Smart Professor.” View all three (3) what the IBR means to “Dumb” Professor Pat Barker and “Smart Professor” John Driessnack, both of the Defense Systems Management College (DSMC) here at DAU:

video icon DPSP IBR and Risk

video icon IBR and Risk, Part 2

video icon IBR and Risk, Part 3

IBR Preparation Philosophy

Many program offices wait until after contract award to prepare for an IBR, which is too late. Moreover, when program offices do IBR preparation, it is often focused within the business financial management team instead of truly a cross-functional team. Worse yet, the IBR preparation material is often focused entirely on the contractor information. We can do better than this! The Government program office needs to go into the IBR with their view of the baseline, its inherent risks & opportunities and business s processes already built, which means a de facto Government PMO IBR should precede the Contractor IBR!

Heresy, right? Unrealistic expectations, right? Government Program offices don’t have time to do that!

Correction: Government PMO’s typically do not make the time to examine their own baseline in a rigorous fashion because they don’t make performance measurement a priority. Many “talk the talk” but do not “walk the talk.” No matter how big or how small your PMO, it pays dividends to figure it out before you engage the contractor.

Not convinced of that?

Well, we have the Defense Acquisition Guidebook ( )also telling us to do basically the same thing: BE PREPARED! Want some more specific examples where to look in preparation? How about this one, because it has a cute dog in the video:

Do you know how much money your time costs? The Government Team ought to have a good estimate for cost and schedule in place BEFORE the IBR, as the video below explains. Having your own well-supported view of cost AND schedule estimates BEFORE entering into the IBR dialogue will help you set priorities for that dialogue. Plus there is a dog in the video, and dogs are simply great ways to market otherwise hard-to-market things

video icon IBR Cost and Schedule Forecast

IBR Checklists and Tips for PMO Team Leads

Your PMO team leads operate where “the rubber meets the road” and are critical players in your IBR success. How well can they articulate their own situational awareness and what drives it? Not just of themselves but of their counterpart? Download the checklist to see what you think!

download icon Situational Awareness Self-Assessment Checklist

As a recap, here are the kinds of things your team leads ought to know about and what they need to be asking their contractor CAM (control account manager) counterparts. By the way, even though the term “CAM” is associated with EVM, it can be freely used here to mean anyone on either side with cost, schedule and performance responsibilities.

video icon Four Basic Questions for CAM Interviews

What IBR Success Might Look Like

IBR success does not stem solely from a process checklist. You need to ask yourself (and your team) the question: What does “success” in the IBR really look like to us? If you can visualize those conditions and communicate them to your team, then you have a collectively shared image of the desired end state.

Here are some thoughts:

video icon IBR Success

From an acquisition leader perspective, consider the following indicators:

  • Completion of the IBR is NOT tied to contractor performance payments
  • The Gov’t and Contractor PMs jointly “own” the IBR
  • IBR is not viewed by participants as a “once and done” event.
  • IBR viewed by participants as interdisciplinary event
  • IBR planning and prep blended into normal course of participant job duties from Day#1 of contract award, if not earlier.
  • IBR execution led jointly (Gov’t-contractor) by cross-functional leadership team (not solely within business management)
  • Participants understand that IBR outcomes are based on “mutual understanding” and not “100% agreement” or “pass/fail”
  • Risk/Opportunity register content grows (# of entries, depth/clarity of information) as a result of IBR prep & execution
  • Cooperation and trust between Gov’t and Contractor grow as result of IBR prep and execution
  • Process and system “compliance” review actions are NOT part of IBR prep (i.e. it is not an EVMS validation review opportunity)