The key to a good Stage-Gate process is having an effective gate review process.
Gate Reviews are held at the end of each phase, the purpose of which is as follows:
- To check that the key actions in the preceding phase have been satisfactorily completed
- To check that the project is still on track
- To check that the project is still worth continuing, given the risks involved and any change in the business case
- To agree the priority for the next phase compared to other projects
- To approve budget and resources for the next phase
Gate reviews are therefore a quality control mechanism for the projects, a method of risk control through the project, of allocating priorities to projects and in the limit, of stopping projects that look likely to be unsuccessful.
There is usually a panel of Gatekeepers
Because saying ‘Go’ to a project at a Gate implies a promise to the project manager that the company will provide the resources necessary, the Gate Panel should comprise the relevant resource owners, at a senior enough level to:
- Commit the resources at the gate
- Sign off the expenditure if it is required
- Agree Priorities
- Have a view of the big picture and think of the portfolio balance
This may vary depending on the gate and the size of the project, but consistency of Gatekeepers is usually good.
- Go means everyone agrees to provide the required resources for the next Phase.
- Conditional Pass. This means not all criteria have been met, but the project is allowed to go to the next phase, but poor items have to be corrected and represented at a certain time. If they are not, it is stopped. ‘3 strikes and out’
- Hold means Go but not yet, because something else has priority.
- Repeat means do this phase again, then re-do the same Gate. ‘3 strikes and out’
- Stop means really stop, not keep going unofficially. The purpose is to release resources for another, more worthy project…
Stopping a project if it is failing to meet criteria, in spite of every one’s best efforts is the right thing to do, as it means that money and resources can be released for something more beneficial.
Types of Project
Not all projects are the same.
Classic Stage-Gate theory considers all projects to be ‘Mortal’, i.e. they can be killed if they are not performing. well.
However in practice this is not always the case. Some projects are ‘Immortal’, i.e. they cannot be killed. This might be because the project is an ‘external’ one, rather than ‘internal, i.e. it has been commissioned by a client, or it might be because new regulations demand that it must be done, or top management has mandated that it must be done. In these cases, gates become quality control points.
Types of Gate
Also within any project there may be different types of gates:
- Approval Gates (Hard or Rigid Gate)
These are spending gates, and as such are usually Hard or Rigid Gates. The Project Manager is asking management (or the customer) for money/resources to be able to proceed, so has to convince the Gate Panel that you should go ahead
- Progress Gates
These are confirmation gates, confirming that project is on track, and so can be Soft or Flexible Gates, as resources (money & people) are already approved to original budget. However, if performance is poor, the project is able to be killed, and if it needs more budget the gate becomes a spending gate
- Acceptance Gates
This is a Hand-Over Gate, and usually a Hard or Rigid Gate. The Project Manager is asking management (or the customer) for the project to be accepted for hand-over, e.g. start of manufacturing, start of sales, or customer acceptance. Thus he has to convince the Gate Panel that it should be accepted.
We are happy to discuss gate reviews with you in more depth and we can offer training and consultancy to help you to improve your gate reviews. Just contact us.