On today’s #PMChat, we talked about Project Stage Gates – What they are, how we use them and how they can help us drive better project decisions. Typically, stage gates are our key decision points where we stop, draw breath and bring the right people together, review progress, ask the key questions and get an agreement before starting the next round of work. Today, we focused on how to make them work for us.
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Personal experience – some companies do this better than others. The smaller the company, the less time they invest in Stage Gates, larger companies seem to understand the need.
If I’m working with a client that doesn’t use Stage gates, then I try to make them a thing.
Stage Gates are a great way to engage and influence our senior stakeholders. They work best when we have the right people actively involved. Our next few questions challenged us to think about how we can get the best engagement outcomes from our stakeholders.
I always have my Project Board (including Sponsor), but I also try to rotate my team members through as observers, so they can see the context and understand where the team sits in the wider context.
Q3. How do you make sure that your stakeholders are engaged and ready to contribute to a Stage Gate session? What planning do you do before the session, to make sure your participants are switched on, informed and engaged?
I always prepare, circulate and brief my key decision makers before the session. The worst outcome is if the Stage Gate becomes a workshop. Ugh! I work the decisions so we have an agreed position before the session.
I go in with an agreed set of objectives – normally based on (1.) getting executive support for key decisions and (2.) ensuring my audience is briefed on my Top 5 items of interest. Whatever the objectives, it’s really important to have them written down and front of mind, to keep you focused.
Our Stage Gates give us a bunch of information – decisions, actions, commitments and importantly, momentum and direction. The next thing to think about is how to target the outcomes we want and how to apply these in our project.
I use Stage gates as triggers for my next …stage…of my project. So I plan significant tranches of work, contracts, financial commitments etc off the back of the Stage gate outcome. Definitely NOT a “tick and flick”.
Q7. Are Stage gates a beginning or an end? Do you treat them as (1.) end points – wait for all prerequisite work before starting the next stage? or (2.) start points – kick off work as soon as you’re ready, regardless of work in progress?
End point, definitely. There’s a book called “The Project Workout” by Rob Buttrick – he argues for treating Stage gates as start points, but I kind of disagree with him.