Stage Gates


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Execution means going out and implementing what has been planned. This seems obvious, but a lot of programs are continually in a state of firefighting because there is no real plan. Not all the projects in a program have to follow the same execution strategy. The program manager’s responsibility for execution begins with establishing the scheduling plans for projects in the program. This is a conscious decision that has to be made on the basis of the priority of the projects, the resources available, the planning horizon, and the organizational constraints. This is a key aspect of setting up a culture that fosters project success. Even in dynamic environments you must have a plan or a series of short plans tailored to the rapidly changing environment

Our 8 part Guide to Program Execution Processes will guide you through processes to plan and execute a variety of projects so you aren’t constantly putting out fires!

Guide to Program Execution Processes

Part 1 of 8: Establish an Appropriate Planning Horizon
Part 2 of 8: Establish a Scheduling Philosophy
Part 3 of 8: Implement a Stage Gate Process to Ensure Proper Execution of the Planned Schedule
Part 4 of 8: Maintain Integrity with Change Control
Part 5 of 8: Create a Status Process That Allows You To Regulate Execution
Part 6 of 8: Ten Obstacles to Effective Project Status
Part 7 of 8: Project Status Meeting Frequency
Part 8 of 8: Guidelines for an Effective Project Status

Part 3 of 8: Implement a Stage Gate Process to Ensure Proper Execution of the Planned Schedule

Scheduling provides a plan of work flow, which is managed by the organization’s project management processes. Whether the organization has lots of processes and is heavily process-dependent or has few processes and is mostly people-dependent, it is necessary to ensure adherence to whatever processes there are. This is best done by using stage gates.

A stage gate is essentially a checkpoint in the project management process. The project is not allowed to proceed past the checkpoint without demonstrating the required proof of readiness to proceed. Thus, at each stage gate the program manager and/or the PMO define what deliverables the project must have before it can go on. This ensures both compliance and thoroughness.

Balance Between Control and Bureaucracy
After everyone is committed to the stage gate process, you need to determine the number of gates the process will use. There could be a set number of gates for all projects, or there could be tiered levels of control depending on project size and complexity. These are program management decisions. Major milestones are the natural places to establish stage gates. Every project has a natural set of milestones. The program manager should examine the project’s milestones to see if there are opportunities to insert additional milestones if there are large or significant gaps between natural milestones. The inserted milestones can be “program audit,” “external review,” or “design 75 percent complete.” The added milestone forces an assessment, and the assessment forces work to get done.

Evaluate the Process

A review of stage gate deliverables can be completed by the program manager, it can be a series of self-checks in which the project manager signs off or certifies that all the deliverables a stage gate requires are complete, or it can be peer reviewed, in which case project managers sign-off on one another’s readiness to proceed to the next gate. Signature accountability is important here. Occasionally auditing any self-checks is also warranted.

Once your team has decided on their plan and process, PPM software can help you execute that process. WorkOtter helps you successfully execute your program process strategy for project success. Get a demo of WorkOtter and see how we can make your program management effective.

“The Handbook of Program Management: How to Facilitate Project Success with Optimal Program Management, Second Edition” by James T. Brown is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. ©2014 by McGraw-Hill Education. Purchase the book on Amazon.