Summertime is here, at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere, and with summer comes the summer driving season! Families load up in the car to head to vacation destinations and along the way they might come upon a toll road or two. Times have certainly changed, gone are the days of frantically digging around the car looking for change to pay the attendant. These days everything is electronic, you simply receive a bill in the mail or if you have a pre-paid pass it is automatically charged to your account. While the process has certainly become more efficient and keeps traffic flowing, it got me thinking about project tollgates. In our rush to see projects finished, it is important to not speed past the project tollgates and move on to the next phase of the project. These tollgates serve a valuable purpose.
What is a Project Tollgate?
A tollgate in Lean Six Sigma project management is a checkpoint in which the project leader(s), sponsors, and stakeholders meet to review the completed phase of the project. Similar to how an automobile can’t pass through a physical toll meet gate before paying a fee, teams should not advance to the next phase of a project before the tollgate has been held.
In the tollgate, you review the key deliverables and project outcomes, discuss challenges the team might be facing, and agree on how the project will move forward. The power of the project tollgate lies in its ability to keep teams working to achieve specific outcomes with the resources necessary to succeed. This data-driven approach that focuses on checkpoint metrics reduces the likelihood of projects failing or being rushed to completion.
Creating an Effective Roadmap to Success with Project Tollgates
The tollgate should be a face-to-face meeting, so keep in mind that you may need to schedule well in advance to ensure that key stakeholders and sponsors are available to attend. It is important to communicate the agenda and any documentation you will be presenting in advance to ensure that all parties attending are prepared and have clear objectives for a successful meeting.
In our Lean Six Sigma Champion course, we provide a list of questions for each tollgate of a DMAIC project. Whether you are a project sponsor, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt or Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, these questions can be helpful as you prepare for your next tollgate meeting. We invite you to download these questions today.Download your copy of the Tollgate Questions Today
The project leader should be prepared to concisely present the outcomes and key deliverables from the completed phase of their project. Don’t plan on showing every tool but have them available in case a stakeholder or sponsor wants to dive deeper. Also, don’t surprise stakeholders or sponsors with new data or unreviewed recommendations, be sure you have shared this information before the meeting. Lastly, the tollgate is also an opportunity to ask for feedback, help, or direction where needed, be sure to incorporate this into the meeting agenda.
For project sponsors and stakeholders, this is your opportunity to provide constructive feedback and ensure that the project is aligning with the business objectives. It is not intended to be a pass/fail situation but rather an opportunity to review the project deliverables, redirect as needed, and provide your expectations for the next steps of the project.
While this method is an effective way to manage and complete projects, it requires a level of honesty and practicality. Sponsors and stakeholders need to be able to look at progress metrics and know when it’s appropriate to adjust or even pause projects, even when faced with political pressure or high burn rates.
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