Managing a Project Stage Gate – Part 3
The “look forward” Action List
If the project board has decided that the project should continue, you must now turn to the detailed plan that the project manager has compiled for the next stage.
If you are a project board member, then the project manager should have consulted you during the preparation of this plan so nothing in it should come as a surprise.
However, you still need to be sure that you are happy with it before you approve it and authorize work to begin on the next stage.
Do not authorize the start of the next stage an issue are convinced that the plan for it is realistic and achievable. As the project board member you are responsible for the good governance of this project.
If you sign a plan that you do not think is achievable then you completely undermine the good governance that you are supposed to be ensuring.
Many organisational managers think that planning is basically a waste of time and really delays the start of the project work. Planning is not a waste of time.
A good plan means that the stage will run more smoothly, and it will actually save time. What wastes both Time &Energy is hitting unnecessary problems because things were not thought through properly at the start.
Some projects lurch from crisis to crisis with constant firefighting of one problem after another after another. Do not let your project by one of them.
Check that the stage plan is accurate and correctly reflects the project plan for this part of the project.
Make sure that there is sufficient contingency in the plan to cover things that will go wrong, because something surely will. The amount of contingency will partly reflect the degree of identified risk in the stage, but contingency is also needed for unforeseen problems.
You will of course already heard of Murphy’s law: if things can go wrong, it will go wrong.
Make sure that you are happy with the controls for this stage. The controls may be slightly different from the previous stage perhaps, for example because this stage is higher risk or that the products being made are radically different, or that you are using a third party labour.
Check that there will be sufficient control over quality to ensure that the right level will be delivered. This check maybe fast to do if the stage will continue with the controls used earlier in the project, and that they have already proved to be effective.
Look at the resource allocation and check that the resource is available. This will mean the project supplier and project user on the project board confirming that the resource shown on the plan will be available.
Confirm that the finances available for the stage, and that includes the change and risk budgets. Check that the budgets are sensible and reflect the work on the one hand, and the assessment of risk and likely change on the other.
Realistic and achievable
Stand back from the plan and assess whether overall, you are confident that the plan is realistic. This will include aspects such as the estimates for activity durations. Finally make sure that the plan is also achievable.
Ensure the project stage gate is effective
Do not be tempted to carry out project stage create meetings as fast as possible!
It is quite a good idea for the project manager to bring on any specialists within the team that may be under answer questions of a specialist nature. It important that the project stage gate meetings are not rush to. Items to watch out for here are that the project was set up properly before it got underway.
Also, checking that the risks have been identified and were going to be managed effectively. Another point here is that the project plans are well thought through realistic.
The Project Manager’s stage gate Action List
If you are the project manager, you will be preparing information for the stage gate. Here is a set of action points that you need to make sure that you have got everything ready in advance of the stage gate meeting.
Stage completion report
Starting with the most obvious, you will need to provide copies of the report for the project board members, and do not forget a copy for yourself to refer to during the meeting.
Charter and project management plan
Provide copies of the updated project charter and the project management plan for the project board members, along with a copy of each for yourself as well.
If you are given a report in the form the business presentation, do not forget to check out the kit beforehand to make sure that it is in place and working. Be sure that you have the presentation slides loaded on the computer and ready to roll.
Have information to hand to answer any questions of detail, including your sauce calculations for things like spending and team performance.
If lessons have been learned in the stage just finishing that will be are the media used to other projects, have brief notes ready in the form that the project board can pass on into the organization.
Notes for your points
If you want to mention any particular points about the running of the project, and prepare a list of them with brief notes so you do not forget to cover them.
The next stage plan
Provide copies of the plan for the next stage for each of the project board members, and make a copy for yourself so that you do not have the embarrassment of having to us to look over someone’s shoulder at their copy if they ask a question on it.