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Phase-Gate Best Practices for Process Managers

Rules 4-6: No pet projects, set high standards, make firm decisions

Phase-Gate Best Practices for Process Managers

In part one of this three-blog series, “The Nine Rules of Engagement,” I discussed how a manager of the phase gate process is a lot like a music conductor. Your job is to adhere to phase gate best practices to establish a process and discipline for how the gate meetings are conducted, ensure adherence to help Gatekeepers pick resources and the best projects, and provide direction and recommendations to others as needed while being flexible.

To help process managers find their voice and balance their authority, here are rules 4-6 of The Nine Rules of Engagement—a foundation for establishing guidelines for members of the gated process, with the process manager as the maestro.

Rule 4: All projects pass through the gates (no pet projects).

As process manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure that all project ideas flow through you, whether the project eventually ends up following one of your Stage-Gate® processes or not. This ensures that no rogue projects are bypassing your process. The purpose of Gate 1 is to decide if a project idea should stay within the confines of your Stage-Gate process, and if so, which path it should take.

Rule 5: Set high standards for deliverables.

Standardize the deliverables to make sure the project teams deliver quality data for the gatekeepers’ evaluation. Standardization of the deliverables will help ensure that teams are aware of what information is expected at each gate and that gatekeepers evaluate projects individually, yet consistently.

Refuse or send back projects where standards are not met and the quality is not acceptable and requires more work. Lack of consistency in both the quality and content of the project data will slow down the decision-making process as well as inhibit a true understanding of impacts to the overall portfolio. One example of standardization would be to consistently use the same method or calculator for financial analysis to be delivered at gate 3, NPV, ROI, payback period, etc.

Rule 6: Make firm decisions at the gate meeting.

Firm and consistent Go/Kill/Hold/Recycle decisions should be made immediately following the review and scoring of the project deliverables. Be sure to inform the project team of the decision and reasons why. It is helpful for the team to be present during the discussion phase so they hear firsthand of any items that are concerns of the gatekeepers.  Remember that from the project team’s perspective, they have just gone through a grueling event, and they are thirsty for feedback. It is good for them to hear that feedback firsthand and as soon as possible. As the process manager, you must be clear and firm during this process, ensuring decisions are communicated and understood, and that any criticism is delivered constructively.

Implementing these rules can take time—take a phased approach if needed to gain buy-in from members. Eliminate pet projects, standardize deliverables, and be confident when communicating decisions—the entire team will appreciate the order gate meetings will begin to take on to keep things on track.

Read the complete blog series, Become the Maestro of the Gated Process: The Nine Rules of Engagement:

I’d like to hear from you. As a process manager, what challenges are you currently experiencing when conducting your gate meetings?

Stage-Gate® is a registered trademark of Stage-Gate Inc.

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Barry Novotny
Written By

Barry Novotny is a Managing Consultant for the Stage-Gate International USA’s Value Center, specializing in enterprise solutions to drive business value through innovation management and new product development. Barry’s experience spans over 20 years within the Manufacturing environment where he utilized Stage-Gate processes to manage new product, new process and technology development innovation projects. Since joining the Stage-Gate International team Barry has worked with several clients across various industries including manufacturing, chemical, household goods, technology (software) and cosmetics. He has provided services such as deliverables design and development, process assessments, process implementations, data analysis, portfolio management and innovation strategy consulting, training and best practice blogging and webcasting.   Barry holds a BS in Accounting from Penn State University and an MBA from St. Francis University in Lorreto, Pennsylvania and is pursuing certification by the Product Development and Management Association as a New Product Development Professional (NPDP).