The tollgate approach is a popular method in project management designed to help industries, governments, and organizations complete projects efficiently and more effectively. The method gets its name from the fact that teams aren’t permitted to advance to the next phase of a project before they meet a set of pre-determined criteria — similar to how an automobile can’t pass through a physical toll gate before paying a fee. The power of the project tollgate lies in its ability to keep teams working to achieve specific outcomes with the resources necessary to succeed.
Taking an objective-oriented approach, the tollgate method requires teams to progress through their projects in stages known as checkpoints. Since each stage has a set list of requirements to be met before the team is permitted to advance, the tollgate approach helps ensure that projects stay true to their business objectives. The benefit of this method is that it reduces the margin of error in a project, requiring project managers to be thorough in their evaluations as they carefully assess whether their project has met its goals for each assigned stage. This data-driven approach that focuses on checkpoint metrics reduces the likelihood of projects failing or being rushed to completion.
Project Tollgates Use a Pre-Defined Measure of Success to Ensure Outcomes are Met
More than just an action plan, the tollgate approach acts as a step-by-step guide that helps teams meet their goals and objectives. Because achievements are decided before the project takes off, managers start the project with a clear idea of what outcomes need to be reached and how their teams can reach them.
Moreover, pre-defining the goals and objectives plays an instrumental role in helping a project run smoothly. Instead of focusing solely on reaching the final objective, which can inhibit one’s decision-making process in the short term, project tollgates direct the attention to immediate outcomes that remain unchanged even if the scope of the project has shifted over time. Other key advantages of the tollgate method include:
- Projects need to meet a set of minimum guidelines before advancing to the next phase.
- Stakeholders and team members are involved in the planning process from the very beginning.
- Objectives are pre-defined, making it easier for team members to work towards the same goal at all times.
Overall, the tollgate method offers project managers, stakeholders, and team members a clearer roadmap to success. As a result, it becomes easier for managers to conceptualize actionable strategies, even when faced with unforeseen circumstances.
Project Tollgates Make it Easier to Pause and Resume Projects
When tollgate objectives are created in advance and agreed upon by all project stakeholders, managers have more flexibility with pausing and resuming a project in between phases. Because the tollgate method breaks complex projects up into small, manageable checkpoints, it’s easier for managers to understand the context and goals of the project — even after it’s been paused for an extended period.
Without pre-defined metrics in place, it becomes much more difficult to resume a project and ensure it runs efficiently. Over time, management and stakeholders forget their various goals and objectives, which can lead to poor and uninformed planning decisions. Project tollgates, on the other hand, remain largely unchanged throughout the duration of a project. This makes it easier for managers and stakeholders to remember what goals they mapped out when launching the campaign.
Creating an Effective Roadmap to Success with Project Tollgates
The tollgate method aims to help teams advance to different checkpoints using a careful review process, rather than emotion and sheer momentum. In addition, tollgate reviews help ensure transparency and accountability throughout the project journey. Since all parties involved participate in drawing up the guidelines for each checkpoint, everyone has the following information beforehand:
• The minimum objectives that must be met for checkpoint success.
• What resources are available to complete the checkpoint.
Additionally, setting up a project tollgate is a quick and relatively straightforward process. Simply arrange one or two meetings before the project where stakeholders and management agree on their business objectives.
The biggest challenge of running a tollgate method isn’t planning and checkpoint implementation — it’s the review process. While this method is an effective way to manage and complete projects, it requires a level of honesty and practicality. Managers and stakeholders need to be able to look at progress metrics and know when it’s appropriate to pause projects, even when faced with political pressure or high burn rates.