Do you have gates in your project?

In the spoof western film Blazing Saddles someone uttered these immortal words:

“We’ll head them off at the pass!” Hedley Lamarr (played by Harvey Kolman) says “I hate that cliché!” and promptly shoots one of the actors in the foot. (I did say it was spoof western!)

So what is the link between this and project management? Let’s look for a moment at the project management life cycle. My company, Project Agency has a 5 stage life cycle. Your company may have more stages or less. The key is that you have stages. It is the end of each stage where you need to go through the pass – a la Blazing Saddles.

The pass; a place where the project is considered and a decision reached including whether the project should continue (in its current state), be amended or even stopped.

From what we have reported to us on our project management courses , too many projects go off scope. The normal monitoring and control process including change control processes do not seem to work. People often suggest project reviews are often not as effective as they should be.

Educate your project sponsor and project executive

Because of the above, I usually discuss with the group their role in educating their senior managers (sponsor, project executives) in the role that senior managers need to play. I also suggest there needs to be a gate process developed. This process should be a thorough review at the end of each stage of the project management life cycle. This review should among other things test the validity of the project. I suggest a range of questions, among them are:

  • is the project still worth while doing?
  • is the business case still current?
  • is the priority of the project still the same?

There are of course many other questions that could be asked however the principle is this; do you have a process that reviews the project thoroughly at the end of each stage of the project lifecycle? Are you heading them off at the pass?

If you do not, you may get shot in the foot!

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