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How to be prepared for a stage gate review

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When I was a project manager I used to hate stage or phase gate reviews. They often turned into a bit of an interrogation or bun fight. And more often than not, they ended up having to be reconvened as a decision couldn’t be made there and then!

Over the years I came up with a process to help me prepare and try to reduce the likelihood of reconvening. I’ve replicated it below so that it might help you.

Be prepared

This might sound obvious but I’m amazed at the number of project managers I’ve come across who wing it at the stage gate meeting. Your PMO or organisation should be able to provide you with a checklist for each of the stage gates your project needs to go through.

Have copies of all the relevant paperwork

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been in a stage gate review and found no-one has any of the relevant documentation. I suggest you either print copies, or if you use an online project management tool, ensure you can access it in the meeting so you can access the relevant information when you need to. Information I make sure that I can access in the meeting is:

  • Copies of the latest monthly report
  • Up to date schedule
  • Minutes from the latest steering committee meeting
  • Any audit results

Stand up for yourself

Earlier I mentioned that these meetings often turn into a bit of a bun fight. However, this shouldn’t stop you from standing up for yourself and your project. It is easier said than done, particularly in something as important as a stage gate review, but I feel you must be willing to stand up and defend your choices and the project if need be.

Know what you want the outcome to be

Before you go into the meeting have an idea of the outcome you want. Make sure you have evidence to support your choice, so that if you’re asked to justify your position you have everything at your fingertips.

Just remember, that the stage gate review is a two-way process – it’s not something you can’t be an active participant in. In fact, you should be an active participant in it. If the stage gate review is reconvened or doesn’t go your way, it doesn’t mean that you failed.

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