The PM Podcast


Project Management Interviews for Beginners and Experts

Episode 217: Effective Gate Meetings (Premium)

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Matt PriestGate meetings often require stacks of administrative paperwork and template after template of fact and figure tracking. Most people would probably rather spend their time creating than justifying.

Matt Priest (www.kalypso.com) says that “Gate meetings can be faster, easier and more effective. Just improve the “what”, “who” and “how” of your meetings to make them less of a drain and more valuable for the organization.”

In this interview we discuss, how with a light and nimble framework in place, gate review meetings are more effective and scalable, will become easier to address and will grow and mature with the organization.

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #217. This is The Project Management Podcast™ at www.pm-podcast.com and I am Cornelius Fichtner.

This is a premium episode reserved for all our premium subscribers. Thank you so much for your support. And by the way, if you are a PMP and you need some additional PDUs, then please check out The PDU Podcast™ at p-d-u-c-a-s-t .com.

Gate meetings often require stacks of administrative paperwork and template after template of fact and figure tracking. Most people would probably rather spend their time creating than justifying.

Matt Priest from Kalypso says that “Gate meetings can be faster, easier and more effective. Just improve the “what”, “who” and the “how” of your meetings to make them less of a drain and more valuable for the organization.”

In this interview, we discuss how, with a light and nimble framework in place, gate review meetings are more effective and scalable, will become easier to address and will grow and mature with the organization.

So without further ado, open sesame. Enjoy the interview.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Matt Priest, Consultant at Kalypso.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Matt and welcome back to The Project Management Podcast™!

Matt Priest: Thanks, Cornelius!

Cornelius Fichtner: Well in the first interview that you and I did, we talked about how to use agile on consumer goods and now, we’re going to make sort of almost a right-hand turn because you wrote an article on your website called “The What, Who and How of Effective Gate Meetings” and it’s gate meetings that we want to explore in this interview here today. But, let’s start with the most basic question: What on earth is a gate meeting?

Matt Priest: Well, gate meeting is simply a formal checkpoint in the new product development process. It’s part of the stage gate methodology that was developed by Robert Cooper some years ago. It allows organizations to review individual projects in their products pipeline to understand that they are on track, according to schedule, budget, resources; they are continuing to bring value to the business and if there is still a market and consumer-base ready for this product.

Cornelius Fichtner: Right! What value do gate meetings bring?

Matt Priest: Gate meetings allow you to really understand where a project is at a certain point in time. Not only is it according to schedule and budget but also how things change. Do we think that their product is going to bring less revenue to market or more revenue or are the raw material or the cost going in to the product more or less, does it still fit to what organization needs in terms of strategy, value and benefit.

Cornelius Fichtner: Right! This is more than just my monthly project status meeting where I go to my sponsor’s office and sit down with him and tell him how we’re doing, right? This is more of a formal thing where the project could actually be killed.

Matt Priest: Yeah! So this is really a decision meeting. So at each gate meeting in the products development process, it’s really a decision on should it continue to go forward, should it be put on hold for a certain period of time, or it should be killed or it should be just get cancelled altogether. So it’s a checkpoint to decide which of these three things is the correct option for this project and also is it going to move forward, does it need incremental funding or more human or financial resources for the project. So it’s not a request but a decision point there as well.

Cornelius Fichtner: Right! So since most people will dread this kind of meetings, I mean me as the project manager, I’m going in there. I know I could be out of a job after this and everybody who is sitting out in the team room, the developers, the workers, the other team members, they kind of go, “Oh my God! They are now making a decision whether or not I have a job or not. Can we just skip the whole process altogether here please?”

Matt Priest: Skipping the process will allow the projects to continue when they may need to be ended. It’s not anybody’s fault sometimes when a project has ended. It’s just sometimes the market or the consumer has changed throughout the course of the development cycle or maybe a competitor reached into the market and ‘Hey, we’re going to invest anymore funding into this product because the market doesn’t exist anymore.’ And so, it’s definitely a point in time and a meeting that needs to be had or to assess the benefit of a project going forward and getting washed in the market.

Cornelius Fichtner: I’ve been lucky in regards to these gate meetings. I never had to attend one because my projects were always short-duration projects, 6 to 12 months usually. There are no gate meetings there. Have you attended gate meetings? What’s your personal take on them?

Matt Priest: Well, gate meetings I have attended in the past, some are very relevant and some don’t do so well. But I think the ones that don’t do so well simply lack structure and substance in the meeting. They end up being kind of like what you said earlier, just a typical status update. There’s no real decisions that are made and they’re kind of 5-minute status update-type meetings.

Gate meetings should have a specific outcome depending on what stage is that in the product development process and that’s when the meeting should be held and there should be a definitive ‘yes or no’ decision at the end or whether or not the project continues and what kind of funding it receives and if it’s getting incremental funding.

Cornelius Fichtner: When should you hold such a gate meeting?

Matt Priest: Gate meetings are typically held at the end of each stage of development. Well, that stages vary from organization to organization depending on how they’ve structured their development process, kind of typical 5-stage approaches. There’s a Concept stage. Then there’s Feasibility and Planning stage; the Design stage; the Test stage and then the Watch, the Final stage. Those 5 stages can vary and be more or less depending on the type of project, if it’s a minor support project or if it’s new in the world of innovation that’s going to require medicines, medical device or pharmaceuticals who’s going to require a lot of regulatory and kind of FDA-type approval. There may be more stages built in to handle that.

Cornelius Fichtner: And who would you invite to such a meeting?

Matt Priest: The gate meeting is usually attended by few members of the project team, probably the project leader and then maybe 1 or 2 functional specialists depending on what stage the product is out of or what gate rather.

You also have the members of the governance team that are going to attend as well. This is kind of your cross-functional leadership group that makes decision on whether or not the project should continue. Then outside of the people that are representing a project team and people that are making decisions, we also have your innovation process manager that is responsible for the entire phase gate process. This person would take the responsibility to ensure the project team is ready and if they have whatever deliverables are required at that particular gate when I turned in before the time where they can be sent on to the governance team for review. They also help facilitate the meeting as a whole and communicate any decisions down to the entire project team.

Cornelius Fichtner: Right. Let’s look at this from the perspective of me the project manager, right? My gate meeting is coming up in a few days. I’m getting ready, prepared. What recommendations do you have for me? How do I prepare? What do I prepare?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

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