Many organisations have a defined project life cycle with established gate reviews. The idea behind the name and the practice is that the project team and sponsor report progress against criteria defined by the project life cycle to the steering group. And the group decides whether the project can progress.
In a gate review, the project manager summarises project goals and activities, and the team present their work. The steering group assesses the material presented against the project goals and with the benefit of their experience.
Gate reviews are not buy-in activities, if you need to engage your stakeholders you must do so before the review. Gate reviews exist to protect the organisation from poor projects. If the project team cannot show they are fulfilling the requirements of the project (time, cost and quality), the steering group may cancel or pause the project or allow limited actions while the team addresses issues.
I deplore meetings for the sake of meetings. The following reviews all bring value to a project, but we should use them appropriately:
- Project Evaluation Review – considers the management of the project and its likely technical success. Generates actions to improve the chances of success.
- Audit – reviewing a project systematically against the requirements of a standard or procedure.
- Post-Project Review – takes place after handover and generates lessons learnt and good practice for future projects. Ideally, improvements are built into local practice.
- Benefits realisation review – confirming the delivery and scale of benefits realised by the project. May generate actions to improve benefits or lessons learnt. Ideally take place throughout the project, perhaps as an agenda item at gate reviews.
These reviews take place at scheduled times, but a change in situation, for example, if the risk level of the project reaches unacceptable levels, can trigger a review.