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Use Formal Entry meetings for any critical Project phase

If you have an important phase of tasks in your plan consider the use of a formal gated entry meeting to judge whether you can commence. I believe this has great value and in this post I will take you through how I approach with an example.
Projects - Gated Entry in Operation

The Entry process

  1. Well in advance, draft, review, agree and document the criteria by which the entry gate meeting will judge whether the project is in a fit state to ENTER.
  2. Publish this list with ownership for each criterion
  3. Send out updates in advance of the meeting with a RAGB status (Blue = complete / signed off)
  4. Organise the meeting with appropriate stakeholders and each criterion owner if not confirmed complete before the meeting
  5. Walk through one by one and discuss
  6. If the criteria are not fully met it is still possible to make a decision to enter the next phase if the risk profile is not deemed excessive. The important point is that the decision is being made after review and with eyes open for residual risks to manage
  7. Alternatively the meeting may decide that the project shouldn't enter the next phase at this point. Agree whether another meeting needs to be scheduled after some actions have been achieved or to delegate to the Project Manager based on the actions being complete
  8. Document and manage any actions identified from the meeting including adding Risks(s) to the RAID log if necessary
The value in this approach is to be objective in advance of the point in time when the pressure is always to "get on with it". It also acts as a motivator to the criterion owners on what they need to achieve.

An example

Here is a very recent example I have used in an IT Project for entry into an Operational Acceptance Test (OAT) phase after completion of Systems and Integration Testing (SIT) and User Acceptance Testing (UAT). The criteria in themselves are not what I want you to focus in on, I'm sure your project will have different ones. It is the value of the process which I commend to you.

Example Phase Entry Criteria

Project / Programme Gates

The ultimate Entry process is a Project Gate where the whole Project is formally assessed at certain points to see whether it is viable. This can happen in conjunction with the use of PRINCE2 Stages so that as part of the Stage boundary, several aspects of the Project are assessed including a check that the business case is still valid.

Such Entry Gate reviews can be internally held (e.g. undertaken by the managing Board with potentially some peer reviewers outside the Board) or can be externally managed. A good example of an externally run framework is The OGC Gateway Process which anyone who has worked in major UK government Programmes and Projects is likely to have been exposed to. This is a gated review undertaken by people totally external to the core team / governance.

And don't forget...

I have spoken about the Entry Gate concept but sometimes it is better to position as an Exit Gate although an exit is typically an entry for the next phase!

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  1. I just use different colours blue = planned; green = in progress (amber or red where running late) grey for completed and signed off

  2. Very good article. JdW