What is a DMAIC Tollgate or Phase gate?

When you’re using DMAIC to guide you through your retail project, a tollgate is a major milestone. A DMAIC tollgate (also called a “phase-gate” or “stage-gate”) is a checkpoints allowing you to proceed through the DMAIC model. It marks your project officially progressing from one stage to the next.

Passing a tollgate is a defined moment to make changes based on your experience up to this point. Taking and acting on “lessons learned” at the end of each DMAIC phase allows your project to continually improve. Plus, they’re a good time for celebrating successes with your project team.

What’s the Format for a DMAIC Tollgate?

A DMAIC tollgate should be a meeting with at least the Project Manager and the Project Sponsor. You may also want key stakeholders and members of the project team.

During the meeting, you should review the project’s progress against key criteria. You’ll want to show a summary of your progress and show some evidence of the detail. However, I’d suggest that you probably don’t want to dive into that detail unless it forms a very central part of a key decision.

Towards the end of the meeting, the Project Sponsor should decide to sign off to progress to the next stage.

How to Ensure that You Successfully Pass Your Next DMAIC Tollgate

To maximise the chances of successfully passing through your tollgates, you should align expectations with the Sponsor. At least before the meeting but ideally at the previous tollgate. If your Sponsor has any particular expectations, you, as Project Manager, will still have time to understand and act on these.

Not Sure What the Expectations are for Each DMAIC Tollgate?

If you’re not sure on these expectations, you can download a handy checklist to guide you through the Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control phases.

So if you’re working through the 5 DMAIC phases of your Lean Six Sigma retail project, you can pick up our free checklist of the key questions that you should be able to answer in each stage. Just enter your details to get access now.

Argh, My Project Sponsor Doesn’t Sign Off the DMAIC Tollgate!

If the Sponsor decides that the project is NOT ready to proceed, you should look to agree exactly why not. You need to leave the meeting with total clarity. If you don’t have that clarity as to why you haven’t passed, then you probably won’t be ready to pass it next time!

Agree Remedial Actions to Get Back on Track

You should also agree the remedial actions and exactly what is expected in order to pass next time. If you need another meeting, agree when that will be and what the format will look like. You want total clarity again to ensure you pass second time around.

Agree to Defer Sign Off for Maximum Speed

You may even agree to defer the sign off until a small action has been completed. In this situation, I’d recommend that you look to agree an electronic approval by email, once actions are completed. This way, you will keep the pace of the project up and not get bogged down in sign off admin and meetings.

The Benefit for Using Tollgates in Your Project

Each DMAIC tollgate will act as a major milestone through your project.

They’ll keep you on track and give you relatively short term goals to aim for which keeps the pace of a project up. It also maximises the chances that you’ll successfully deliver your project to stores, depots, the office or your customers.

You will find yourself and your plan slowing down if you’re not effectively planning ahead and scheduling time in people’s diaries. Also, if you’re not on top of the DMAIC requirements then you risk adding delays and not getting that ‘thumbs up’ to proceed.

Make sure that you find out more about DMAIC in retail if you’re thinking of using Lean Six Sigma for your project methodology.

Next Step to Ensure You Pass Your Next DMAIC Tollgate

Pick up a free DMAIC tollgate checklist to make sure that you’re set to answer the right questions at each stage. This checklist will help you understand the questions that you need to answer at every stage. Plus, you’ll know what evidence you could use to convince your Sponsor that you’re ready to move to the next stage. Sign up below to get your checklist.

project management expert Oliver BanksAbout the Author

Oliver Banks is an expert project and programme manager. He first trained in DMAIC and the Lean Six Sigma toolkit whilst at Xerox in 2004. He then certified in the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and then Black Belt. Oliver has run DMAIC projects focused on driving efficiency in retail operations and removing waste from head office ways of working.


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