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Vishwadeep Khatri

Tollgate Effectiveness

Tollgate Review


Tollgate Review is a controlled review mechanism where the project team along with the sponsor reviews and checks the progress and status of the deliverables (each phase of a six sigma project has certain deliverables). Alternatively, known as gate reviews, these checkpoints also enable the team to provide project update to senior management, seek guidance and do course corrections (if required) and proceed to the next phase of the project.


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Natwar Lal  & Jayaram T.


Applause for the respondents - Natwar Lal & Jayaram T


Also review the answer provided by Mr Venugopal R, Benchmark Six Sigma's in-house expert.


Q. 204  The quality of questions and interactions in Toll Gate reviews is crucial for success of any gated process (not just Lean Six Sigma projects). It is seen that poorly planed or administered Toll Gate reviews are one of the biggest reasons for project failure in the Lean Six Sigma world. How should one plan toll gate reviews to ensure their effectiveness? 


Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

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4 answers to this question

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One of the reasons for project failure is 'Lack of Planning' and this not only includes planning for what one is going to do in the project but it also involves planning on how to check that the project is on track. Doing effective tollgates is an excellent mechanism to check the progress and ensure that project is still on the right path.


For the tollgates to be effective, one basically has to seek answers to 5W and 1H (What, Why, Where, When, Who and How)

Let us look at each element in slightly more detail

1. WHAT - Determine the requirements. What is the purpose of the tollgate? What is the information / artifacts that are required? What questions have to be asked?


2. WHY - Determine the objectives of the tollgate. Why are we doing tollgate? Why is it important to do the tollgate? Is the purpose only to review or also to approve?


3. WHERE - Determine the logistics of the tollgate. Where are we doing the tollgate?


4. WHEN - Determine the frequency, duration of the tollgates. When should the tollgates be set up during the project lifecycle? 


5. WHO - Determine the participants in the tollgate. Who should be presenting the progress? Who should be audience during the tollgate? Who should be asking the questions? Who is going to take down the action items and meeting minutes?


6. HOW - Determine the decision criteria for acceptance / rejection of the tollgate. How are we going to judge the success of the tollgate? How many tollgates are required in the project lifecycle?


If the team has thought through the above indicative questions, the chances of having an effective tollgate increases manifold. An effective tollgate will have following benefits

1. Keep the project team honest and true to the project objective

2. Ensure that scope, cost and schedule creep DO not happen

3. Effective communication across various levels in the organization (as the sponsor and/or other stakeholders may not be too close to the project)

4. Any issues / challenges are brought to notice at the right time and to the right people so that solutions could be identified

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Benchmark Six Sigma Expert View by Venugopal R

We have come across many leaders commenting that ‘Six Sigma’ is not successful. It is likely to be unsuccessful if ‘Six Sigma’ is considered only as a set of improvement projects. Six Sigma is no different from any other TQM program, but has its own unique rigor by its uniquely defined approaches. If those approaches are not adopted holistically, we may not be able to harness the power of the program. One such inbuilt approach is the “Toll Gate Review”.


Before even coming to the question of the quality of Toll Gate reviews, it has to be ascertained whether Toll Gate reviews are being conducted at all!


Earlier in this forum there was a question on the objectives of Toll Gate reviews; - when it should be carried out, who should be the necessary participants and who should be the ‘if needed’ participants. I believe that you would have refreshed yourselves with the answers to those questions, so that we can take the topic further on.


Now assuming that we have taken care of the schedules and presence of right participants for the Toll Gate reviews we will discuss about the administration of the review.


1.     Have a clear agenda specific to the review.

Do not go just  with a generic agenda. Each review should have specific purposes. The co-ordinator of the Tollgate review will have to prepare the agenda in advance in collaboration with the key participants of the review, especially the project leaders. There would be points that need leadership clarification, support, guidance or approval. The agenda has to be circulated in advance – at least a day before the review.


2.     Selective continuity from previous reviews

Actions that emerged during previous review should have progressed or been completed as per their schedules. However if certain actions need further discussion in the forum, they must be selectively included in the agenda by the discretion of the review co-ordinator.


3.     Pre-planned presentation structure

The review co-ordinator should begin by providing a snapshot of the overall status of the project and touch upon selected highlights. This will be followed by the presentation of individual project leaders. Usage of a standard presentation template is recommended – however the leaders may supplement with customized slides as required to express their points effectively. The time slots for each presenter including the discussion time should be pre-planned. If the time is overshooting due to prolonged discussions, the co-ordinator should intervene and plan offline continuation of such discussions with the concerned stakeholders, so that the time slots of other presenters are not compromised.


4.     Appreciation for progress and good work

It is important to acknowledge and appreciate the actions completed on time and any other good initiatives. It is recommended to commence the review with such a positive vibration and then move on to rest of the agenda.


5.     Keep the project charters for ready reference anytime

Sometimes, while discussing a project, ideas keep coming to the mind and it could so happen that the senior members may voluntarily or involuntarily keep adding to the scope or altering the objective. The review co-ordinator should step-in and support the leader, by referring to the approved charter if a major deviation from the original objective or scope is being pressed upon. Only when the situation really warrants, should any change be done on the objective / scope – and then it should be assessed how realistic the project schedule remains or needs to be revised as well.


6.     Direct the questions to respective project leaders or stakeholders

We often see that the co-ordinator keeps answering most of the questions and also the questions are directed to the co-ordinator. It is important that the questions are directed to the respective leaders or stakeholders who are process owners or closely related to the area of the questions, and they need to answer. The co-ordinator can certainly facilitate the discussion, but should maintain his / her limits.


7.     Sponsor support plays a major role

One of the problems that we come across is the inadequate involvement of the sponsors (or champions) of the projects. Very often the project leader is grilled with questions which sometimes may not be answerable within his/ her level of authority in the organization. A quick review and sync up on the points between the sponsor and the leader, before coming for the Toll Gate review will help. Yet worse would be a situation where we see the Sponsor questioning the leader during a Toll Gate review. It is also important that the leader should not put the sponsor in an embarrassing situation by letting him / her being caught off guard.


8.     Do not allow the review to drift

It is quite possible that since the Toll gate review provides a forum with most of the senior leaders together, the discussion could stray off from its intended agenda to other topics. The co-ordinator should be empowered to steer the discussion to be restored back on track.


9.     Minute the meeting actions and discussions – follow up

As far as possible get the points / actions discussed be captured as minutes of meeting and read it out to the participants before dissolving the meeting. What happens outside  between the Toll gate review meetings also plays a major role for the success of the meetings. Following up on actions, identifying challenges or hurdles, ensuring any agreed offline discussions happen are some of the important tasks for the review co-ordinator between the review meetings.

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Tollgate Review, as the name indicates, is like a checkpoint in a Six Sigma project at which the various team members meet and determine whether the work has been performed as indicated in the project plan and whether the objectives mentioned have been achieved.


Here are some of the key factors to be considered while planning a tollgate review to ensure the review is effective and the project moves forward as planned.


1.   Tollgate reviews to be planned in advanced and timelines to be adhered as planned, Review cancellation or rescheduling should be avoided

2.   Attendance must be made compulsory for the reviews and scheduling should take care of availability of all stake holders

3.   Top management should be part of the program right from project selection till closure and they should be part of all reviews

4.   The reviews should have a clear agenda and discussion should be confined only to the agenda points

5.   Chairperson of the meeting should ensure all participants are given chances to voice their opinion

6.   Chairperson should steer the meeting in such a way that the opinions are taken in positive manner by the functional representative.

7.   The points need to put forward as support required rather than a complaining mode

8.   Every action discussed in the meeting should be aligned to a single owner and time lines (as agreed with the action owner)

9.   All actions need to be governed and closed

10. Support required from Senior management should be explicitly discussed and required actions to be taken

11. Meeting has to be minuted and circulated with clear mention of actions / action owner and dead line.

12. The status of previews review meeting has to be discussed first in the next meeting.

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Both Natwar Lal and Jayaram T have provided key aspects to be planned ahead of Toll Gate Reviews to ensure effectiveness. Both Natwar Lal and Jayaram T are winners for this question. 

Visitors should go through expert response by Venugopal as well. 

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