DMAIC Tollgate reviews, also called milestone meetings or phase gates, are one of the most important skills a practicing six sigma professional needs for success. Think of tollgates as your prime time to rehearse deliverables to management and for management to insure the project is on course.
Managers, sponsors, champions, master black belts, and other stakeholders participate in the tollgate review as the ultimate traffic light. In other words, they say whether the project is green to go for the next phase in DMAIC or stop you at red if more time is required to work out kinks. In the worse circumstances, management can discontinue the six sigma project if target goals are not met. Therefore, it is crucial that your tollgate presentation is clear, concise, and answers critical questions your audience may have.
DMAIC Tollgate Reviews usually occur at the end of each phase of a Six Sigma Project although it is possible to have multiple reviews per phase. Here we communicate progress to stakeholders and demonstrate that the project is proceeding in a thoughtful and meaningful way.
Project Owners Guide How to Preparing for a DMAIC Tollgate Presentation
First, know your audience and the format they prefer for presentations. Some sponsors prefer the “peel-the-onion” approach. In other words, start with a general overview of the project such as the problem statement, then dig into the specific points of your presentation. Other sponsors wants the most important details up front in order to make more room for follow up questions. When in doubt of which presentation style to take, talk to your project sponsor. A pro tip to have highly successful tollgates is to align expectations with he project sponsor in advance. Not only will this streamline the milestone meetings, but it will improve your chances of passing each tollgate off the bat.
Second, pinpoint the deliverables that need to be shared for the tollgate review. Ask yourself “did enough activities occur during this DMAIC phase?” Questions like this are important because it confirms whether or not all promised deliverables were achieved. A list of expected deliverables are included further on in this article. Generally speaking, every tollgate may include:
- Project Charter
- Performance based goal statement
- High level process map such as SIPOC diagram
- Cost benefit analysis
- Cost of Quality
- Graphs and data related to current phase
Lastly, have visuals prepared for your audience. This can come in the form of handouts, a PowerPoint, graphs, or other diagrams. Your documents will also be best received if sent in advance.
Sponsors Guide to Presiding Over Tollgate Reviews
Six Sigma Sponsors are accountable for the progress made in Six Sigma Projects. Therefore, tollgate reviews are key to insure project goals remain on target. As stated by Marv Meissner, Professor of the Practice in Villanova’s Certificate in Lean Six Sigma program, “The sponsor’s responsibility during a tollgate meeting is to provide guidance, insights, and suggestions.”1
Next, focus on one milestone at a time. For example, if the project is wrapping up the DEFINE phase, only focus on activities that pertain to DEFINE. Or if you are in the MEASURE phase, avoid back tracking to DEFINE phase deliverables since all actions related to the DEFINE phase should already be complete. This will allow meetings to progress in an orderly fashion.
Another detail to remember is that it is okay for sponsors to coach project owners during milestone reviews, but it should never be the focus of the meeting. It is normal for Six Sigma Belts to seek the sponsor’s guidance during the throughout the project. Most coaching should occur in meetings outside of the milestone review.
DMAIC Tollgate Reviews Expected Deliverables
The below lists are deliverables that ought to be presented during the tollgate. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list. For more ideas on what can be included, checkout Six Sigma DMAIC Quick Reference (isixsigma.com). The article includes a list of questions that sponsors may consider to determine phase completion.
D: Define Tollgate Review
- Full project definition
- Project charter, which includes the sponsor, champion, and other stakeholders
- Are project meetings held on regular cadences?
- Does the team have the required resources?
- Identify the Clients, their needs and requirements
- Who are they?
- What do they need? (try a 1 word answer)
- What is absolutely critical to success? (Use a Critical to Quality Tree)
- Make a Process Map
- Measure Tollgate Review
- Measurement of current state.
- Data Collection Plan
- Determine Baseline Sigma (Process Capability)
- Teams gather baseline performance data.
- List of potential Xs and measured Ys
- Was a Gauge R&R conducted?
Analyze Tollgate Review
Improve Tollgate Review
- Implementation of basic improvements
- Was a DOE (Design of Experiment) created?
- Improvement solutions picked
- Pilot outcomes
Control Tollgate Review
- Revised control processes in place.
- Control Charts (SPC)
- Completed process documentation
- Hand over process from project lead to process owner
- Includes updated process maps and Standard Operating Procedures
Things to Remember
If a DMAIC tollgate review ends with management choosing to forego a project, that is A-OK. For example, you may feel that there are lots of defects in a project during the Define phase. However, the Measure phase may prove that there are far less issues then originally thought. In this instance, it is better for management to recommend projects with better returns on investment than continue on the present project.
Sometimes management will recommend a change of scope in order to focus on the most vital aspects of the project. Keep an open mind to their counsel.
The author does a great job at emphasizing the dos and do nots.
There’s no volume with this video, but the amount of detail presented is very beneficial. It outlines what a successful tollgate will include.
- “Six Sigma Tollgates Provide a Reliable, Logical Way to Approach Process Improvement.” Villanovau.com, Villanova University, 10 Nov. 2020, www.villanovau.com/resources/six-sigma/tollgates-of-six-sigma-project/