How to Define Lean Tollgate Questions

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    Hello, All. I am looking to define tollgate questions for phases of LEAN projects. I have established questions for DMAIC but curious to see how others may have handled this for LEAN. I’ve browsed forums in here as well as Google with no luck.

    Thank you in advance



    Hi Roy, interesting question. What do you define as your LEAN stages?


    Brion Hurley

    I also like using DMAIC when conducting a Lean project or series of events. Here are some tools or things to consider for each phase. I’m sure others have some ideas on what works for them.

    • Define would still require a project charter
    • Measure would include a VSM or process map, gemba observations, time studies, spaghetti diagrams and interviews with workers and staff. More advanced projects would include standardized work combination sheets, and takt time
    • Analyze would include identification of waste, root cause analysis for flow issues, data analysis on flow constraints or delivery issues or quality issues
    • Improve would be similar to Six Sigma, with a pilot study showing that the changes will work, or the list of kaizen events conducted. Tools would include a layout of the area, some 5S activity, kanban systems, poka yoke, andon systems, etc
    • Control would be a communication board, visual controls, 5S audit process, documentation changes, huddle board meetings, metrics to monitor each day, etc

    I also use an A3 for project status updates, project reviews, or displaying on a communication board

    Hope that helps



    Put simply, tollgates are points in the process where management determines whether or not a project has met the preceding requirements and is authorized to continue, or must fix some things before continuing, or should be stopped. I generally don’t like being constricted by them or, as management, employing them. The waterfall model for project management, where there are clear distinctions between phases and you know exactly where they occur, is rarely reality. It’s more like a chess game where we know there are differences between the opening, the mid-game, and the end-game, but we don’t know exactly which move marked the transition. It’s better for management to constantly be aware of project status and act accordingly, rather than doing reviews at essentially arbitrary gates and otherwise paying little attention.


    Mike Chambers


    Perhaps a different perspective …

    “Lean” is usually driven by kaizens; i.e., an improvement event. These kaizens tend to be quick and usually well less than 5 days. They most often consist of the people doing the work and can be as short as two minutes. As such, it is rare to see someone using tollgates when you’re talking kaizens.

    Tollgates (and even the DMAIC steps) are most often used (effectively I might add) with projects. In particular, with Six Sigma projects. @Straydog did a good job defining them and sharing some of the pros and cons. I agree with him.

    I know there are those who do Lean Six Sigma. I tend to blend the tools myself using what makes sense for a particular job. However, in my opinion, tollgates would detract from some of the big advantages of Lean Kaizens (that is, quick and employee-driven).

    I appreciate others will disagree. Thanks for allowing me to share my two cents. :)

    Best regards,




    I like Tollgates, or what I like to call Hard Stops, in the Advance Product Quality Planning process. Why? If we don’t have the information we need to define what the customer wants, we can’t continue. If we haven’t confirmed that our design meets customer requirements, we can’t continue.

    These are the “gates” I like for an improvement process:

    1) Confirm you have a problem. So, have I confirmed the problem?
    2) Find the root cause. Have I proven the root cause with a Fishbone Diagram, 5Y, Pareto or Scatter Charts?
    3) Fix the problem. Did I fix the problem?
    4) Confirm you fixed it. No, seriously, did I actually fix the problem or not? This one gets checked twice because that’s kinda the whole point.
    5) Prevent recurrence. Is my corrective action likely to prevent the problem from coming back?

    I hope this helps.



    Mike, I 100% agree. I find tollgates make sense for DMAIC and less so for how I do Lean (although often I’m implanting Lean as a subset of DMAIC), with Lean its mainly 5S Kaizens that naturally flow from 1 into the next. That’s why I am interested how Roy is defining his Lean steps here.

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