The idea of an imaginary “gate pilot” seems appropriate when thinking about ways of improving project environments.  

What I term the project environment consists of all the organisational components that are needed in some way for projects to work and deliver: project managers, governance meetings, dedicated Finance teams, resource departments, workplace facilities and equipment, etc. The PMO, whether a corporate-level Portfolio Office or a small team embedded in a project, is at the centre of the visible part of an organisation’s project environment.

The symbolic interface between a given project and the project environment are the governance gates.  For the projects, it is all about ‘getting through the gate’.  For the organisation is all about mitigating the risk to the business posed by the change introduced by the project.  A ‘gate’ is designed as a set of constraints or ‘exit criteria’, a narrow passage for the project to navigate successfully.  

In the golden days of navigation, pilots were the experts that would steer ships through confined spaces that needed precise knowledge: shipping straits, ports and certain rivers. The Pilot is not the Captain of the ship, nor the Client receiving the goods brought by the ship, nor the Harbourmaster who runs that particular port.  Like a PMO discharging its governance responsibilities, the Pilot is simply a consummate expert on specific tricky waters.

A Gate Pilot can help you navigate major projects through governance gates, or design effective ‘narrow passages’, for the components of your Portfolio or train your own ‘Pilot Corps’, as required.