Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Practical Project Governance - 4 Traps to Avoid

Governance of projects and initiatives can be a mixed bag. Many see it as a necessary evil; another process and set of meetings that clogs calendars, adds cost, and delays progress. Yet those who understand good governance know it’s an essential part of delivering business value to an organisation. 

Some will be nodding their heads in agreement but it’s what they do next that matters. If all they do is talk and point out others failings, they’re not making any contribution towards improvement. Without action these questions will remain unanswered - Why is governance so time consuming? Why don’t our initiatives line up with our strategy? Where’s all the money going? Why are we really doing this? When will we realise business value from all this investment?

An organisations culture has a large part to do with this cycle of frustration and making changes takes time and and serious commitment. There are however some areas that with a little effort can deliver big benefits. So if you are interested in steps along the road towards good governance, here are 4 traps worth avoiding:


  1. Lack of delegated authority – When capacity is squeezed responsibility gets delegated. This is a false economy because without authority the delegate is powerless. Even if they know what action is needed they cannot take a decision and seeking permission is their only option. This command and control approach causes bottlenecks and creates delays. If you’re unwilling to delegate full authority at least be clear where the authority boundaries are.
  2. Updates vs Governance – Meetings are an important part of governance. Their purpose is to provide direction, validate alignment, and make decisions. When the number of attendees get out of hand the focus turns to update mode and the meeting is no longer fit for purpose. Make sure the correct people with the right level of authority (refer No.1) are in the room, information provided is concise, the actions necessary are clear, direction is received, decisions are made and that everything discussed relates to the goals of the business case.
  3. Processes rule – The market is full of governance models, each one supported by a multitude of processes. Any of them will deliver benefits to organisations that are willing to invest the necessary time and money yet a process alone is not good governance. Ticking boxes and writing (yes even manipulating) reports are not enough to ensure a quality and relevant business result. Processes are a tool. They’re there to support the original intent and business outcome not control it. While the theory may be great the practice needs 
  4. Agendas and politics – Governance is about doing what’s best for the business. It’s not about feathering a nest or progressing individual or personal agendas. Unfortunately when this attitude does exist it is likely to be entrenched in the culture, ie: systemic in nature. In these situations the sponsor and their relationship with the governing body is critical. A strong, experienced and senior or executive level sponsor can reduce or remove completely the opportunities for others to manipulate. 
There are many aspects to good governance yet it ultimately boils down to people and an organisations culture. 
  • People because everything that occurs is based on human interaction, relationships and behaviours.
  • The culture because how an organisation is led and managed at the top determines everything else.
Before pointing fingers at processes or individuals consider what the organisation needs to achieve overall, where existing practices do or don’t support that, and work towards governance that demands accountability, drives quality and alignment and ensures clarity of roles and responsibilities, engagement and involvement from start to finish.

1 comment:

  1. I agree and this is why I think it is important for project functions to report directly to the most senior person in the organisation such as the CEO. I think this reduces the chance of politics picking which projects to do.

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