Projects need to run in a responsible way. And it is the job of Project Governance to ensure that they do.
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What is Project Governance?
PMI Definition of Governance
The Project Management Institute – in its 2016 Practice Guide, The Governance of Portfolios, Programs, and Projects – defines Project Governance as:
‘The framework, functions, and processes that guide project management activities in order to create a unique product, service, or result to meet organizational strategic and operational goals.’
APM Definition of Governance
Across the pond, in the UK, the Association for Project Management, in the 7th edition of the APM Body of Knowledge, defines governance as:
‘The framework of authority and accountability that defines and controls the outputs, outcome and benefits from projects, programmes and portfolios. The mechanism whereby the investing organisation exerts financial and technical control over the deployment of the work and the realisation of value.’
Our Definition of Governance
My own preferred definition is simple:
‘Project Governance is the practice of making sure that the project does the right things and that it does them in the right way.’
Why Does Project Governance Matter?
Good project governance matters because, in delivering a project, we are spending someone else’s money, subjecting them to a range of risks, and putting their reputation at hazard. Consequently, governance concerns itself with matters of:
- Delivery performance
- Product quality
- Measurement of performance and quality
- Probity, transparency, and record keeping
- Due diligence in identifying, minimizing, and managing risk
Project Governance Responsibilities
To deliver this, project governance is made up of three essential responsibilities:
Establishing the project to produce the right strategic outcomes and deliver sufficient value to offset the costs and risks that it will incur
Delegating decision authority to the right levels and ensuring that decisions are made properly, by the right people
Evaluating project monitoring and reporting information and ensuring that the project is performing as it should
What are the Most Important Project Governance Processes and Roles?
Particularly of Project Definition, Business Case, Master Plan, selection in major procurements, and closure
The role of Project Sponsor or Project Director – day-to-day support, guidance, consultation, and decision-making
Project Governing Body/Governance Board Processes
Project Board and Steering Group Processes like evaluation, oversight, challenge, decision-making. The role of ‘critical friend’ is one I find particularly useful.
Terms of Reference
Establishing the roles you need and setting out the specific responsibilities (and limits) of each role.
Gathering of data, analysis, and presentation in a form that serves the needs of oversight and decision-making.
Stage-Gate or Gateway Reviews ensure that a project cannot proceed until it has both:
- Completed the requirements of the stage it is in
- Demonstrated the value and viability of continuing
Ensuring that all requests for change are evaluated carefully – setting risk and cost against potential extra benefit.
Ensuring that all project documents are controlled, stored securely, and accessible – although with proper data protection and confidentiality.
Often PMOs have an oversight or data collation and analysis role that forms part of the project governance.
Project Audit and Assurance
Ultimately, how does the sponsoring organization get an objective view of project performance and probity? The answer is through project audit and assurance processes.
The Challenges in Implementing Good Project Governance
Finding the right governance process that will integrate the rigor we have come to expect from traditional predictive project management, with the agility we need from adaptive project management frameworks.
A common challenge is the creation of strong performance measurement systems and the gathering and analysis of effective monitoring data. This is one area where AI tools have the potential (if there is the commercial will) to really enhance project governance – and therefore project outcomes.
Roles and Responsibilities
Defining clear roles and responsibilities and ensuring executives set aside enough time to fulfill them. My experience is that many organizations experience a serious governance deficit.
Awareness and Training
Alongside this (and often the cause) is insufficient awareness of the value of project governance and a lack of training among senior executives (and project management) in the functions and skills of project governance.
Inconsistency and Silo Mentality
Big organizations and large programs often also suffer from the adverse impacts of a silo mentality and a consequent lack of integration across the organization. The first sign is often inconsistent approaches to and standards for the governance of different projects. But, this is just a symptom. What matters is a coherent, strategic approach to governance.
However, this is not to say that processes should be fixed. They shouldn’t. My last challenge is to create an agile approach to organization-wide project governance that allows for continuous learning and process improvement.
Recommended Videos to Help with Project Governance
Carefully curated video recommendations for you:
- 5 Project Governance Tips | Video
- Setting up Project Governance – with Rich Maltzman
- Better Decision-making and More Robust Choices – Top 10 Tips
- Decision-Making AI for Project Portfolios – with Stuart Easton | Video
Recommended Articles to Help with Project Governance
- What has Project Governance Ever Done for Us? [Ans: A Lot]
- Your Essential Guide to How to Make Robust Project Decisions
What Kit does a Project Manager Need?
I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own.
Note that the links are affiliated.
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For more of our videos in themed collections, join our Free Academy of Project Management.