By Linky van der Merwe
This article will focus specifically on Project Governance that determines the effectiveness of the project manager (PM). You will find an explanation of what Project Governance is, why you need it, who is responsible for it and how to use it, with principles and examples to make it clear.
What is Project Governance?
Project Governance is an oversight function that is aligned with an organisation’s governance model and that encompasses the project life cycle.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide (PMBOK) definition is:
“The alignment of project objectives with the strategy of the larger organisation by the project sponsor and project team. A project’s governance is defined by and required to fit within the larger context of the program or organisation sponsoring it, but is separate from organisational governance.”
Click here for PMI’s Practice Guide on Governance of Portfolios, Programs and Projects.
Projects are undertaken to achieve strategic business outcomes. Many organisations adopt formal organisational governance processes and procedures. Organisational governance criteria can impose constraints on projects especially if projects are for new products or services.
A project manager needs to be knowledgeable about corporate governance policies and procedures pertaining to the product/services in question; this tends to be very industry related.
Why Project Governance?
A project governance framework provides the project manager and team with structured processes, decision-making models and tools for managing the project while supporting and controlling the project for successful delivery. Governance is critical for any project, especially on complex and risky projects.
The governance framework provides a comprehensive, consistent method of controlling the projects. Governance will ensure success by defining, documenting and communicating reliable and repeatable project practices.
Governance provides important deliverable acceptance criteria and success measures to measure the benefits and success of your projects.
Who is responsible for Project Governance?
In many organisations a Project Management Office (PMO) exists. The PMO is responsible for defining and owning the project governance framework.
The PMO also plays a decisive role for project governance that involves:
- Documented policies, procedures and standards
- Health Checks – Are we doing right things? Are we using right process? Do we conform to standards?
Where to document Project Governance
The project governance approach should be described in the project management plan, which is the planning document compiled by the PM to describe how a project will be executed, monitored and controlled.
The PM is responsible and accountable for setting realistic and achievable boundaries for the project and to accomplish the project within the approved baselines.
How to use Project Governance
Use project governance to ensure that Project Portfolios are aligned to corporate goals. It will then form the basis to see that projects are delivered efficiently and that the interests of project staff and other stakeholders are aligned.
Governance will also ensure that the Project Board/Steering Committee and major stakeholders are provided with timely, relevant, and accurate information.
Principles of Project Governance
Here are a few key principles for project governance:
- Projects should be clearly linked to key business objectives.
- There should be clear senior management ownership of projects.
- There should be effective engagement with Stakeholders.
- Projects should be driven by long-term value, rather than short-term costs.
- Projects should be broken down into manageable steps.
Examples of Project Governance Framework elements
Here are examples of elements included in a project governance framework:
- Guidelines for aligning project governance and organisational strategy
- A process to identify, escalate, resolve issues that arise during the project
- Relationship among project teams, organisational groups and external stakeholders
- Project organisational chart that identifies project roles
- Processes and procedures for communication of information
- Project decision-making processes
- Project life-cycle approach including the transfer to Operations and readiness of business
- Process for stage gate or phase reviews – Authorise to proceed. Approval of process/documents.
- Process for review and approval for changes to budget, scope, quality, schedule which are beyond the authority of the PM
Operate within the Project Governance Framework
You can see that Project Governance is an oversight function that is applicable throughout the life cycle of a project.
Project governance determines the effectiveness of the project manager, because governance gives a framework for making project decisions, defines roles, responsibilities and accountabilities for the success of the project.
It’s important that you as project managers, understand project governance, that you document it on your projects, that you apply it as a consistent method of controlling your projects, and by doing this you will hugely improve your chances for successful project delivery.
Every successful project you complete, will bring you closer to being recognised as a competent, efficient and professional project manager who can be followed as a leader and entrusted with strategic projects and programmes.
Governance is one of the 6 pillars of the Growth Framework that I have developed to help you remember the essential elements of running projects successfully. Visit Project Manager Growth to subscribe for more information and a free Growth Framework Infographic.