How can project managers and sponsors achieve a suitable and fit-for-purpose level of project governance?

Project Governance is unarguably critical for the successful delivery of any project and too little Governance is a major contributing factor to project failure. A lack of suitable Project Governance is by any measure one of the main reasons projects fail.But what about if there is too much Governance or the Governance is focused in the wrong areas? This will also have adverse impacts on a project’s success. Whilst they may not ‘fail’ in the classic sense of the word they will produce less than optimal results.

So how can you assess if the Governance for your project or program is fit-for-purpose?

While not exhaustive, the checklist below should offer a sound starting point when assessing if the Governance for your project has the project set up for success.

Are we seeing too much of each other?

Frequency of governance forums is also very important. Project managers and sponsors need to be mindful of not only the finite amount of time members of governance forums have to devote to their role but also ensuring there is enough clear air between forums for the project to keep delivering. It requires balance.

Meeting too infrequently can lead to critical decisions being delayed. Equally meeting too regularly can leave the project team in a constant state of reporting and preparation for various forums that can impact the focus on project deliverables.

A couple of good approaches to get this balance right is to have flexibility in the frequency with forums scheduled more often during critical project junctures or have forums run for longer during these times.

What would happen if we turned it off?

Governance for governance-sake can strangle a project. The adverse impacts include longer timelines due to slower decision-making or project resources being made to focus in the wrong areas on non-critical activities.

If there is a Governance forum that is not offering any value to the project, try simply discontinuing the forum or moving to a needs only basis. If it is critical forum the project manager will soon know.

Are we focused on the right areas?

If you view Governance as a key enabler for successful project delivery it is probably a projects most precious resource. And much like all other project resources it is finite. Particularly given those who participate in Project Governance forums always have day jobs so their time must be used wisely.

It is critical then that once Governance forums are established the project manager and sponsor work very hard to regularly re-calibrate these sessions as required to ensure the project is always getting the right type of Governance and steerage in the right areas.

It is detailed… therefore it is good.

Alas, not always. Too much reporting or excessive information being presented to Governance forums can be a bad thing. It comes about for a few reasons:

  • Project Managers who feel compelled to report everything in the minutiae
  • Members of Governance forums who feel they need everything at their fingertips to make decisions and push for more and more in the updates.

Whatever the reason drowning Governance forums with too much information stymies crisp decision making. Impacts include critical issues being lost among the large volumes of information, members of the governance forums becoming disengaged as they cannot possibly absorb all the data and the effort to compile these complex packs diverts a projects team’s attention from delivering the project. Try and keep the information flow simple and succinct wherever possible.

Recalibrating project governance to suit

Successful Project Governance is not a one size fits all or a set and forget once it is established. Project Managers and Sponsors should understand this and always be open to re-calibrating their Project Governance forums and approaches to suit the current status of their projects to ensure they have the right amount and type of Governance at all times.

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