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Project Governance: An In-Depth Guideon 6 August 2020Posted by Kevin Senior
Projects that accomplish their goals tend to have good project governance behind them, to keep things headed in the right direction. But what exactly is project governance, and how does it play into the various project management methodologies?
This in-depth guide explores the foundational elements of an effective project governance model; how employing such a model can produce several organisational benefits; and how governance differs across methodologies.
Keep reading to get the rundown from two project governance experts: Katherine Radeka, author and executive director at the Rapid Learning Cycles Institute, and Gerard Blokdyk, President of The Art of Service.
A Project Governance Model That Works
Project governance is a management framework that focuses on the decision-making aspect of projects. (Tweet this!) Its purpose is to ensure project decisions are made logically and consistently across initiatives, and align with broader organisational goals.
Experts across various project management disciplines agree on three pillars of project governance:
- Structure. Organisations and projects may vary in size and complexity, but there should always be some type of structure included in your governance approach. For example, you may have one or more boards or committees, each tasked with a different set of responsibilities and decision-making authority over projects. In addition, you could have various project portfolios that group together related initiatives.
- People. Given the importance of good decision-making, Radeka says it’s important that project governance boards be cross-functional. From marketing to IT, multiple functional areas should be represented on the board to ensure governance decisions consider multiple perspectives and a broad spectrum of organisational needs. For example, you need marketing to tell you that an innovative idea from engineering may not have market value. Similarly, the engineering team can let you know that a cool concept for customers may not be technologically feasible. “The entire lifecycle of a project needs to be represented on the board.”
- Information. Decisions are only as good as the experience and information used to make them. Project governance information comes in many forms: project reports and status updates, identified issues and risks, and other project documents.
Beyond the tried-and-true pillars, Radeka adds a few more key elements to consider as part of your project governance model:
- Clear milestones. Teams must know what to accomplish and when, otherwise they drift away from project goals.
- Strong sponsors. While the rest of the governance board takes a back seat to most projects, sponsors should stay engaged with their assigned projects. This way they can appropriately represent their projects to other board leaders, and stay prepared to help project teams make important decisions and overcome obstacles.
- Regular cadence of check-ins. “Governance tends to devolve into simply filling out forms unless there’s regular interaction,” says Radeka. This makes the framework less effective for decision-making. The format of check-ins is less important than the consistency.
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Project Governance Across Different Methodologies
The waterfall methodology is well-known for being process-oriented and methodical, and requiring lots of documentation. Therefore, governance for these projects relies heavily on reporting, design and documentation reviews, and change-control processes. “Leaders know a project is going well when it is conforming to schedule and budget targets,” says Radeka.
Agile project governance involves an empowered product owner who prioritises and reviews the team’s work, and then reports progress to senior leadership periodically. Radeka says leaders know a project is going well when the team is completing high-value user stories, as determined by the product owner. “In addition, the project’s velocity should be adequate to finish the program on time with all major user stories implemented, and system-level defect reports show no major red flags.”
Rapid Learning Cycles
The Rapid Learning Cycles (RLC) methodology is newer on the project management scene; it combines elements of the agile and lean methodologies. RLC engages the team’s stakeholders at regular integration events where major decisions are made. “Leaders know a project is going well when major decisions get made at the right time, with the right people, and with the best available knowledge,” Radeka explains.
“For blended programs with elements from more than one methodology, the predominant methodology determines the governance structure,” says Radeka. For example, many consumer electronics products use RLC in the early development phases. They then use waterfall for the implementation phases of hardware design and development, while the software and firmware teams use agile.
Products like these replace status updates with integration events in the early phases. They then transition to traditional design reviews and status updates later in development, which include reports from the agile team on implemented user stories, defect reports, and team velocity.
5 Benefits Of Project Governance
1. Improved Alignment
“The ultimate benefit of project governance is that it helps align your project portfolio with organisational strategy,” says Radeka. It does the same internally for individual projects. There is a clear leadership structure and all stakeholders better understand the mission of each project as it pertains to broader goals.
2. Greater Focus
Radeka says project governance keeps teams focused on making the right decisions and doing the right things on their projects. “Governance ensures project teams have useful interactions with their project sponsors, who will help steer those projects in the right direction. Teams will have less opportunity to veer off course.”
3. Increased Speed
“When projects are aligned and teams are focused, they both can achieve greater velocity,” Radeka explains. For example, teams will spend less time wondering about each project decision, which burns time, energy, and resources. “They can make decisions faster and execute on them without delay.”
4. Controlled Risk
Risk management is a key result of effective project governance. With teams staying in contact with their project sponsors, governance boards are better able to identify and stave off risks. “Projects will be able to clearly demonstrate to stakeholders that risk has been managed,” says Blokdyk.
5. Insights For Future Projects
A mindful project governance board regularly connects with project teams throughout the life of the project. By compiling their project decisions and associated outcomes, the board can, in turn, positively impact future projects with this wisdom. “The board will be able to share lessons learned across the organisation and improve the chances of success with future projects.”
Project Governance Examples
Blokdyk gives an example of effective project governance in the form of information sharing. A project manager works with their team to create a project budget forecast. After reviewing for accuracy, the project manager immediately sends it to the project sponsor for leadership review with the governance board. The sponsor then communicates with the project manager about any potential issues or changes from the board’s perspective. “Such timely, relevant, and reliable information is an important part of effective project governance.”
Radeka shares a story about one of her manufacturing clients that struggled with project governance, mainly due to leadership being out of touch with project teams. Her solution was to develop a project governance structure that included regular check-ins with the leadership team that were no more than three months apart. “Leaders were then better able to help teams make future-focused decisions, review decisions that had already been made, and offer relevant feedback.”
Support your project governance with Glasscubes.
Every modern-day organisation needs project management software to ensure its governance efforts are up to snuff. Glasscubes is your go-to option because not only does it include task management features, it also addresses multiple collaboration challenges you face in project management, such as file sharing and communication. For example, you can create individual workspaces for each project team so they have a dedicated location to track tasks and keep one another updated.
Share files with key stakeholders—from teammates to clients to vendors. Communicate efficiently through threaded discussions on individual files. Ensure everyone is on track for success with clearly assigned and trackable tasks. Get notifications for items that require your attention.
With Glasscubes, you can:
- Store and share files in a secure location, complete with automatic version control. You can even create approval workflows and view clear audit trails of user actions.
- Assign and manage tasks for different members of the team, and track them to completion.
- Create customised workspaces for each project team in your portfolio. Team members can share resources and communicate with one another in their specific workspace, and you can access them all for easy oversight.
Glasscubes fully supports project governance and collaboration. Start your free trial today.
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