You may feel that strong project governance is not for you. After all, it’s not that big a project, and setting up governance structures is time-consuming and maybe costly too. But there’s an old adage:
“If you want to really understand the cost of doing something properly, look at the cost of doing it wrong”
Okay, so I may have made that old adage up myself, but I am pretty sure there is one quite like it that I couldn’t find (if you know it, I’d welcome the help in the comments section below).
Anyway, size of project is a poor indicator of the value of good governance: a better one is the impact of success – or failure. High impact projects and changes merit greater scrutiny to ensure you get them right.
And I don’t accept the assertion that good governance needs to be either expensive nor heavily time-consuming. It is a matter of choosing the right components of governance for your project and your culture. Here are ten simple and highly time/cost-effective ways to strengthen your project governance.
1. Start with a Business Case
Ensure that the business imperative and investment appraisal are properly documented and signed off. If you will rely on directors, managers or officers of your organisation to deliver some of the planned benefits from the changes or products your project creates, state this explicitly in your business case:
Mr/Ms A is responsible for these actions […]
and therefore for creating this [£xxx] benefit
Now create real commitment: print off a specimen copy and have each Mr or Ms A sign against their responsibility. Make this a Board paper at the highest level of your organisation and schedule dates at which the Board will review outcomes.
2. High Calibre Project or Programme Sponsor
My friend and colleague Ron Rosenhead is a co-author of Strategies for Project Sponsorship – the first book I am aware of to start to examine the roles of project sponsors in practical way. There is lots of good advice for sponsors and project managers, but the whole topic needs to start with organisations valuing projects enough to allocate the best people to oversee the most important projects, and to support and train them to discharge their role. To date, only four (very fine) organisations have commissioned me to train project sponsors – among many hundreds for whom I have trained their project managers. What does that tell us?
3. Decision-making and Oversight
The two core project governance roles are decision-making and oversight (choosing the right things to do and making sure they are done right). For bigger projects, no one sponsor has all of the skills to carry out all of this. There are two scenarios, depending upon the way your organisation chooses to impose accountability:
- The sponsor carries all of the responsibility for these two, but needs to draft in a governance body (project board, steering group, executive committee) to support them
- The sponsor does not have the clout to exercise full responsibility and sits as one member (maybe the chair of) a governance body (project board, steering group, executive committee) that makes the decisions and carries out oversight
Either way – select the members of your governing body with care, to ensure all of the skills you need are present and everyone has the time and commitment to put in the work. The illustration below is taken from my recent book, How to Manage a Great Project.
4. Clear Roles and Responsibilities
Every key player or governance role needs documented and agreed roles and responsibilities. For a small project, this could simply be a short listing, emailed from the Project Manager to the Sponsor, for their agreement by email. There are sample role descriptions for you to download from the resources page of my Manage a Great Project website, under Step 3.
5. A Structured Induction for Team Members
Oh, how I hate the word induction in the context of what we should just call ‘welcoming’ team members. (Let’s save the word induction for use by electrical engineers and obstetricians). Whatever word you choose, welcome new team members, set out their responsibilities, show them the ropes and set-up any training they need. If this does not sound much like governance to you, remember, that governance means steering: the kubernator of an ancient Greek trireme was the steersman.
Hold your horses; that’s enough for one week. The next six things you can do to get project governance right will be next week.