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Allan Maram
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January 25, 2024

INSIGHTS ARTICLE: Project Governance : What are we Missing

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Project Governance: What Are We Missing?



Introduction

Culture sets the tone for many assumptions we make about ourselves (our roles, self-interest) which in turn influences the assumptions we make about others within and across contexts (in-group vs. outgroup).  These influence underlying patterns of engagement and motivations between and within groups. 

According to the King Report on Corporate Governance, sustainable governance does not start with principles, rules, and procedures, but rather with the character of those tasked with governance.  Cardinal leadership values that should underpin and inform good governance include integrity, responsibility, accountability, fairness, and transparency. 

The absence of such values can lead organizations to underperform and even fail.  This is understandable as self-interest is a key basis of politics and silo-driven behavior which inhibits innovation, open and authentic engagement, and associated ways of work. 

The significance of governance and associated standards for behavior is critical for project delivery.  The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the implications for key roles in this context.  

 

Project Managers

Project managers are responsible for developing a governance framework in conjunction with the Steering Committee.  The framework addresses standards for behavior and delivery of project outcomes.  In doing so, the framework must specify ownership and associated accountability from the standpoint of the project (delivery of the capability) and the business (beneficiary of the solution) across the project lifecycle.

Project Managers are independent bearers of project governance. Their independence must never be compromised.  At times, project managers may question their authority when faced with the demands of senior leaders.  This may include the executive sponsor, steering committee members, or other leaders.  Consequently, Project Managers should always be empowered, in line with the governance framework, to escalate such incidents to leaders both inside and outside of the project context.

Project Managers are not required to resolve obstructive behavior.  Rather, they must formally report and escalate in line with the governance framework.

 

Change Practitioners

Change practitioners must work with other project resources (IT, BA’s, Process Engineers, etc.) to conduct a diagnostic/feasibility assessment, where relevant, before a project is initiated.  If business ownership is not evident, funding release should be delayed until such matters have been adequately resolved.

Change practitioners can greatly benefit from agreed ownership and delivery standards implicit in the governance framework.  They often spend an inordinate amount of time trying to secure ownership of the business.  The governance framework is developed in conjunction with the steering committee that represents both the project and business interests.  This helps change practitioners to focus their efforts more sustainably

Resolution of obstructive behavior falls outside the scope of change practitioners.  However, change practitioners must document and escalate such instances in line with the prescribed governance. 

 

Leadership

Leaders must align to prescribed project roles and associated accountability.  Nobody can own business outcomes other than the business itself.  Where business ownership issues cannot be adequately resolved at the steering committee level, a given project should be canceled or put on hold indefinitely until an appropriate resolution is in place.

When leaders fail to fulfill their role as leaders on projects or anywhere in the business, the impact is far and wide.  The prevailing culture suffers and the perceived tolerance for lower behavior standards widens.  The executive sponsor must ensure that obstructive behavior is swiftly addressed, in conjunction with steering committee members, or leaders elsewhere in the organization.  

 

Conclusion   

 he significance of governance and associated standards for behavior is often critical for successful project delivery.  A deliberate and visible effort must be made at the outset to ensure that appropriate standards are well communicated and understood.  No one should ever be exempt from prescribed standards of behavior. 

A governance framework must be agreed upon by the steering committee, and cascaded by the individual members, with support from the executive sponsor and project manager.  This is arguably one of the most important roles a steering committee fulfills

 
 

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