I discovered the importance of project and programme governance several years ago. I was working with an empowered and effective team delivering a project to a distinct budget and deadline. Very close to the end of project, when the budget and deadline had both almost expired, the management oversight team was shocked to learn that one particular and beloved feature had been dropped in favour of (what the team saw as) more valuable features. It didn’t matter that the overall outcome was, arguably, a success—the executives’ expectations were confounded and much pain ensued.
What we all learned was that there needs to be a clear and structured way to have a dialogue between the delivery teams and the other stakeholders (most notably the executive). This will cover budget, decision-making, outcomes, outputs, uncertainty management, and much more.
Some companies and projects I’ve worked with are too small to warrant something that’s recognisable as a governance framework. For many of them “governance” is a word that smacks of big corporations—slow and bureaucractic beasts that they don’t want to be likened to. But even in those smaller environments they have ways of communicating and making decisions—they’re just more obvious and lighter weight.
The difficult point is the transition, when the project or the organisation is so successful that the budgets, the stakeholder group and the impact grow. When that happens those obvious and lightweight communication and decision-making processes will no longer suffice. Decisions become more far-reaching; they require contributions from more people; decisions that were once verbal need to be written down and easily accessible by others at a later date; dependencies grow and need tracking.
The trick is to recognise that a transition is needed before it becomes a blocker. And then to make sure the ensuing governance framework is pitched at the right level.