“If I want to have a focused project with a uniform approval process, then I need to have strong governance principles, but I am not sure how to build a foundation of good governing practices.”
When I hear, someone mention the term “governance,” I automatically think about men in powdered wigs standing around shouting at each other. I can’t really tell you why my brain automatically goes to the 18th century, but the term, governance, nevertheless speaks to the same set of policies, regulations, functions, processes, procedures and responsibilities that define an establishment, a government governs their people.
In the project world, it is the management and control of projects, programs, and portfolios. In this governance, the goal is to provide clear and uniform oversight of projects at the management level by formal review and strategic decision-making. A review is an assessment by upper management as well as the uniform evaluation of deliverables as they are being constructed.
A good project manager is not only someone that can communicate effectively, but that has the forethought to continuously prepare throughout the project cycle. Good governance has been a serious topic for centuries, so there is lots to it, so let’s put on our powdered wigs and contemplate actions that would build clarity and establish harmony during a project…
As I mentioned before, there are many different types of governance. Corporate governance defines your organizational line of authority and responsibility, the true powdered wigs. You need project governance to ensure that your decision-making process is as streamlined as possible. Establish a clear line between the two. This will help to define your own line of command for yourself as well as your team, because this is not a short process, project governance starts at the very beginning with the business case and continues past the final review of the deliverable.
In the beginning, with the business case document, you are making a case for why this project should be accomplished and what the exact benefits will be. If these points are not stated clearly up front, then there is little chance you’ll gather the support or teamwork necessary to produce a good product, so no point worrying about governance. At the start of every project, you and your team should have and understand this clearly defined purpose. With this purpose, your team has a focus and can, therefore, single-mindedly create goals for the project cycle.
As the primary wig wearer, how are you going to communicate? Who is going to approve what? This should be established early in the project. You should have a communication plan for all key stakeholders, including your sponsor, the client, the team members, as well as all the other important stakeholders. This is sometimes a regular email or meeting, but rather than taking sole responsibility, you can assign spokespersons to key stakeholders, but updates should remain separate from approvals.
You should have a clear division so that when decisions are needed, setup focused sessions with this select group only. If you include decisions into broader sessions which involve your other stakeholders, the session will become more about getting people up to speed, thereby losing focus and negatively impacting your ability to get to a decision point quickly & efficiently. Having both established at the beginning, promotes project confidence and stability, since you won’t be scrambling to put anything together in the middle of everything else.
Even in the 18th century, people had to work for their wigs, because they were a sign of maturity and authority. Attaining a sense of ownership as a project leader is a similar process, but make sure that the team feels that some ownership is important. After you and your team possess it, you have a single point of accountability promoting empowerment and ownership. You successfully ensured that nobody should be standing around confused about what they should be doing. To get that ownership, everyone should know from very early in the project who is needed for which type of decisions and why. By defining this upfront you’re ensuring less confusion further down the line should an issue or critical decision point bubble up unexpectedly.
The formation of good project management practices takes time, and this is just the beginning of true and meaningful project governance. Yet, building a project foundation with these qualities means that your project has focus, and a uniform understanding of what is expected. You want good governance, because it provides you and your team with solid accountability, strong strategies for project formation, honest disclosure, a definite Business Case, as well as the ability to terminate the project. So maybe governance is not all guys in powdered wigs yelling at each other, because the gentlemen of the 18th century did not have true accountability or honest discourse with each other. The men of the wig wearing period did some incredible things, but in regards to governance, the modern project manager has a slight advantage.