When project governance works, it works. It creates accountability, reduces cost and ensures ethical practice to name but a few advantages. However, what happens when we become over-reliant on governance? Does it reverse all the good it has potentially achieved? We explain what over-reliance on project governance is and the effects thereof in this article.
Project governance refers to the framework process and methodologies followed to ensure the success of a project. Effective project governance ensures that a project delivers expected results to the stakeholders. A successful governance framework creates accountability, involves stakeholders and ensures ethical and above-board project practices. It reduces project cost by ensuring appropriate expenditure for the risks in question. From a technical standpoint, governance involves setting project guidelines, decision points and overseeing project performance, risk management and change management. An adequate governance plan is a must for successful project management. As the complexity of a project increases, the need for appropriate governance increases.
Effects of Poor Project Governance
Poor governance practices are a significant stumbling block for the successful completion of any project. Over-governance is one such poor practice. Tell-tale signs of over governance include project management excessively spending hours completing paperwork, reporting project metrics, updating project management tools and perhaps relying too much on methodologies.
“One of the primary weaknesses uncovered during the analysis was the total reliance placed on the project and development methodologies. Processes alone are far from enough to cover the complexity and human aspects of many large projects subject to multiple stakeholders, resource and ethical constraints.” – British Computer Society (June, 2008)
Over-reliance on governance creates bureaucracy. It increases project costs, delivery time and has an impact on the utilisation of resources. Demonstrating project progress to stakeholders through metrics is good up to a point, but too much detail may bury key messages and lead to confusion and disinterest. In extreme cases, over-governance creates a situation of successful processes but failed outcomes.
How to Avoid Over-Reliance?
Set boundaries and expectations early in the project lifecycle. Agree on the level of detail expected with the project stakeholders. Instead of furnishing one big report, engage stakeholders consistently by providing decision-grade information that helps the stakeholders with risk analysis and management.
While it is good practice to follow the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) principle or Prince2 methodology, spend more time creating a strong project team that has hands-on experience with enough knowledge about good practices and governance.
Project success is not dependent on governance alone. While poor or no of it, it is one of the central reasons for project failures, failures do happen despite investing millions of pounds in tools and methodologies. This is because failures also occur due to business, organisational, political, cultural and other unforeseen reasons that are sometimes beyond control. For successful project management that does not run into micro-management, senior management must create a balance between it and delivering real benefits to stakeholders.