3 Steps to Skilled Project Governance

The sign of a well run project is a clear understanding of its governance.  The benefits keep a project on time, on budget and delivering the business result.  Without clear governance, projects whither or – perhaps worse – expand into a knotted mess.  Here’s how it looks when it is done correctly.

Who Makes Decisions (and who doesn’t)

Decisions makers need to be both those who will benefit from the outcome of the project – and thus, can evaluate whether its progress is benefitting the business and addressing its need – AND those who have accountability for the cost and resources for the project.  Decision makers need to be engaged in the project’s outcome and not figureheads who are so far removed from the work as to give the project minimal oversight and priority in their day-to-day work life.  Decision makers need to be comfortable making decisions and have a strong history of arriving at their past decisions using facts and objective deliberation.  Biased team players need not apply.  Finally, decision makers have to commit to being both flexible when new information is presented and still drive for results with an eye to the big picture of the organization’s strategic goals.

Timely Resolutions

There is a fine line between fact-based deliberation and decision-by-delay.  Governance bodies must require project leaders to deliver timely and accurate information about project obstacles and news.  In return, the governing teams are accountable for making decisions with the information at hand to keep projects on time and on budget.  What is often missed by decision makers is that delaying decisions for the final 5% of detail is often the same as making the decision. Windows of opportunity close or costs rise and decisions finally made are too late to change the outcome.  Strict agendas with clearly communicated decision objectives and pre-read materials are critical for project leaders to provide governance teams to keep issue resolution on time.

Clear Communications

Every project team member cannot attend governance team meetings.  But every team member needs to understand the outcome of those meetings and the decisions made nearly immediately.  Project leaders who hold their knowledge and relationships with executive sponsors tightly create their own obstacles to progress.  Well run project teams have a swift communication strategy to provide decisions made to all team members in near real-time to keep the team agile and engaged.  Additionally, progress and milestones need to be clearly communicated across the organization to prepare it for changes that will be driven by the project’s completion and to keep anticipation and engagement high among the community impacted by the project.  A well run governance team recognizes the importance of clear and timely communication and takes steps to visibly lead that function.

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