When running large change programmes, good governance is what will protect investment, provide assurance and give control to the organisation whilst allowing the project teams to get on with the job in hand.
Less effective governance often occurs in two extremes; either the organisation forces projects to adopt exhaustive measures and assurance reviews which burden the project and increase resources or at the other end of the spectrum projects start organically, occasionally pushing out progress reports to a few stakeholders and are generally viewed with suspicion by their organisation and struggle to get decisions made.
So how do we get the balance right between the bureaucratic stranglehold of the organisation and the renegade project?
We want to suggest 5 key focuses for effective programme governance:
- Integrated planning: ensuring projects are well planned will be the foundation for progress reporting, but can also hardwire the discipline of talking to other workstreams and projects by integrating plans and tracking dependencies
- Expert change control: inevitably your programme won’t operate in a vacuum and will have to adapt to the changing external environment, technical issues and moving user requirements. Therefore providing clear boundaries as to when to approach sponsors, escalate concerns or get change approved in a considered process is essential
- Adaptable progress reporting: it is visibility that will give the programme team and the organisation a sense of control. Standardisation and automation of reporting is good but having centralised ownership through a PMO will give consistency whilst providing a hub of information creating insight, foresight and flexibility in reporting
- Proactive risk management: more than just stage gate compliance, the programme needs to establish a strong culture of identifying, reporting and tracking risks and issues in a way which crosses project and workstream boundaries and creates practical mitigations
- Business strategic fit: at a portfolio level programmes and projects should be prioritised to align to strategic business objectives. However once in flight, particularly larger projects, should continue to regularly check back to organisational priorities to ensure that the benefits and outcomes being pursued are still relevant
There is a fine balance between being bureaucratic and having dangerously absent governance. The key is to ensure visibility, responsiveness and strategic direction.