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Forget Everything You've Learnt About Project Delivery, Part 10: Project governance and Project Health Checks

Forget Everything You've Learnt About Project Delivery, Part 10: Project governance and Project Health Checks

If your governance team members haven’t been trained in their roles and activities then they are probably wasting time and money

All of the major IT-failures in the past 20 years were overseen by otherwise competent business executives

"I don't know why I'm here" said one Sponsor. "It took me six months to understand my role on the (steering) committee," said another senior executive.

Project Governance Committees are a huge waste of management's time. People don't know why they are there, how they contribute to the project's success. As a result they become the focal point for the project team to transfer problems (and accountability) to.

All of the major IT-failures in the past 20 years were overseen by otherwise competent business executives — who didn't know what they were doing on their governance committees!

If your governance team members haven't been trained in their roles and activities then they are probably wasting time and money. Project governance is not intuitive and is quite different to line management.

Governance education needs to explain the governance role, the dynamics of projects, the critical success factors for project success and the leading indicators of failure (among many other topics).

However, what executives in governance roles don't need is to learn project management (it may be interesting, but is not necessary). What they do need is to learn what questions to ask, what to look for and what to do to ensure their project is a success.

Ineffective governance is one area where money can be wasted faster than anywhere else on a project. Especially if the governance team does not have the information it requires.

One critical source of information is the Project Health Check; but so many of these are now too banal to be effective. They should be comprehensive and insightful.

For example, Internal Audit reviewed a project just before we ran a project health check. The audit report produced a half-page report with a few concerns. The health check caused the project to be stopped, refocused and the implementation delayed for six months!

Most health checks look to see if the right things are being done — "Do you have a career plan for the project team members?" Yes? Tick, next item.

Observance of the (correct) processes is good, but doesn't go far enough. The real question is, "Is every part of this project set up to and focused on delivering the desired business outcomes and benefits?" If not, why not?

Consultancies' own "QA" reviews are designed to ensure THEY are not exposed (not whether you are!).

Of course, if the outcomes of the project are unclear, then it is more difficult to assess the relevance of the project's activities to their realization.

Those conducting a project health check need to understand how and where value is destroyed during a project — so they know where to look for the root causes (rather than just the symptoms). Unless the root causes are identified the health check's value itself if seriously diminished.


More information on project governance can be found at both www.project-sponsor.com and www.beingaprojectmanager.com.

Click here for the introduction to the series "Forget Everything You've Learnt About Project Delivery".

Click here for the last article in this series "Forget Everything You've Learnt About Project Delivery, Part 9: Managing the Project".

Jed Simms is CIO magazine's weekly project management columnist. Simms, founder of projects and benefits delivery research firm Capability Management, is also the developer of specialized project management and project governance Web site www.project-sponsor.com

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