Project Governance

Authors: Ralf Muller
Publisher: Gower

A night to read and some real practical solutions to implementing governance in your organisation – either at portfolio, programme or project level. “Project Governance” from Ralf Muller is a little misleading as it doesn’t just cover project level governance. Starting at the corporate level, with academic theory, the book soon moves onto programme and project governance taking into account different organisational models. Is your organisation a “Flexible Economist Paradigm”? Or in others words has your organisation established project management as a core competence, with professional project managers? Governance within this environment will follow a different path to that of a “Conformist Paradigm” organisation where project management is performed by technical experts as an on-the-side task.

So what is governance and why would you want to know more about this area of project management? Governance is defined in the book as:

“Governance provides a framework for ethical decision making and managerial action within an organisation that is based on transparency, accountability and defined roles”

This book covers everything from portfolio management, sponsors & steering groups, strategic and tactical project management offices, programme management, in fact it brings together a lot of areas and topics already within the public domain. There are two sections that are particularly worthy of note; a governance framework for project management and how much governance is enough? The framework provides a three step process which enables an organisation to increase its PPM governance. Within each step there are three areas; what can be done, what should be done and what is done. Step 1, includes basic training and methodology use (it talks about the adoption of methodologies such as PRINCE2), introducing steering committees (ensuring what is learnt is adopted and put into use) and the use of audits and reviews to ensure the “what is done” or learnt has translated to successful project delivery. A simple framework which covers the different levels of organisational maturity has been conveyed well in this book and would be a welcome addition to any programme office manager, portfolio manager or organisational change specialist’s bookshelf. That said, this is also a book aimed at the project manager, especially their role within project governance but also programme level, portfolio level and ultimately how their delivery impacts the corporation as a whole.

Knowing when there is enough governance – appropriate to your organisation and the programmes and projects it delivers – is also covered. A simple approach which focuses on the relationship between project manager and steering group and the roles & responsibilities of each may be useful insight for any project manager. Like much in project management, communication is the key for effective governance at each level of the organisation and Muller’s book goes a long way to showing how to utilise effective communication to achieve a integrated governance model.

July 2009 – Reviewed by Lindsay Scott of Arras People

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