Some project governance committees really do work. Stop laughing. I've seen some outstandingly effective committees that contribute to organisational value and make everyone's life more productive. No really, quit laughing now.
Now, I'm depressingly aware that some jaded executives are right now glancing up from their iPads and snorting, but I have four words for you: Keep it simple silly. Sound familiar?
Picture these scenarios. A government IT department creates project steering committees and appoints project sponsors of appropriate heft. These committees meet sporadically and have no agreed decision-making authority.
In the meantime, the CIO, the head of IT services, the enterprise project management office, the heads of corporate services and applications development meet once a week outside of the project steering committee.
They all have a say in what each project should deliver and how the project team should deliver it.
A major mining company with $2 billion in its project portfolio had weekly three hour meetings, attended by the CIO and a cast of other executives and project staff, to discuss the health of every major program in the portfolio. The only people not invited to this discussion were the program managers.
The MD of a national logistics company made major capital investments based on the war stories of its most influential executive.
This executive would weave his stories of 'glorious enhanced prestige', 'leveraging the good' and 'mission criticality' to his fellow (infuriated) executives and, astonishingly, the managing director would hand over the capital — with no objective assessment of value, strategic alignment or risk.
An insurance company does even better. It has a spread sheet of 150 lines that listed all its 'decision-making' committees for a portfolio of 110 projects. I burned it, not literally, and started over with a structure of 24.
Many executives and senior managers complain that they spend most of the day in committee meetings. One told me that his 'real' day started at 4pm when he could finally get to his day job.
Committees can be the bane of an executive's life; they eat up countless hours and, as many executives report, some don't accomplish much. And they proliferate like cane toads in the wet.
Even though most of us would rather have something fight its way out of our intestines and swiggle across the table than go to a meeting, the rub lies in that governance committees are essential.
Successful committees rely on several central principles, which are described below.
Governance roles should sit within existing frameworks
Often the problem with project governance approaches is that they live in isolation of the corporate governance framework.
In successful companies, certain core project portfolio management (PPM) processes — such as managing the project investment cycle or implementing change — dovetail with strategic and operational planning functions and happen within a cohesive and integrated governance framework.
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