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Behavioural aspects of governance

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I recently attended an excellent talk on corporate governance given by Philip Graf, chairman of the Gambling Commission and CfBT Education Trust among others, where he addressed the subject of behavioural issues in governance. The main focus was on the importance of relationships, for example the speaker emphasised the significance of the relationship between the chairman and chief executive.

The emphasis in governance has been the technical matters of having the right structures, processes and checks in place while behavioural matters have been largely ignored. However, as in all things, the right behaviour and relationships are critical to the success of a venture.

Project management is no different. Within any project or programme it is clear that the critical relationships are firstly, between the sponsor and the project manager, secondly, between these individuals and the members of the project board / steering group and thirdly between the project manager and key team members.

Regarding the governance of project management in an organisation as a whole (the focus of the APMs Governance SIG) there are clearly critical relationships. However, these are not so clearly identifiable as the roles can be more diversified. The main players in this arena are the board of directors or equivalent, those managing the portfolio(s) of projects/programmes and the sponsors and managers of individual projects or programmes.

The APMs Governance SIGs publication Sponsoring Change gives comprehensive guidance on matters such as what the sponsor does for the board, for the project manager and for other stakeholders. However in my view success in the outcomes of these responsibilities is as dependent on the relationship the sponsor has with these parties as with the competence of the sponsor.

Furthermore key relationships are particularly critical to success in the types of endeavours covered by Co-Directing Change where different organisations come together to undertake a project or programme.

While it is vital to adhere to the principles given in each of these guides (including Directing Change itself), the likelihood of success can be improved if effective relationships exist between the key individuals involved.

Can useful advice be given to guide these relationships? Possibly, but such relationships are so dependent on the individuals involved plus the context and cultures of the organisations concerned that attempts to provide general guidance may just prove to be a diversion from the sound advice given in the guides as they stand.

Is this an area worth exploring further?


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  1. Patrick Weaver
    Patrick Weaver 04 January 2013, 09:40 AM

    There is some very good research on ethics that shows lower levels in the hierarchy will be equal to or less ethical than the higher levels and that the leaders ethics set the frame for the group he/she is leading and the group will be equal to or less ethical than the leader. This strongly suggests the Board of directors or their equivalent are responsible for setting the tone for the whole organisation. Diligence, openness, actively seeking the truth of a situation, not accepting whitewash etc, all begin at the top!