Governance Event on 3 June 2015 "Does your Board exhibit good governance of project/change management?"

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Posted by APM on 11th Jun 2015

APM SWWE Branch – Governance Event on 3 June 2015
“Does your Board exhibit good governance of project/change management?”

On 3 June the SWWE Branch held an event delivered by the Chairman of the APM Governance SIG, Martin Samphire. The event was kindly hosted by Atkins at the Hub in Aztec West. Thanks to Allison Fall for arranging the venue and refreshments which was much appreciated by the 45 or so attendees.

Peter Wakeling introduced the session on behalf of the SWWE Branch and then the speaker by referring to the well-known reasons for project success and failure and that the growing view that good governance was a key success factor for projects that cannot be ignored.

Martin then explained the role of the APM Governance SIG and its objective to influence those in positions of power in organisations to adopt good governance practices.  He then went on to explain how governance was defined and what good governance meant in practice. 

Martin described the 12 key success factors that have been identified in the recent APM research. As well as good governance being identified in its own right, the majority of the other key success factors are also essential elements of good governance.  He also quoted other recent research findings that support the hypothesis that good governance is the crucial success factor for beneficial project outcomes (see slide attached).   

He explained the difference between governance of specific projects and programmes and the governance of project management across the enterprise and shared some thoughts on what governance bodies were essential for sound and good governance.

Martin cited the good practice guidelines (Directing Change, Sponsoring Change, Co-directing Change) available from APM and the SIG and drew on experience of case studies from recent programme failures as well as highlighting some of the governance failures that have been in the news surrounding FIFA and Sepp Blatter.  He went on to reinforce that the good practice principles, particularly in the APM publication Directing Change, are very relevant – but we are still not good at embedding them into our organisations.  For a copy of the Directing Change Guide (apm members only) go to - https://www.apm.org.uk/DirectingChange

He went on to describe case studies that demonstrate the lessons of poor / good governance in practice. 
There was discussion around a few key themes:

  • Good governance is the key success factor in delivering beneficial project outcomes – the ‘silver bullet’
  • Good governance is about relationships and behaviours – as well as process and structure
  • Why are we still not embedding good practice governance into our projects? We know the things we need to do well and the good practice but still we fail to embed.  We need to be stronger at the front end of projects to be open and honest about “how we will address the key reasons for failure / success factors” on this project.
  • Few of the cited key reasons for project failure are the responsibility of the project manager role – they are mainly in the accountability of the project / programme sponsor or senior governance body in an organisation – the Board or Investment / sub-committee
  • The crucial role of the Board (or Investment / sub-committee).  Good governance starts at the Board:  As they are at the apex of governance in an organisation, they need to set the culture and demonstrate the right behaviours / be intolerant of the wrong behaviours
  • How do we get competent ‘players’ in every position on the project ‘pitch’ – not just the PM but also Sponsor, Executives, Functional Managers, Users, etc.?
  • Although much of the responsibility for good governance sits with the Sponsor and Board, the programme / project manager has a role to ‘educate’ the others as to their role and to establish an effective continuing relationship with their Sponsor.
  • It is important to be able to locate your programme or project sponsor.  For a contracting organisation the project sponsor will probably sit in the client or customer organisation unless the project is an internal investment made by the contracting company, e.g. new product development, ERP, etc.
  • Use of agile methods is useful in some circumstances, but not all.  ‘Waterfall’ methods also have their place.   

There will be an opportunity to further explore the role of the sponsor and effective communication at the forthcoming one day Seminar being run by the SWWE Branch in conjunction with the People SIG on 29th September in Bristol.


Martin Samphire (APM)    
Chairman of GovSIG

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