Governance – There’s More Than One Way to Look at It

“Governance is not just arranging meetings,” stated the CEO. I sat silently for a moment on the conference call, stung by the insult. What should I say?

‘Duh, I know!!’ Only if I wanted to commit career suicide.

‘Quite right, sir.’ Only if I wanted to never look myself in the mirror again.

‘Of course not, I’m capturing minutes too, boss!’ Career suicide again?

‘Absolutely, and there’s a whole lot more we’re doing,’ I settled on – but it was too late, another director had come to my defence and I was left to seethe in silence for the rest of the call.

It’s occurred to me in the years since that the CEO wasn’t trying to insult a fairly inexperienced project manager, but that he was trying to help me. And maybe also that he realised something that it took me a long time to notice. Governance is not just arranging meetings; but it may also be more than you think it is. And it may be more than your colleague, your boss, your PMO and your CEO think it is too.

For most of my career, I’ve observed people dwelling more on what are outputs of good (or bad) governance rather than what it truly is and why it exists. Is it a policy doc? A RAID? A regular meeting with decision makers… and the logs from those meetings… and the terms of reference that says nothing is decided if less than 3 out of 4 quorum members show up? Is it the list of things that we’ve done, the rationale for doing them that we can present if/when we get audited? Is it the framework that assures regulators that we don’t need an audit? Yes, it certainly is. But doesn’t it all sound a bit backward looking?

PMO’s are constantly handed a Goldilocks-esque dilemma of figuring out how much governance is too much,too little, or just right. My view is that as the PMO serves the business, the business should contribute to deciding this; whilst the PMO attempts to maintain a suitable balance between speed and control. But for me the key objective of good governance is to ensure we enable effective decision making – a forward looking view that is more interested in what we do next than what we did previously.

Developing coherent and supportive relationships with the business by understanding how to help it meet its goals; establishing clear roles and responsibilities in consultation rather than by dictation; enabling a culture of improvement and transparency whilst accepting that we are not perfect and don’t hold all of the answers; supporting the creation of clear and detailed business cases but not forcing colleagues to dedicate their careers to writing endless templates and forms that will probably never be read; all of these things are as important as the logs, records, policies and procedures that we keep. So, fellow PMOers, try to keep an eye on the future just as much as on the past. Your colleagues may actually start to think you add some value…

…just don’t let it go to your head. You’ll still get the blame when things go wrong!

Written by Stuart Taylor

Born and raised in Walsall, West Midlands; currently living in Buckinghamshire; career in project management; runs a lot but isn't getting any slimmer...

5 comments

  1. It’s an interesting one!

    I think CEOs/directors of most businesses know what governance is but maybe they don’t understand where pmo fits in.

    There you go ….. you’ve started people thinking 👍

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

      1. It’s good see your fighting the cause Stuart.
        It prompts me to think how diversity plays a part in that understanding of a valued PMO

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