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Ask Good Questions to Ensure Project Governance

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Effective project management governance is becoming an important topic at all levels of many organizations. Project governance focuses on making sure the whole of an organization's project management system is effectively supporting its strategy.

Good governance requires that the governing board sets the strategy and provides direction -- and not become involved in the day-to-day management of the organization. It's up to the organization's managers to implement the strategy and provide the board with the necessary assurances, information and advice needed to support the governance process.

Good governance and optimum performance should be synonymous. And developing an efficient structure to ensure both is a subtle art.

The directors need to ask their executive managers the right questions and the managers need to develop efficient systems that deliver the right answers. Paul A. Samuelson, an American economist said, "Good questions outrank easy answers."

In other words, if you don't ask the right questions, you are unlikely to get the information you need to make good decisions. The governance processes need to focus on the aspects of project delivery that really matter.

Some key questions to ask include:

 - Are we doing the right projects?
 -  Do we have the optimum risk profile?
 -  Do we have the resources and capability to accomplish the selected projects?
 -  Are we properly supporting our project teams to encourage success?

The challenge we face as project professionals is that most directors and senior executives have had limited exposure to effective project management systems. Concepts such as project portfolio management are relatively new and are still evolving. PMI is providing strong leadership in developing these concepts, but I find that execution of the work is largely occurring at operational management levels.

The challenge we face as project management experts is educating our senior executives and directors to ask the right questions in order to help move the organization forward. We must encourage them to invest in developing the ability to effectively manage the organization's project management so the executives and directors can get meaningful answers.

Effective project governance structure provides the optimum environment to allow project and program managers to deliver successful outcomes, so encouraging its development is in everyone's interest.

How can you and your colleagues work to encourage the "right questions" in your organization?

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Hi Lynda!
I've enjoyed your article. In my travels, teaching future PMP credential holders, I've heard PM's ask for a class on "How to be a good Project Sponsor." Along the lines of this article, there seems to be a need to educate Project Sponsors in what their role is with respect to the Project.

If you have any thoughts on that, I thought it would make a good discussion/article.

thanks for providing excellent content!
VP ProfDev

Good article Lynda.

In addition to having the right questions and the right answers, I also believe we must have a "common" language between these two groups - directions/senior executives and project/program managers. In many instances, the view and context on each side is very different. e.g the senior executives prime objective may be to understand from financial perspective whereas the PM might be more execution oriented in his responses.

So alignment needs to happen on that level as well.

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