Project governance – the death of a project; lost in the bureaucracy

The project manager was very disappointed. He had in his words sweated to deliver the project on time, to budget and with the right results. He was so disappointed with the company that he resigned and went to work with a company who in his words ‘put energy and effort into having structured project governance’ rather than a ‘free for all’ as he described it.

His project got lost; lost in the bureaucracy of this monolith company.

Yes it was business critical, yes it had an agreed budget, and resources were allocated to ensure delivery. But, when you traced through the project you saw nothing but problems:

  • there were 2 project sponsors or rather it was not clear who the project sponsor was
  • the project manager spent a lot of time preparing reports to 3 internal committees. Each committee wanted a different type of report. The project manager estimated he spent 30% of his time preparing reports and attending meetings
  • the project manager pointed out the high risk profile saying it was high because of too little project accountability. Senior managers did not see this as an issue!
  • the meetings, according to the project manager, added no real value to the project and when examined, added to the risk profile of the project. Again, the project manager pointed out the impact the meetings were having on the risk profile which came about by a lack of decision taking – they procrastinated
  • change management – senior managers kept changing the project. The project manager asked for change request forms to be completed, only to be told “get on with it”

This is part of a story of a project that failed to deliver. It led to:

o loss of staff; the project manager leaving

o poor staff morale; according to the project manager those on the project team were de-motivated and stakeholders were extremely confused as to what the project was trying to achieve

o arguments among senior managers as to who was to blame for this project problem

The key issue for this and all projects is that they need a governance approach to support the project not work against it. What do I mean by project governance? Put simply it defines accountabilities and responsibilities for decision-making at a strategic level or project level. The problem here, as I am sure you can see, is that there were few, if any, accountabilities defined.

This was a key business project with a big budget (time and money) but few if anyone had overall responsibility for monitoring and controlling what was being delivered. The project manager took his responsibility very seriously. Few others did the same.

I wonder how many organisations would buy a new piece of equipment costing £750,000 without monitoring and control being strictly defined – before and during the purchase process. But this is what happened; a project with a lot of investment but no clearly defined governance.

This is one story; unfortunately, there are many all too similar! Will you or your company add to this growing list?

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One Response to Project governance – the death of a project; lost in the bureaucracy

  1. RYErnest says:

    Nice post u have here 😀 Added to my RSS reader

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