Project Governance: Structure & Best Practices

Instructor: Lolita Jackmon

President of a local chapter of the Project Mangement Institute (PMI) and a certified Project Management Professional since 2009.

In this lesson, you will learn how organizations ensure projects deliver desired outcomes using a project governance structure, as well as best practices for the governance framework.

Corporate Governance vs. Project Governance

Governance refers to the way something is organized for accountability. Typically, it covers all levels of an organization, flowing from the corporate level to the management level to the project level. Projects are undertaken to achieve a specific goal, and governance provides a decision-making mechanism for projects. A well-defined governance structure increases a project's chances of success.

Project governance is based on and aligned with corporate governance; but it focuses on the governance of individual projects. The Project Management Institute defines a project governance structure as a framework that provides the project manager and team with what is needed to support and control the project, such as:

  • Reporting hierarchy
  • Defined processes
  • Accountability for decision-making
  • Tools for managing the project

Governance requires clear lines of responsibility and authority
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An Example of Project Governance

To demonstrate how project governance structures work, let's assume, for example, that your school has a soccer team, and that the team's upcoming games for the season make up the project. The players on the soccer team are like the members of a project team responsible for doing the work of the project. The team captain serves as the project team lead, helping guide and motivate the other players.

The head coach functions as the project manager since he or she devises the overall strategy and game plan. The team's general manager is a project executive, the person who exhibits strong leadership, decision-making and communication skills to ensure the project progresses smoothly.

In a professional sports franchise, the team owner is the project sponsor, because he or she provides the financial resources for the team. Together, these roles represent project stakeholders because they are affected positively or negatively by the success or failure of a project.

With many different roles playing a part in the outcome of a project, the governance structure can provide a consistent method of controlling the project and ensuring its success. Governance defines, documents, and communicates reliable and repeatable project practices known to result in successful outcomes. Using our sports team analogy, this would be the expectation that all team members:

  • attend practice regularly,
  • become expert at playing their position,
  • maintain a certain grade point average, and
  • follow a code of good sportsmanship.

If players fail to meet these expectations, they would expect to be cut from the team, putting the team at risk of losing games. That is an outcome that would not be desired. However, the governance structure includes the head coach and general manager who have the responsibility and resources to mitigate potential negative factors before they impact the project.

In our analogy, the head coach and general manager would likely see team members heading in an undesired direction and use their influence to gain better behavior from team members.

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