Ensuring Project Governance Is An Enabler and Not An Inhibitor

Take a minute to think about past projects in your business. Has project governance been something your team has focused on? Reflect on how your project managers deal with project governance and how it has impacted your projects. Projects, like anything that involves many people working together, need governance. Project governance sets the framework for…

a project team ensuring project governance is an enable and not an inhibitor

Take a minute to think about past projects in your business. Has project governance been something your team has focused on? Reflect on how your project managers deal with project governance and how it has impacted your projects. Projects, like anything that involves many people working together, need governance. Project governance sets the framework for decision-making, accountability, and risk management throughout the project lifecycle. Understanding the essence of project governance is key to leveraging its potential as an enabler rather than an inhibitor. On the other hand, if not structured appropriately, project governance can become a severe detriment causing delays and hindering progress. 

Why is Project Governance Important 

There’s no doubt that the more trust employees have with the organizations they work with the more productive they will be. Check out what a study by Harvard Business Review found:

Your employees need to trust that your project managers have all the aspects of their work under control. If your project managers don’t have a good control over their project governance and deadlines are missed, tasks are falling through the cracks, shareholders are angry, how do you expect their direct reports to trust them? 

Understanding Project Governance

Project governance encompasses the policies, processes, and mechanisms that guide and control all project resources and activities. It ensures alignment with organizational goals, regulatory requirements, and stakeholder expectations. Project governance should not look the same for every project. For the most effective results, organizations should tailor each project’s governance structure to optimize the expected outcomes. A clear understanding of project governance is essential for effective project delivery. Think of it as a framework to help oversee the right course for your project.  There are 3 pillars of project governance. 

A Project Leader Ensuring Project Governance Is An Enabler and Not An Inhibitor

Pillar 1: Structure 

Any project must be supported by the organization that’s running it. Without adequate support, the chances of success diminish significantly. Senior executives champion the project, foster buy-in, and ensure alignment with strategic objectives. Their unwavering commitment and active involvement are essential for overcoming challenges and driving the project towards successful completion.

An example of this pillar becoming an inhibitor is the project manager facing challenges in obtaining necessary resources, such as budget approvals or staffing allocations. Without the visible support of senior executives, the project manager may struggle to establish authority and credibility among team members, leading to issues with team cohesion and collaboration. Poorly defined mandates and slow decision making is never planned for, and yet it’s another major contributor to delays.

Pillar 2: People

Effective project governance requires the right project manager. Lead project managers should have a thorough understanding of all project activities. Project governance helps the project manager comprehend the project objectives and the requisite tasks to achieve them.

An example of this pillar becoming an inhibitor is a novice or inexperienced project manager being given a project which far outweighs their experience and skill level. In this scenario, the project manager may gravitate to a “one size – fits all” approach when designing and establishing the ideal governance structure, which will overburden the project with non-valuable wasteful processes. They lack the necessary skills and experience to use the governance mechanisms to navigate the inevitable, unforeseen pitfalls and challenges. Has this ever been the case for you and your team? If your boss asked you whether the project was too complex for your skill set, would you honestly tell them? 

Pillar 3: Information 

The vision and goals of a project are important but without a clear and effective way to share information, a project is doomed. Open communication and timely information sharing are imperative for the effectiveness of project governance. That means visible, transparent  real-time reporting, regular touchpoints, and other measures to ensure the project stays on track and its outcomes are valuable. 

When there is a lack of transparency and inadequate communication channels within the project team, your project will inevitably fail. This deficiency in information sharing can lead to various challenges and hinder the effectiveness of project governance: 

  • Delayed decision making
  • Risk of errors and rework
  • Stakeholder disengagement

Strategies to Ensure Project Governance Enables Success

two project managers Ensuring Project Governance Is An Enabler and Not An Inhibitor

Organizations can implement various strategies to ensure that project governance serves as an enabler. Including:

Using Project Management Software

Integrating a fit-for-purpose project management software into your workflow can greatly enhance team communication and collaboration. Most project management software have features like task management, document sharing, and real-time progress tracking, so keeping everyone updated and on the same page becomes more seamless. Additionally, project management software facilitates setting precise objectives and timelines, optimizing resource allocation, and proficiently managing project issues and risks. By investing in the right software, your team can achieve improved coordination, transparency, and accountability.

For example, Microsoft Project or Jira are great programs that allow project managers to break the work down and create a detailed project plan outlining tasks, deadlines, and dependencies for an upcoming marketing campaign. Team members can track their progress, update task statuses, and collaborate on deliverables within the software. If your team is working on a big project, like a merger or acquisition of a smaller company, then having a suitable project management software is vital to staying organized and well orchestrated. 

It is important to note that organizations should select the right software based on the size and complexity of the majority of the projects in their portfolios. Too often the decisions defaults to the larger, more complex software, believing that “over clubbing” will guarantee success, whereas a smaller, simpler software such as Trello or Monday.com would be more than adequate, less cumbersome, and facilitative in nature. Let’s not discount the attractiveness of being infinitely scalable and cost effective.

Define Clear Roles and Responsibilities

It might seem redundant, but to ensure project governance success, one must establish a well-defined, visible governance structure. Clearly define the roles and responsibilities (RACI) to create clarity and promote collaboration within your team. Not to mention that it helps avoid confusion, tasks falling through the cracks, and speeds up decision making.

Let’s continue with our above example of an acquisition of a smaller company. There are so many moving parts to that project with multiple stakeholders and employees involved at different levels and stages. If there aren’t clear roles and responsibilities defined, then it will just lead to confusion and ultimately disaster. How do you expect your team to do their job if you don’t give them clear direction? 

Establish Clear Communication Channels

As mentioned previously, collaboration and communication are integral to effective project governance. Encouraging open dialogue, sharing information transparently, and soliciting regular feedback from stakeholders and teams to promote synchronized alignment. Clear communication channels facilitate proactive risk identification, effective decision-making, and problem-solving.

The more people you have involved in a project, the better and leaner your communication channels and strategy need to be. Think about it, sometimes there are miscommunications within an email sequence that usually involve two or three people. Now imagine a team of 20 or more! Communication within a project is vital, and as a project leader, it’s your job to set and continually refine clear channels of timely communication.  

This will likely start with creating a comprehensive communication plan. This plan should identify stakeholders, their involvement, degree of influence, and decision mandates.

Monitoring and Evaluating Project Governance Effectiveness

Regular monitoring and evaluation are critical to assessing and continually improving the effectiveness of project governance. Key performance indicators (KPIs), audits, assessments, and feedback mechanisms will enable your team to gauge governance performance, identify areas for improvement, and make informed adjustments. How are you supposed to know if your project governance strategy is an enabler or an inhibitor if you don’t monitor or evaluate it? Project Management 101: always be monitoring, evaluating, and soliciting feedback. 

Using Project Governance Models 

Similar to the various project management frameworks, there are project governance models that can be utilized to manage governance strategy. It may be efficient to use a specific governance model for your project, but ensure that you are prepared to flexibly shift the governance structure and strategy to suit your specific team and environment. This can be done throughout the project’s lifecycle to gradually tailor the model to your team’s unique needs. 

a project leader using careful planning to ensure project governance is a enable and not an inhibitor

Hierarchical Governance Model

A hierarchical structure places the bulk of the decision-making authority to a single or team of high-level executives. It is traditionally Tayloristic in nature and the most straightforward model as it closely follows a very common governance structure across all careers and industries. This model requires engaged executives having consistent oversight of the project throughout its lifecycle. These high-level executives will likely be responsible for deciding on the project’s:

  • Project Delivery Framework
  • Resource Allocation
  • Project Goals and Objectives
  • Scope and Timing
  • Prioritization of work packages
  • Selection of Project Managers 
  • Governance Procedures
  • Quality Standards

The hierarchical governance model is often employed for projects with higher stakes and degree of importance to the company, which calls for more executive engagement than smaller-scale projects. Using a hierarchical strategy when executives are too busy or disengaged will most certainly lead to delays in the project’s progress as the project team constantly awaits decisions and approvals from higher up. In a scenario like this, governance is misplaced as executives are unable to provide the time and expertise to optimally lead the project. 

Collaborative Governance Model

A collaborative governance model will delegate authority to committees and/or a variety of stakeholders, such as project managers, subject matter experts (SMEs), team leads, business owners, and other relevant stakeholders. These stakeholders must be capable of making decisions as a collective and sharing authority and accountability among multiple levels of the organization. This model will enable the project to be managed from diverse perspectives, which will ideally lead to more satisfying project outcomes. It will, however, require regular collaboration, trust, and constant alignment between stakeholders and team members. If this is not being done effectively, the project can easily derail. This model can, if not managed correctly, often lead to slow decisions and a lack of accountability. Beware of the overbearing loudest voice drowning out those that are more informed but quieter.

Agile Governance Model

The Agile governance model, supported by the Agile values, principles and practices, relies on adaptability and regular collaboration between team members, teams, and stakeholders. This governance model will need a team that is able to effectively manage their individual workload and self govern. The higher level authorities act less as management and more as a support team to help naturally guide the team. In this model, issues are addressed at the lowest mandated level, and escalate with the scale and severity of the issue at hand. This decentralized decision making removes the clutter, reduces wasted effort, and increases the flow of work. Any Agile model will crumble where managers have a need to know everything and a tendency to closely control or micro-manage the inputs of production. 


Good project governance doesn’t come easily: it requires experience and adaptability in design and disciplined execution. Project governance serves as the cornerstone for project success when approached as an enabler rather than an inhibitor. At Valstroom, we understand governance entirely. By instilling a culture of respect, accountability, and communication, we elevate project governance to a refreshingly higher level. Our proactive approach builds robust communication mechanisms, streamlines decision-making, and fosters collaboration, making your teams leaner, faster, and more effective. With strong governance practices in place, Valstroom saves dollars by minimizing risks, optimizing resource allocation, and ensuring that every project delivers tangible value to its stakeholders.

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