IT Governance

Key Elements of Good Project Governance

If you have participated in or managed large projects, you had to deal with the governance process. Project governance is a key element of success, especially for large projects. What is a large project? It depends on the context. A project needs a good governance structure if it has the following elements:

  • Substantial investment
  • Complexity
  • Multiple stakeholders
  • Noteworthy change management

Based on the structure, you communicate information, provide oversight, and make decisions about the project. A good committee can help ensure that the project has the needed resources, is equipped with involved stakeholders, and its issues are addressed.

There is no governance framework that is effective in all organizations. It should be tailored as per the organizational culture, types of projects, and the needs of the organization. The success of a project is the ultimate performance indicator of a good governance structure.

An active executive body will guide the project from beginning to the end and collaborate with the project manager and the team effectively. It brings a different perspective to the project that helps it to succeed and achieve goals. Governance includes:

  • Guiding and overseeing project work, including gate and phase reviews
  • Ensuring adherence to policies, standards, and guidelines
  • Establishing roles, responsibilities, and authorities
  • Decision-making regarding risk escalations, changes, and resources that are beyond the responsibility of the project manager
  • Ensuring appropriate stakeholder engagement
  • Monitoring performance

The governance committee also gives assurance to key stakeholders that the project is well-managed and progressing as per schedule.

It also provides guidance to the project managers if they need to discuss progress, issues, and risks at a senior level.

Key Elements of a Good Framework

Three elements are important for an effective project governance body.

Senior Level

It should be run by the senior management. A governance body set up at a lower level could not provide effective leadership to a project. Senior executives will have power, decision-making capabilities, influence, ability to provide resources, and the capacity to resolve issues.


The committee should have appropriate members to perform its role. The strategic leadership monitoring the project increases as you go up the corporate ladder.

Though the committee members can view the bigger picture, they are unable to see the details of what is happening down there. To be effective, they must be supported by skilled members. However, experts will vary based on the project type. For example, your project may need expertise in various fields, such as construction, engineering, web development, change management, legal, procurement, etc.


The cycle of the governance activities should be aligned with the project tasks. Those should not have to wait long for the committee’s response as this would incur project delay and cost overrun. Delays caused by the administrative body are somewhat ironic as one of its roles is to monitor projects and their progress.

The Secret Ingredient

Setting up a good executive body is important, but it is only one half of the challenge. The second half is what you do with it. There is one secret ingredient that is needed for successful governance—a culture of honesty.

An administrative structure faces the biggest challenge when it is not provided with accurate information. Sometimes, project reports will project the positive aspects only and filter out everything else. Other times, information will be manipulated to avoid discussing risks and issues.

Because the committee is close to the sponsor and is involved in decision-making, there is a tendency to adjust project information. It is important to be strategic. However, hiding the truth and key information that would impact a decision is not strategic.

For example, issues and project status should be accurate. They should not be changed from red to orange, then yellow, and ultimately green as you go up the governance structure.

Leadership and Honesty

It is important to develop a culture of honesty. This is essential for the success of a project. It helps in clear communication, information exchange, and timely decision-making.

Culture is a powerful element. As a leader, you influence the project to develop a culture of honesty. A project leader should do what is right for the success of the project. It includes telling the truth and having difficult conversations.

For more brilliant insights, check out Michel’s website: Project-Aria

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