Agile Governance: Streamlining Projects for Maximum Value


Join Michael Hannan as he explains how Agile Governance can revolutionize your PMO, through moving focus away from project level micro-management and onto the realization of portfolio level benefits.

If you know governance is important but don't want it to become a bureaucratic drain then check out this webinar, as Mike has a plan for you.


Revamping Project Management with Agile Governance

70% Success Rate? We can do better!

Current PMI measures of success run at around 70% of projects. There's been some slight up-tick over recent years, but the basic truth still holds; as an industry Project Managers still have too many poor projects, and it's time to fix that.

The key is ambition. Let's stop project governance being a control mechanism for hitting a minimum standard, and shoot for unlimited upside instead. 

Here's how.

Manage portfolio flow

Typical planning assumptions are inflated, so right away we're not getting as much as we could from our portfolio of resources:

  • Every stage works out their timings, typically based on "how long will it probably take" PLUS contingency. Repeat for each step and timings are now holding huge excess buffer.
  • Teams have no incentive to finish early, as they are held to account for being on time. There is no incentive to move faster. Indeed there is a distinct disincentive, as next time they'll be expected to deliver to the same pace.

So let's change the approach and manage to a portfolio level buffer. Now instead of adding in a little bit extra at every step we're going for a sensible buffer, shared across all stages. That way there's collective insulation vs. 'Murphy's Law' but much faster delivery.

And it gets better.

Teams can now go as fast as they can, then hand over the baton. If they add to the project buffer that's great, if they slip a little it's OK. If it slips a lot it's then it raises the question of where do I get this back? Can I lean into a project with more buffer to pull in some help?

And because that project has enough buffer you're not begging to 'borrow' resource, you're simply optimizing tasks to ensure that delivery across the portfolio sticks to plan.

Cut out the 3 hour meeting to review why the report went red, and the 2 hour session where you have to request support from another project team. Just do the right thing.

How to Build a Roadmap

Inherent in this approach is a roadmap of projects, built into a plan that respects capacity and applies prioritization. But don't despair, this doesn't have to be an epic task:

  • Don't over-plan. Hours spent scheduling what probably wont happen in six months time isn't helpful. If a detailed estimate is no more accurate than an informed 'guesstimate' then keep it simple.
  • Focus on iteration. A plan that can adapt with circumstances is important, because the only predictable thing is that the plan will be (at least a bit) wrong.
  • No cartoons. The plan must be 'real'. Don't create pretty graphics that are hard to update.

The key is that each task is a sensible allocation of time, supported by a shared buffer to manage the risk of being late.

Flip the Org Chart

Traditional governance processes are all about 'reporting up' - giving managers an ever longer screwdriver with which to probe the performance of projects.

This creates 3 problems:

  • Reporting skews towards easily measurable metrics - on time and on budget - and ignores the most important metric - on value.
  • By forcing projects into rigid reporting structures, it reduces the empowerment of people who know most about the project. So PM's have to chose between the right thing, and the thing that keeps the box green.
  • Performance should be measured at portfolio level, not project level, enabling pragmatic trade-offs to minimize disruption. Horse trading at a more senior level is a waste of time.

This is why to many governance is seen as a dirty word. Here's the solution:

  • Flatter organizations where leadership is seen as a support service, not a career limiting judgement panel. Breaking away from traditional spans of controls helps: with fewer layers the ability to micro-manage diminishes.
  • Value-based Prioritization as a framework for defining what matters most. Through making value quantifiable, leadership teams can take a step back when it comes to project monitoring.
  • Empower People to deliver value. Reporting data is a useful signal but not an end in itself, so focus accountability on delivery of portfolio value not the color of their status reporting.

Next Steps

The best time to plant a tree is 30 years ago.

But, in the absence of a time machine, if Mike's message resonates we recommend that you slip on your brave pants and start the process of developing your own agile governance process.

 New call-to-action