Good Governance Delivers Good Projects

Good Governance Delivers Good Projects

Yet another study has been done looking at why projects fail. This one, from Sydney consultancy Caravel Group and Melbourne Business School says that major project governance Teams are dysfunctional, lack the skills and experience to govern major projects, exhibit poor corporate behaviour, are conflict-ridden and rarely have their performance measured or reviewed.

I’ve worked in my fair share of big projects — I’m currently getting my head around a $300M infrastructure project and have been involved in software and hardware projects ranging from very small to huge. The difference between the projects that have succeeded and those that have been more challenging has come down to several things; an agreed scope, good controls around that scope and a project manager that understands what’s going on.

That’s where governance comes in. It’s critical to have processes and people with authority in place so that the whims of individuals with influence can be managed and so that there are appropriate controls in place to ensure that the budget and timeline aren’t compromised by poor project management practices.

Associate Professor Cocks from Melbourne Business Schools said: :Too many Governance Teams are stacked with ‘stakeholders’ to secure buy-in, rather than people with proven ability to govern projects. These people are often heavily conflicted and have no accountability for their Project Governance role.”

What’s the difference between successful and failed projects in your opinion? Is it all about governance or is there more to it?


  • Having worked & qualified on both sides of the fence, I believe you better off with better project management skills and less technical skill than the other way round.
    I find so called “project managers” in Australia to be shockingly short on about every level of competence and I’m no longer trying to sugar coat my dismay at their incompetence. How these people manage to get away with it frightens me.
    My current project is the most overly managed paper exercise I ever came across. The layers and layers of approval and procedures and reworking is laughable at best. And that was just the blueprint. The technical people already finished the main build whilst “stakeholders” still trying to get a plan together for something already done.
    You know, rules are rules and common sense has no place in that world.

  • Without reading the study, it appears to be making news out of newspaper, however the lack of governance is not why a project fails, but having it will highlight when a project is starting to lose trajectory.
    Governance should be threaded through a project at many levels, the trick is to know what is enough, without suffocating the project team.
    Most low level projects can be self governed by the Project Manager, but anything complex or medium +, should have the PMO taking a functional interest.
    The enterprise level projects, like the one you are currently tackling will have several tiers of governance, from the PM, to Stream Lead through to the Programme Director

    Why do projects fail ? Thy name is Legion.
    Internal politics, weak or powerless project sponsors, low morale in the project team, poor planning, inept project managers, scope creep, competing demands for overcommitted resources, indifferent or incompetent PMO – those are a few of my favourite things.

    I’m sure we all have war stories to swap, but when I worked in Brisbane for a psudeo government IT integrator, it epitomised the Fawlty Towers of Project Delivery, namely:

    The PMO spent more time covering it’s backside and making sure it’s reports were seamless, than providing project overview and checking on cross dependencies. It was unable to give a cross section of all projects on the go, and occasionally would give status reports on projects that had been completed two years prior.

    The organisation moved from a project software that worked (Daptiv) to something that no one knew how to work (Artemis). The next six months, we spent more time trying to figure the damn thing out, than running the projects.

    Project sponsors would refuse to make a decision, in some cases walking out and leaving the Project Managers staring each other down, seeing who would go for the throat first.

    Engineers would regularly refuse to do work, and then blame the PM for not telling them what to do. One project over ran it’s (tax funded) budget by $80,000 and burned through through three PM’s, before the stakeholders realised the problem with the project was actually the staff.

    Projects would get ‘hot potatoed’ from one PM to another, with the previous PM’s still billing to the project, to cover shortfall in their own projects. Several projects surfaced years late, leeched dry and missing thousands of dollars of hardware ( CIsco routers, 60′ TV’s, media centres), and the projects no nearer completion than the kick off meeting. No action was taken, and no accountability put in place.

    Not one project finished on time or under budget due to the incredible amount of internal power play and bickering that haunted every single project. Department heads would block work orders, just to annoy their counterparts

    Eventually, they had to advertise in NSW for Project Managers, because no one in QLD would work for them anymore,..

    Fun times.

    • That’s a pretty comprehensive list of why projects fail. I’m struggling to think of anything you’ve missed out. Nope, can’t think of anything else right now.

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