The topic of governance is not new; from the earliest times, the initiators of major works have been interested in timely and efficient delivery – from the completion of a pyramid in Ancient Egypt before its intended resident died, to the construction of castles before the invading hordes arrived.
Governance is the process for exercising authority and regulating policy and decision-making. Generally, the focus is on the establishment of formal review bodies but this is only part of the story. It’s really about creating the conditions for effective delivery through improved decision-making, oversight and accountabilities.
Essentially, there are two types of decisions and associated mechanisms:
- Programmed decisions – those (generally predictable, smaller and higher in number) that can be anticipated and subject to ‘rules’ – e.g. standards and policies – with which people are expected to comply
- Un-programmed decisions – those (generally of greater significance and lower in number) that need to be considered individually, relating to major expenditures, changes in direction etc.
From a practical perspective, an effective governance framework requires clear responsibilities and mechanisms for:
- Approving plans, ‘rules’ and expenditures
- Overseeing appropriate execution and delivery of those plans
- Ensuring compliance with relevant ‘rules’
- Providing escalation routes for issues, and a forum for considering good ideas.
An effective governance framework, therefore, should include:
- A streamlined framework of governance bodies – with clear charters, interfaces and appropriate representation – focused on optimizing benefit, effective use of resources and removing obstacles to delivery
- Clear delivery accountabilities – the allocation of accountabilities for key outcomes to specific roles is clear, balanced across delivery dimensions, and aligned with appropriate authority to act
- Gated decision points – formal stage gate reviews ensure project definition meets agreed business criteria before additional resources are allocated
- Transparent delivery information – reports and dashboards harness business intelligence to provide real or near real time measurement and insight into business and delivery performance, presented in a readily-accessible, standard format with the capability to drill down to the required level of detail.
Ultimately these components all need to fit together, with clear relationships between oversight bodies and delivery roles, a clear expectation of the policies, processes and standards to be followed, and the establishment of an effective reporting cycle to provide insightful information upon which to act.