by Lynda Bourne
Effective project and program governance requires a carefully measured balance between prudent and effective risk taking, allowing skilled project teams the flexibility to tailor and improve processes to enhance success and effective surveillance (assurance) to ensure the organisation’s objectives are being achieved.
An excessive focus on ‘due process’ stifles innovation and improvement and can easily lead to ‘process induced failure’ where every one focuses on producing the correct document in preference to dealing with the information contained in the document… There is absolutely no point in being able to say that ‘every risk that adversely affected the project had been identified in the risk register’, if the risks could have been avoided by proactive management.
Good project management, good business management and good governance requires appropriate and timely action to mitigate or remove risks that can sensibly be managed, and recognition of the fact that the decision to take action is risky because there is no certainty the risk being mitigated would have occurred anyway: there is always a probability a risk won’t occur! Similar issues requiring balanced decision making occur across the full spectrum of project and program management.
Balancing the cost of action against the possible cost of inaction requires good business judgement; the definition of ‘good judgement’ being, ‘you are right more often than you are wrong’; not the ridiculous expectation of perfect foresight (it does not exist), nor systems that are biased in favour of ignoring preventative actions until it is too late.
The role of project surveillance systems should be focused on this type of issue assuring the organisation’s senior management and other stakeholders that their project and program management teams are making the best decisions to protect and enhance the overall value of the projects and programs to the organisation. ‘Due process’ is important, but only to the extent it either assists the decision making process or provides information that is required by law or regulation.
Our new white paper ‘Proactive Project Surveillance’ looks at the different types of review and the way they can be structured to both assist the projects and programs being reviewed to generate value for the organisation whilst providing assurance to the organisation’s executives and stakeholders that the projects and programs are being managed effectively.