How are projects approved?

by Ron Rosenhead

I travel a lot and see many companies trying and deliver major changes through project and programme management. There are sometimes problems with this:

  • there are often too many projects on the go within the business with resources thinly stretched

  • not all of the project link to the overall company strategy ( PMI have reported that effective strategy implementation is directly linked to an organisation’s capability to deliver successful projects and programs – see latest report

  • energy and effort is put into delivering nice to have projects taking valuable resources (staff and money) away from key projects

  • project priorities are not clear with project managers and stakeholders often confused as to where the effort should go first

So, what is needed? Companies need a mechanism for ensuring that all projects go through a formal approval process, a process that will avoid some (and more) of the above issues. So what should this approval process be? I suggest a small group of people who operate at the corporate level (no more than 5 or 6 people). There is no one overall process as each company needs to think through what is required which could include:

  1. Developing a list of all company projects and establishes how each one fits with the overall objectives of the business

  2. Checking the company has sufficient resources to deliver the project – remember there is a skills shortage. Resources includes money and people

  3. Approving or otherwise projects ensuring they fit with the overall company objectives and link into the overall portfolio of projects

  4. Retrospectively reviewing and approving (reapprove) projects on the list (I) above. This may mean stopping or reprioritising projects. Stopping would release valuable resources and budget for higher priority projects

  5. Checking whether there a business case for each project and there are agreed benefits identified and they are being measured along the way.

There are clearly more areas for this small group to consider. I see this group as part of the overall governance process ensuring the strategic challenges will be met with a clearly focussed list of projects to be delivered.

Order and structure is needed to ensure that the company controls the overall portfolio of projects. The alternative; leave things as they are and end up with what one person described as a ‘right spaghetti mess’ – an interesting metaphor.


Project Agency

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