Posts Tagged ‘6Q Governance’

Bridging the top management conceptual divide

Posted in Governing Programmes and Projects, Strategic Programmes on October 14th, 2009 by Raymond Young – 3 Comments

Executive Summary

Top management support is crucial for project success, but top managers are not interested in project level concerns. Programme management is the crucial link because programmes deliver the business benefits required to realise strategic goals. web name generator However the project and programme management community will have to learn engage at the strategy level and focus on the achievement of strategic goals. The current approaches are too heavily influenced by project management concepts to be effective in engaging top management.


The need for top management support

IT governance guru John Thorp has advocated for some time the need to manage projects at the programme level in order to realise the desired benefits. I’ve come to the same conclusion from a different angle:

There is now strong evidence that top management support is the most important critical success factor and is not simply one of many factors [i].

If so, then it is very difficult for projects to succeed if top managers do not consider project management to be a matter of direct concern and they don’t [ii].

If projects don’t succeed (in delivering business benefits) then corporate strategies aren’t implemented. Everyone loses. (This almost certainly appears to be the case with one of the best performers in the public sector: the State of Victoria; and it is likely to be the case with the rest of us. It is well known that two thirds of projects deliver no value at all [iii]).

This situation is very dysfunctional with as much as 3% of GDP is being lost because project managers can’t get the attention of top managers.

We can engage top managers through programme management

We believe there is a conceptual chasm between the top management and project management community. They do not have a common language and do not work together to achieve common goals. We have documented our analysis in Bridging the TMS-PM conceptual divide. Our major findings are:

Project management is increasingly being used to implement strategy; an application it was not designed to meet. Projects deliver products that might enable a strategy but they rarely if ever deliver strategies.

Portfolio management is not a solution because the focus is on the selection of projects. If projects cannot deliver a strategy then no matter how well you select projects, it will not result in a strategy being delivered. For strategic goals to be met, it is essential that portfolios are portfolios of programmes not portfolios of projects. This is not how PPM (project portfolio management) is currently practiced.

Programmes are the vital link between strategy and the realisation of strategic goals. We must as John has stated, focus our attention at the programme level. Plan for, select and fund entire programmes (or not). Our point of difference is that we believe mainstream programme management is currently too immature, too inflexible and too influenced by project management to engage the top management audience. Programme managers cannot assume strategy is delegated from on high and only needs to be implemented. The practice of programme management much be enhanced to deal appropriately with much lower levels of certainty than practitioners of strategic planning and programme management have traditionally assumed.

Finally active governance by top managers is essential to go beyond planning to actually realise the desired benefits over time. The future is inherently unpredictable and top level governance is required to steer or navigate around unexpected obstacles. Governance is not how the project management methodologies have portrayed it: to have a steering committee or a project board. Governance is an attitude and requires an active questioning. The 6Q Governance™ framework, an enhancement of HB280 and AS8016, is an excellent guidance that we recommend to all.

But we need to lift our game and learn to contribute to strategy

However, we face an uphill battle overcoming a considerable misdirection of effort being promoted by the project and programme management community. This might seem an arrogant statement but we would ask you to consider how many project managers operate at the level of the board or C-suite? An earlier blog summarised a professional presentation for ISACA that considered board level decision-making. The quotes below are taken from the ‘decision-making’ module of the AICD Company Director’s Course and we believe the last quote may apply particularly to the current thinking in the project and programme management communities. If we are to engage the top managers we need for our success, we need to do it at their level so that both they and we can succeed. The level at which we must engage is strategy and the achievement of strategic goals.

“Decision-making is a process rather than something that occurs in a single point in time”

“The process … begins when we need to do something but we do not know what”

“People in organisations such as managers must pass through stages in mastering greater and greater complexity. This is not a matter of handling more and more information, but learning what information is important – what not to think about – to focus on what is really important” Jaques (1998)

“When a person is out of their depth in terms of the level of complexity they have to handle, they will implement mechanisms to maintain control such as cutting the debate, seeking to silence people … often unconscious behaviours designed to avoid their own lack of understanding”


[i] R. Young and E. Jordan, “Top management support: Mantra or necessity?,” International Journal of Project Management 26, no. 7 (2008): 713 – 725, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V9V-4T8R1VR-1/2/cbb9982c137815f208ac6ca820c3b45f.

[ii] L. Crawford, “Senior management perceptions of project management competence,” International Journal of Project Management 23, no. 1 (2005): 7-16, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V9V-4D636C6-4/2/b6479d1c140991c277782e9cfaff6ffb .

[iii] R. Young, “What is the ROI for IT Project Governance? Establishing a benchmark.,” in 2006 IT Governance International Conference (Auckland, New Zealand, 2006).

Breakthroughs in IT project failure – Governing effectively

Posted in Governing Programmes and Projects on July 27th, 2009 by Raymond Young – Be the first to comment

IT projects failure has been an issue almost since the dawn of computing [i] and recent data suggests the failure rate is not only not improving but actually getting worse (Standish 1994-2009). It is clear that the traditional approaches are not improving results despite more than fifty years of intensive effort.

Project governance is emerging as a radically different paradigm to solve the problem. The approach emphasises project success (realisation of business benefits) over project management success (on-time on-budget). It is based on the research which suggests that top management support (TMS) is the most important success factor [ii].

The implications are very significant:

  • If TMS is the most important CSF, then much of our current research and practice is misdirected
  • A major shift in emphasis may be required:
    • Boards and top managers may have to accept that they personally have the most influence whether a project succeeds or fails
    • Boards, top managers and their advisors may have to accept that the current ‘expert advice’ has less impact on success than previously believed.

To avoid an overly long blog, I’ve attached a presentation below that visually presents much of this research and provides an authoritative overview of project governance. It was originally delivered at the University of Sydney as a topic in INFO6007 Project Management in IT, an elective course in their Masters of IT [iii].

The presentation provides a definition of project governance based on the leading edge [iv] project governance training provided through my consulting practice. The financial implications are also presented but this is more fully developed in another paper [v].


[i] D.T. Caminer, “And How to Avoid Them,” The Computer Journal,  1 (1958), 11-14

[ii] Raymond Young and Ernest Jordan, “Top management support: Mantra or necessity?,” International Journal of Project Management,  26 (2008), 713 – 725

[iii] It is currently proposed to develop this topic into an additional elective ‘Advanced Project Management’ by incorporating topics in program, portfolio and change management and advanced communication skills. This advanced elective is scheduled to be delivered in January 2010.

[iv] The project governance training delivered in conjunction with Jed Simms of Capability Management has been described by Harvard Professor James McKinney as ‘world-class, 2-3 years ahead of the competition’

[v] R. Young, “What is the ROI for IT Project Governance? Establishing a benchmark.,” in 2006 IT Governance International Conference (Auckland, New Zealand, 2006)