Once, I was asked to do governance for a large program of work. Two things happened when I started: I realized that the project team was doing a great job without me, and the perception of professionalism went up.
I don’t do that to brag. I did very little to add to the team’s work – I only convened a few meetings and made some decisions. I also did some newsletters. These were small tasks that needed to be done and the team knew this so it wasn’t like I had a lot of knowledge or skills. Even those few actions made a positive difference.
The 2015 Major Projects Review has been released and governance features prominently. The Major Projects Authority (MPA), which is responsible for overseeing the UK government’s portfolio major projects, uses a structured approach that requires accountability.
Governance tools for the MPA
In 2011, the Prime Ministerial mandate for the MPA was to improve delivery of major public sector projects. It does this by a variety of measures, many of which I would classify under governance.
It conducts independent assurance reviews of projects and then supports project leaders in implementing the findings (governance).
It allows you to access experienced and credible personnel to challenge the existing thinking (governance).
It serves as a source for support and advice to project team members (not governance).
It develops skills through a variety of training programmes (not governance).
It maintains the portfolio for major projects, collects data about them, and then publishes it (governance).
The Delivery Confidence Assessment
The last of these tools is my favorite because I love to see what other projects are doing.
Each project receives a delivery confidence assessment (DCA), which is published by the MPA. This gives a status summary (red-green).
Amber/Red or Red projects need urgent action: The MPA team can then concentrate on projects facing the greatest challenges and help them develop practical plans.
Does governance make a difference?
Yes. Yes, I believe it.
The MPA isn’t around as long. In 2012, 31 projects were classified as Amber/Red/Red. 14 of those projects are at the opposite end of the scale. None of them have been rated as Red.
The Rail Franchise Programme: A growing project
People in the UK commute to work and shudder at the thought of the railways. They are notorious for being slow, old and late, too hot in the summer, and freezing in winter. The Rail Franchise Programme ensures passenger services. No trains, no program.
The 2015 analysis by the MPA shows that this project has seen significant improvements since 2012, even though it remains Amber. According to the report:
The Department developed strong systems and processes in response to the McPherson, Brown, and Laidlaw Reviews. These include clear reporting lines, improved governance regimes, and multifaceted guarantee mechanisms. They are now being used in the day-to-day management of the programme. Because of its transparency and recognition for market and industry needs and opportunities, the programme has received the support and cooperation of the rail industry.
Audits, reviews and reports, as well as the subsequent action on the results, have all contributed to a governance-driven improvement in this project.
Future Reserves 2020: Going the opposite way
Projects can go in the opposite direction and project governance must be respected if those responsible see that poor projects are being called out.
Senior stakeholders must see that projects that aren’t performing are recognized as such. The Future Reserves 2020 project was also renamed from Amber/Red in the same time frame. It is a project that will meet the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review’s commitments, including increasing the UK’s Reservists. The project has not met its targets and it’s still bee