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Governance -v- Management: A Functional Perspective

OK–so you use the word governance plenty of times in the weekly meetings with other executives. You have an idea of what it means in your organization and some of the things you try to keep an eye on as projects develop. But how aware are you, at a nearly academic level, about what the difference is between governance and just regular management? This article by Lynda Bourne discusses governance and management at a very high level–nearly at a theoretical level, to be honest. The value comes from the complete exploration of types of governance, how it affects the organization, and how it's different from management. By way of definition: the core purpose of management is to “make the optimal decisions to make the work of the organisation as efficient and sustainable as practical”, whereas the function of governance “is to provide oversight and direction to the management of the organisation.”   To put it in another way: management guides the organization, and governance guides the management. But it is obviously not just as straightforward as that. There are still questions to be answered about who precisely governs the organization. Yes, it is a process and not an individual, but there is a need to have people within the group who manage governance.   This is a matter of understanding, and something that Bourne touches on in this post: There are two schools of thought about governance. One body of literature sees different types of governance, primarily corporate governance, IT governance and project governance. The people developing this concept are almost exclusively project mangers [sic], IT managers and academics focused on these disciplines. Interestingly there does not seem to be a similar body of literature focused on HR governance, financial governance or any other area of management. This school of thought sees governance being a function of almost any management position or entity responsible for overseeing the work of IT departments or projects including sponsors and project boards. On the other hand some believe that governance should be in the hands of Directors and not just project managers. The article cites the document Directing Change: A Guide to Governance of Project Management for a solution to this argument:  the level of management responsible for governance should depend on whomever has the level of authority to undertake the work, and accountability remains with the host organization. This means that those who are delegated the responsibility must accept that responsibility and not try to pass it off onto someone else. In this way, governance is maintained and focused, rather than being something that is “passed off” between individuals in the organization.

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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