Blogging AllianceIT GovernanceMichel DionProject Management

It’s Not Too Late! How to Optimize the Governance of a Project


Strategic importance of monitoring and reporting

Monitoring progress on a project matters, and it is essential to communicate back in a timely manner with the project sponsor, the client, and any other governance committees relevant to the project. The goal of these communications should be to adequately support the project and enable it to succeed—not to fill the agenda of senior executives and put a checkmark in the box for reporting.

Sometimes, monitoring and reporting are used as a machine, designed without any consideration for the needs of the project or the business. But it doesn’t have to be that way. They can be used as strategic tools by project managers.

Optimizing the project

A lot of efforts are spent on optimizing the project. We also know about the importance of understanding the business needs properly, and focusing on adding value. We all have heard about the fundamental importance of planning.

A successful project manager will help the successful completion of a project by optimizing the project plan. Constraints and dependencies will be analyzed to propose a project plan that efficiently uses the resources. Numerous variables will be analyzed to design the plan. This part of project management is well known. Learning these tools and techniques is part of becoming a good project manager.

Monitoring and reporting activities

Unfortunately, the idea of optimization often doesn’t apply to monitoring and reporting activities. It is perceived as off-limits, which is normal yet still something to consider. Communication to the project sponsor, the client, or the governance body seems to be done as a machine. It appears to follow a different kind of logic, and it often does.

Executive committees meet at regular intervals. Bilateral meetings are organized in advance for convenience, and also to ensure that they will happen. This is again important and normal, considering the busy and not always predictable schedule of executives. However, when it negatively impacts the project, governance structure becomes a project risk.

Our responsibility

It is our responsibility as the leaders of the project to manage our interactions with key stakeholders. If the fixed dates of meetings have no consequences, then no actions are required. Otherwise, we need to take some actions and bring some agility to the governance.

We have to make sure the governance of our project is not a constraint to the success of the project. Imagine a project being late simply because of delays incurred because of the governance bodies. (Of course, we have never seen that happen!)

Strategic considerations

Here are a few considerations that can enhance and optimize our management of communication with key stakeholders and governance bodies:

  • Plan your appearances to the executive committee and other committees strategically. This especially matters if the committee has multiple responsibilities, not just the oversight of your project.
  • A committee might meet regularly on a monthly or quarterly basis, but if an issue requires immediate attention, you may need to call a special meeting.
  • It is much easier to get a special meeting with one individual, as the project sponsor, and should be made if a timely discussion and decision are required. Gathering the perspective of others is always preferable to taking a shot in the dark or, worse, doing nothing at all.

The frequency of updates, communication, and presentations to governance bodies does not have to be fixed throughout the life of the project. In some critical and intense periods, increasing the frequency of communication will facilitate the project in numerous ways, not least of which being better change management.


It is normal that the dates of these regular meetings were set with no consideration for the needs of the project. Our responsibility in supporting the successful delivery of the project includes optimization of our communication and presentations to various stakeholders—the project sponsor, senior management, steering committee, and executive committees.

The leader of the project should not let it fail, miss key deadlines, or incur unnecessary costs simply because the next committee meeting is not for five weeks. I have seen many projects in trouble because of untimely engagement with various stakeholders. When stakeholders are engaged too late, the project is guaranteed to be late.

While it is less under our control, especially with executive and corporate committees, it is still important to intentionally try to optimize the governance of the project. Key factors to consider include:

  • When do you need a strategic discussion?
  • What are the impacts of delaying the discussion?
  • What is the frequency required during each phase of the project?

Let’s bring leadership and intentionally manage engagement with senior management and the executive committee.


For more brilliant insights, check out Michel’s website: Project-Aria

Additionally, check out his book, Leadership Toolbox for Project Managers: Achieve better results in a dynamic world:

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One Comment

  1. “Joe Hessmiller” wrote:

    It really can be a distraction having to prepare for a project governance review, especially when trying to fight project fires at the same time.

    Perhaps the solution is in the automating the real-time collection of project governance data so that governance boards have continuous, up-to-date insight into the status of projects; both the performance data (cost, schedule, quality) and the conditions data (stakeholder confidence level, process adherence level, sponsor participation level). Done well, this could streamline, if not eliminate, the periodic
    ‘status’ meeting.

    Automating the collection and sharing of relevant project control data would address a core issue in the IT industry; project failure because early warning signs are ignored.

    The solutions in the IT industry press call for tightly centralized (tightly process managed) PMOs on one extreme, or completely localized (in touch with the business) PMs on the other. The real need is for relevant, consistent, reliable, transparent, actionable project conditions data so that PMs know WHAT TO DO NEXT to avoid project “surprises” and the governance board knows that the PMs are addressing the factors that determine project success.

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