Program Governance

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PMO: How to Create an Effective Portfolio Governance Framework

Health Care. Regional Programs. Certificate of Management Excellence. Corporate Director Certificate. These programs also need a forum in which the representatives can raise issues and adjust direction, resources, or timing by consensus, as required.

Manage Program Governance

This mechanism is often a steering committee. Steering committees can follow different models. For example, a committee might consist of:. Consultative and advisory models have a number of similarities. A key difference, however, is that in a consultative model, each business segment has significant ownership of the work effort and its results within that segment.

In the advisory model, that ownership is diminished. Information is carried back to the business segment, and any decisions, adjustments, and issue resolutions are expected to conform to the direction provided by the program governance body or structure. A program, as we know, consists of multiple projects, each with its own project manager.

Program Governance

Does this, then, make the program manager a "super project manager? As Table 1 shows, the program manager and project manager roles are quite different from one another. Whereas project managers typically focus on delivering a specific component, program managers typically focus on one or more outcomes that are business strategy components. Throughout program planning and execution, managers must ensure that the program sustains a connection to the business strategy.

As we have noted, this strategy is dynamic, not static. Both internal and external events affect the enterprise's initiatives, so programs need mechanisms that will maintain a link between the initiative and the business strategy, and provide for effective data exchange and necessary adjustments. We can divide such mechanisms into two categories: those active during mobilization and planning, and those active during execution. A number of work products specifically related to an individual program effort should be developed, and agreed upon, during the definition of the business strategy.

These products describe the results of strategic work efforts to define the program, and justify proceeding with it.


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They provide initial links to the business strategy and help to frame the mobilization effort. These products should include:. A business strategy review should be part of the overall mobilization process for both the program and its constituent projects, to check the quality of the business strategy input and to determine readiness to proceed.

Both the overall planning process for the program and the planning process for its constituent projects should require a review of the current "state" of the program business strategy. This will ensure that the input for plans and schedules includes the business strategy elements in their most current form. The schedule for these reviews can be aligned with the program's phase structure, which cuts across all of the constituent projects. As a phase-end approaches, reviewers can compare the program's current state and results against the then-current business strategy, and propose needed adjustments.

Definition: Program Governance

An important aspect of program governance is assigning specific decision-making authority to each executive and management role. Program managers can hold special group work sessions for this purpose and then create and distribute a matrix for major decision areas and roles. Figure 3 shows a sample decision authority matrix that has proven useful in past program efforts:. In Figure 3, the "decision qualifiers" indicate the scope of the role's decision-making powers. These qualifiers should be as specific as possible, preferably using some metric to indicate the role's upper limit in a decision situation.

A simple mechanism like this, posted on the program intranet site, will be a good starting point for team members who require a decision or need authorization to proceed with some action. From an organizational perspective, a program is not a single structure, but rather a set of integrated and interacting structures. There is no "best" way to organize program resources into a set of structures, but we can look at typical organizational components and their functions, and comment on their value. An organizational structure is required to support and enable all of the program's day-to-day oversight and integration efforts.


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At the heart of this structure is the program manager, whose role we have already discussed. These individuals help the program manager to identify and understand departures from plan in terms of progress and expenditures, and to coordinate communications. This role list is not exhaustive; some programs define a significant number of other staff and management roles for their core organization.

To some degree, the roles you select should reflect specific program needs and the program manager's style, as the following example illustrates.

Organization and governance

The program planner is responsible for all planning within the program. This is a management role that addresses the development of planning strategies and approaches, the definition and fulfillment of other planning roles, and the development of work plans for the program, its constituent projects, and other parallel efforts, such as quality assurance and testing.

A number of roles report to the program planner, including a planner for each project that may vary from a full-time to a one-third full-time-equivalent FTE commitment, depending upon the program's planning stage. A program estimator may also report to the program planner. Use what currently exists and tweak corporate processes to make them suitable to use in a project environment.

However, there are some key focus areas where governance is particularly relevant. Many project managers in smaller organizations find themselves running projects in an environment that is supportive, and where there is buy-in for the concept of project management, but without the formal organizational structures in place from which to feed off. It also provides the checks and balances necessary for managers to know that money is being spent in ways that are appropriate and aligned to the business case. The Balance Careers uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience.

By using The Balance Careers, you accept our. Project Management Project Planning. By Elizabeth Harrin. But the rationale for good governance on projects goes further than that. Project governance also helps you:. Improve your return on investment and track those investments effectively Gain buy-in for projects Avoid the common reasons why projects fail Communicate more effectively Introduce standardization across projects, making it easier to compare the performance Minimize risk Develop and motivate staff in a structured environment.

There is a disciplined project management life cycle which includes defined points for approval. These are points where the viability of the project is discussed and a decision is made as to whether to continue with the work or not.

Projects have a clear business case, and business cases have enough information to enable management teams to make the right decisions. Those decisions are adequately documented and communicated.